If your Civil War ancestor became a prisoner of war, then there may be records about his time as a prisoner. This post concerns finding records of Confederate soldiers who were held in Union prisoner of war camps.
So how do you know if your ancestor was held as a prisoner?
Start with the soldier’s Compiled Service Record, which you can obtain from the National Archives or the archives in the state of the unit where he served.
Look at the example of Francis M. Poore’s service record. In it is a summary of engagements that shows he was captured at the Battle of Berryville, Va., on Sept. 3, 1864. Another sheet in the record shows that he was moved to Harper’s Ferry, W.V., and from there shipped to Camp Chase, Ohio. He arrived at Camp Chase on Sept. 11.
Records about Confederate prisoners of war are available on microfilm as National Archives Publication M598, Selected Records of the War Department Relating to Confederate Prisoners of War, 1861-1865. There are a few other prisoner records as well.
So what is in the records? You can find information arranged by prison on:
- Arrivals, transfers, exchanges.
- Prisoners who took the oath of allegiance to the United States or enlisted in the Union Army.
The registers of prisoners include an alphabetical listing of POWs by name, rank, regiment, county or state, company, date and place of capture, whether sent for exchange and other remarks.
Take a look at Francis’ record from Camp Chase (at the bottom of this post) for an example of the information that can be found. In the fifth line from the bottom on the right-hand page, he is listed as prisoner number 570.
In the National Archives you can find the records of all of the prisons located in the North during the war, as well as many lesser-known POW camps set up in the South as the Union took control.
You can find a fuller discussion of these records on the National Archives blog.
There is no index to prisoner of war records. That tends to make searching them time consuming and tedious, but it can be very rewarding.
Do you have any success stories you can share from researching POW records? Any tips?