August 21, 1864: Grant weighs in on the Charleston prisoner issue – “no exchanges”

On August 21, 1864 in his headquarters at City Point, Virginia, Lieutenant-General Ulysses S. Grant performed the normal task of a commanding general in charge of an army at war – reading through messages and dispatches from the various subordinate commands.  One of these caught his attention, and sparked an immediate reply:

Please inform Maj. Gen. J. G. Foster that in no circumstances will he be authorized to make exchange of prisoners of war. Exchanges simply re-enforce the enemy at once, whilst we do not get the benefit of those received for two or three months, and lose the majority entirely. I telegraph this from just hearing that some 500 or 600 more prisoners had been sent to Major-General Foster.

With that order, any door which might have been slightly cracked with respect to another prisoner exchange at Charleston was closed.  There would be exchanges before the war’s end.  But those would be much later in the fall.   For the summer of 1864, there would be no exchanges at Charleston.

These three sentences from Grant set the course for the next round of events regarding the prisoners in Charleston, and those soon to arrive at Morris Island.  Unlike the fifty Confederate officers held earlier in the summer, who never actually made it to Morris Island, the 600 prisoners would soon find themselves confined here:

In a stockade adjacent to the Federal batteries.

(Citation from OR, Series I, Volume 35, Part II, Serial 66, page 254.)