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Customer Discussions > History forum

pows in the acw...

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Initial post: Jan 15, 2013 10:08:46 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 15, 2013 10:09:54 PM PST
patrick says:
A current TV drama series Im watching, Hell on wheels, which is about a post-war Confederate soldier who becomes an overseer of laborers building the Western railroads for a particularly ruthless railroad tycooon, one character recounts his hair-raising experience former Confederate camp in a place called I think, Andersonville, in Georgia...
and as this character recounts the horrendous conditions and mortality rate of prisoners there, it made me reflect on treatment of POWs in 20th century wars and particular complaints agaisnt them, such as German treatment of Russians, and Japanese treatment of just about everybody (actually it seems that the Japanese treated non-white prisoners far worse than European white prisoners)

But in an intranational war, such as ACW, isnt it strange how bad conditions were made for prisoners by both sides, and that this is a relatively little-known side of the ACW.

Posted on Jan 15, 2013 10:13:21 PM PST
Lientje says:
Patrick: Perhaps you would like to share with us what ACW is.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 15, 2013 10:14:34 PM PST
John M. Lane says:
ACW = American Civil War, I believe.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 15, 2013 10:29:20 PM PST
patrick says:

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 19, 2013 1:13:50 PM PST
The word Confederate should have been a dead give away

My favorite POW stories are those relating to the Luftstalag's and the UK POW camps. The aviators were treated in a manner that was shockingly different than the East Front analogs. Considering that these people were bombing women and children, the reasonably civil treatment spoke relatively well for both sides. I have yet to read any Japanese accounts of their experiences as US POW's.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 19, 2013 1:36:47 PM PST
R. Largess says:
Sturma's "Surface and Destroy; the Submarine Gun War in the Pacific", goes into this in detail. Generally, US submariners were ruthless with Japanese and other Asian survivors, often sinking small craft - sampans and fishing boats - crewed by civilians, sometimes machine-gunning survivors in the water. Most Japanese refused to be taken prisoner when the chance was offered. When, rarely, rescue was offered and accepted, the Japanese prisoners were cooperative and the submarine crews made pets of them. Then when they turned them over to troops on shore, they felt bad because they expected them to be shot.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 19, 2013 2:02:33 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 19, 2013 2:03:44 PM PST
patrick says:
for reasons which would have been obvious originally, they would tend to want to disappear and be forgotten.

there was trouble with them in both Australia, and a lesser known instance in New Zealand, though...
I think that one of the Japanese mini-sub crews which beached after PH was actually somehow taken alive, and their interrogation by US authroities was an interesting story I heard long ago..
another downed Zero pilot ran amuck terrorising locals for some time on one of the outer isolated Hawaiin islands...there is a whole book telling that story..

there was trouble with DPRK prisoners in the Korean War, too..

Posted on Jan 19, 2013 2:06:46 PM PST
patrick says:
but I mean, werent about half of all deaths in ACW, in POW camps?

or some very large number, maybe in 6 figures, in a war where total deaths both sides were mid-high 6 figures?

Posted on Jan 19, 2013 2:37:38 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 19, 2013 2:41:56 PM PST
Yog-Sothoth says:
patrick says: "but I mean, werent about half of all deaths in ACW, in POW camps?"

No, more like approximately 10%.

Total casualties of the American Civil War (all causes):
Total Union deaths: 389,753 (approximately twice as many from disease, than from battle)
Total Confederate deaths: 289,000 (est.) (disease/battle death ratio about the same as above)

Union POWs died in Confederate prison camp: 30,219 (15.5% mortality rate among prisoners)
Confederates POWs died in Federal Prison Camp: 25,976 (12% mortality rate)

An interesting fact is that the death rate among Confederate prison guards was pretty high as well, since their living/eating conditions weren't much different than that of the prisoners.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 19, 2013 4:33:19 PM PST
R. Largess says:
It's my understanding that for awhile at least, Civil War POW's were exchanged as quickly as possible. Also cases where some were released after giving their parole by commanders (Grant in Mississippi, I think) too busy to bother with prisoners.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 21, 2013 1:48:01 PM PST
ipsofacto says:
The Japanese didn't have to worry about retaliation against their PoW's, since there weren't many, nor were they acknowledged as such.

There are many accounts of German civilians lynching "Terrorflieger", BTW. Maybe it made a difference that the Luftstalag's were managed by the Luftwaffe.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 21, 2013 2:32:08 PM PST
There were 10's of thousands of Japanese POW's. They just did not exist, as far as the Japanese were concerned. Lette]s written home were destroyed by the government and their families never heard what happened to them.

And such lynchings were uncommon, just as they were uncommon during the Battle of Britain. In general, the civilian populace knew they were just kids doing what their commanders asked of them.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 22, 2013 1:42:48 PM PST
patrick says:
not sure if Ive ever heard of one by the British civilians, actually..

I have heard of incidents and attempts by German civilians, on both British and americans..Ive seen stories of Luftwaffe officers intervening forcefully.

Ive even seen one downed Luftwaffe pilot saying how he was harassed and menaced for some reason they assumed he was an allied pilot..

Hes dangling from a tree by his parachute straps...two Germans armed with pitchforks or other implements stop below looking up, and mocking him.

German pilot "Help me down, you fools!"
German civilian "So, the pig even speaks German! "

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 22, 2013 2:19:36 PM PST

good joke

as for British civilians, they did it. The mother of a good friend of mine lived in Coventry during the BoB and she remembers the Germans bombing Coventry. There were more than a few downed aviators, she heard stories (after all she was a kid). She was walking down the street with her mum after a raid. The police were marching a few downed Luftwaffe into confinement. The lady next door says: "don't you wish you could kill one of those?" To which her mum responded: "they someone's kids, just like ours". It made me reflect on war a bit, they really just are kids, and yes the UK did their fair share of uncharitable acts.

Posted on Jan 22, 2013 3:12:47 PM PST
patrick says:
Yeah, no its funny its an aspect ive never heard of in UK..of course German aviators tended to fall on the UK at a much earlier less bitter stage of the war to the period when allied airmen were pretty much falling on Germany like autumn leaves..

In one of my Battle of Britain books, perhaps it was "eagle Day" which was a good one, Ive heard of news going around a village that a downed German fighter jock on his way along the street being marched by police or Home Guard, the local girls quickly grabbing for their lipstick and compacts before they go out to gawk at him...

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 27, 2013 11:42:43 PM PST
Neither side was prepared to handle the numbers of POWS. The Confederacy had it especially bad since they could barely feed their own people towards the end of the war. I think the ACW was a real learning experience on the handling of POWs in technological warfare.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 28, 2013 1:18:30 PM PST
One of my favorite POW stories I believe is from the ACW.

Some guards are escorting POWs to a graveyard to bury someone.
As the dead one is lowered in the grave, a POW who is a ventriloquist,
throws his voice to the dead one: "Hey! I don't want to go in here!"

The guards flee in terror, allowing the POWs to escape.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 30, 2013 1:21:21 PM PST
patrick says:
did they have prisoner exchanges?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 30, 2013 1:53:01 PM PST
I think in the early part of the war they did, but then the Union finally figured out that teh Confederacy was short on manpower and every POW they released would go right back to killing Union troops. The Confederacy never had enough of anything except courage. I don't think anyone contemporary would have accused Johnny Reb of cowardice.

Posted on Jan 30, 2013 3:46:37 PM PST
patrick says:
i figured it might have been like that...that the Union might assess that leaving one of their own to rot in a POW camp in order to keep one Reb off the field, might be a plus outcome for them...same as losing one man to kill one Reb might be a favorable exchange, likewise..

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 31, 2013 11:06:44 AM PST
MRose says:
I believe prisoner exchanges were the general principle until the South refused to treat captured black soldiers as POW's, stating they were going to be returned to slavery. At that point the North stopped prisoner exchanges altogether.

Posted on Jan 31, 2013 3:55:14 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 31, 2013 3:55:35 PM PST
patrick says:
I thought that they had threatened to hang or shoot any black captured in a Union uniform..

Posted on Jan 31, 2013 9:28:55 PM PST
Yog-Sothoth says:
patric: "I thought that they had threatened to hang or shoot any black captured in a Union uniform.."

Black soldiers were to be treated as slaves.
WHITE officers in command of Black troops would be executed.

Posted on Feb 1, 2013 12:32:24 PM PST
patrick says:
oh, thats it, isnt it, thats was the line in the movie "Glory.."
execute white officers leading black troops..

knowing that black officers were presumably non-existant,(not sure about NCOs) so there always have to be white ones...

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 3, 2013 8:00:20 AM PST
R. Largess says:
Yes, black NCO's. It was Sgt. William Carroll (I think) who was the 1st black winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor, wounded at the assault on Ft.Wagner where RG Shaw was killed.
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Discussion in:  History forum
Participants:  10
Total posts:  25
Initial post:  Jan 15, 2013
Latest post:  Feb 3, 2013

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