Civil War

Prisoners suffered great hardships during their captivity, and neither side treated them well by today’s standards. They were held in extremely crowded ships off the coast, where thousands died from starvation and exposure. Initially, a system of paroles and exchanges was used, with prisoners released to their homes after signing a document pledging not to bear arms until formally exchanged.

Prison camps during the Civil War were potentially more dangerous and more terrifying than the battles themselves. A soldier who survived his ordeal in a camp often bore deep psychological scars and physical maladies that may or may not have healed in time.

Hardened veterans, scarcely strangers to the sting of battle, nevertheless found themselves ill-prepared for the horror and despondency awaiting them inside Civil War prison camps. While they often wrote frankly of the carnage wrought by bullets smashing limbs and grapeshot tearing ragged holes through advancing lines, many soldiers described their prisoner of war experiences as a more heinous undertaking altogether.


Alfred E. Burdick  1840-1928

8 months – POW Civil War

Born in the Town of Lake in Milwaukee County in 1840. Alfred Burdick enlisted in the Union Army on September 5, 1861 in Company D  1st WI Infantry.  The 1st Wisconsin Infantry was organized into a regiment of three-month service at Camp Scott in Milwaukee, and then mustered into service on April 27, 1861.

Burdick was wounded and captured at the Battle of Chickamauga and confined at Libby Prison, VA.  Later, he was moved to Danville Prison then made his escape enroute to Andersonville Prison, GA.

With a “case-knife-saw” he cut a hole in the train car that was holding the prisoners and freed himself from enemy hands.  It took him 1 ½ months to find his regiment in Georgia.