August 15, 1864: 600 Confederate prisoners of war to be placed under the guns

A thread I’ve tracked this summer is the handling of prisoners of war at Charleston.  The exchange of fifty senior officers at Charleston on August 3, 1864 closed the first chapter in this saga.  But at that same time, the next chapter opened.  Even as the exchange took place, the Confederates moved 600 Federal officers to Charleston.  As noted earlier, the initial Federal response was to indicate no further exchanges would take place.  But the matter lingered through the middle of August. Some details and conformation of the disposition of prisoners came by way of escaped Federal officers.

On August 15, Major-General John Foster informed his Confederate counterpart, Major-General Samuel Jones, of further Confederate reactions:

General: I have the honor to inform you that I have received information from the headquarters U.S. Army that 600 Confederate officers, prisoners of war, are to be sent here to be placed under the fire of your guns, the same as those of our officers now in the city of Charleston. I respectfully request to be informed as to the number of U.S. officers now confined in the city of Charleston, S.C.

No Confederates were, at that time, confined on Morris Island under the guns. In fact, the pens setup for the fifty Confederate officers in July were being pilfered by the Federal troops for wood.  So there were no Immortal 600 yet occupying Morris Island in the middle of that August. But they were en route.

There were, however, 600 Federals confined at what was properly “the front lines” in Charleston.  Their presence at that time was less a “human shield” against Federal bombardments of Charleston, but more so leverage against the Federal policy on exchanges.  And let’s walk this directly to the proximate cause… that would be the Confederate policies in regard to captured US Colored Troops.  Any discussion of the Immortal 600 needs to include those points from the start.

(Citation from OR, Series I, Volume 35, Part II, Serial 66, page 235.)


Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

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