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Confederate prisoners on the way to the rear. Library of Congress photos (LC-B811- 3198)

Confederate prisoners on the way to the rear. Library of Congress photos (LC-B811- 3198)

On September 3, 1864, Francis and John Poore and their rebel comrades of Kershaw’s Division left Winchester, Virginia, and headed east for Berryville. The rest of their route was intended to take them through the passes of the Blue Ridge Mountains on the way back to Richmond.

Union General William Tecumseh Sheridan had chosen the same moment to put George Crooks’ VIII Corp in front of Berryville. About an hour before sunset, Francis, John and their fellow graycoats stumbled into these Yankees just as they were setting up camp for the night.

The contact surprised both sides. Kershaw’s infantry fell back at first, then launched a fierce attack that put the bluecoats into confused flight. The federals soon recovered and pushed the rebels back.

As night fell, the Confederates reeled rearward toward Winchester. John probably searched in the darkness among the retreating soldiers for his brother Francis, but he searched in vain. Francis had become a prisoner, one of about 60.

The military records don’t tell us what happened to Francis right after his capture. Typically, Union guards marched prisoners some distance to the rear to a holding area, or Bull Pen. For Francis and his fellow prisoners of war, this area appears to have been at Harper’s Ferry, about 15 miles away from Berryville where they were captured.

Union officials usually offered the prisoners a choice: Take an oath of allegiance to the United States and go free; refuse and go to prison. The Southerners often hooted down calls to take the oath.

Regardless of whether officials offered Francis a choice, the federals soon shipped him and others northward, probably by steamer on the Potomac to a railhead and then by railcars to Camp Chase, Ohio, 4 miles west of Columbus.

Was your Civil War ancestor captured and taken as a prisoner of war? What did he go through after first being captured and before being sent to prison? How was he sent to prison?