Prisoners of War

An HMS American Cultures collaborative production


Prisoners of War, or POW's were captives taken by opposing sides in a war. There were many guidelines that governed on how prisoners were treated. Capturing the enemy in war may give an army the upper hand in some cases. When holding captives, armies have something to barter with, like bargaining chips.There were many benefits to keeping PoW's, the main one being that you can trade them for YOUR soldiers. One of the main pitfalls of holding PoW's is that you had to contain them, feed them, and generally look after them. Prisoners of War were a big part of the Civil War and remain a large part of warfare today. In the Civil War, PoW's were chiefly used in events called "Prisoner Exchanges." In this, prisoners were exchanged by both sides for other prisoners. One of the rules concerning this trade was that only soldiers of equal ranks could be traded for one another. For example, only a private for a private, a captain for a captain. After a while, this part of warfare started to diminish in the Civil War. Pretty soon, Prisoner Exchanges became more scarce and Prison Camps, more abundunt. Prison Camps all over the Union and Confederacy sprouted all over. In these locations, prisoners were kept in morbidly horrible conditions. Many often died in these claustorphobic places of disease and starvation. Some well known camps include Andersonville (one of the worst) and Camp Chase.

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Online Sources:
"Prisoner-of-war Camp." Wikipedia. 20 May 2009 <>.

"Civil War Prisons and Prisoners." CivilWarHome. 20 May 2009 <>.

Image Credit:
"Union Prisoners HeldCartographic Associates