The marker, dedicated on September 27, 2003, is located in the old Parole Plaza Shopping Center on southbound Rte. 2 (Solomons Island Road) between West St. and Forest Drive. Photo courtesy of Steve Hammond, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War
Parole is a French term meaning "word". In the days of formal warfare, it was customary to exchange prisoners of war by a complex formula of numbers and relative rank. Often, to avoid being burdened with large parties of prisoners, forces in the field would "parole" them; that is, release them to go home on oath not to perform any military service until exchanged.1 Early in the Civil War, it was discovered that many paroled men would disappear into the civilian population, not to be found when ready for exchange. So keeping them under military control until exchanged and returned to their units became imperative.
A "camp of instruction" for 50,000 men was established near Annapolis by War Department General Order No 59, dated June 5, 1862. Before any progress could be made on this project, it was changed by General Order No., 72, dated June 28, 1862, to a camp for paroled prisoners from New England and the "Middle States". By the end of July this camp was being referred to in official correspondence as "Camp Parole".2
At first the camp for paroled Federal prisoners was established on the St. John's College campus. Prisoners were brought up the Chesapeake Bay to Annapolis by the steamer, New York, in groups as large as 6,000. Before entering the camp, the prisoners of war were required to bath. "Their clothes and shoes were thrown into College Creek, where, as long as 30 years after the end of the war, those sturdy leather boots were still to be exhumed from the mud of that stream."3
"The eight wooden barracks which had been erected on the campus, each meant to house 150 men, soon proved to be woefully inadequate."4 The land appears not to have been carefully chosen, rendering parts of it uninhabitable in bad weather. Hospital facilities and the camp guard were inadequate and remained so, despite desperate pleas to Washington by the commander. Men lived in tents, huts they built for themselves with lumber stolen from public buildings, and a few hastily erected wooden barracks. The camp population varied from 2,000 to more than 15,000 at any one time. 5
On May 1, 1863, the Federal government signed a lease with Charles S. Welch and Ann Rebecca Welch, his wife, for the use of their 250-acre farm outside of Annapolis, at a rent of $125.00 per month. The new site was near the Annapolis-Elkridge railroad.
By mid-December, 49 of the 83-authorized buildings were occupied, and "Surgeon Pittinos claimed that the 168 bed hospital was totally inadequate for the 6570 men then in Camp Parole barracks, and suggested adding 2 more wards and a wash house."6
Camp Parole was gradually transformed into a way station for paroled men and exchanged prisoners moving to their homes or to other camps. Many remained as hospital patients until they died or were able to travel.
In August 1864, Lt. General U. S. Grant ended all exchanges of prisoners, an action militarily sound but with disastrous results for Union prisoners held in the blockaded and impoverished South.
By June 21, 1865, Captain John Power, in charge of the Camp, was writing that he expected "the business of the camp would be closed in 2 or 3 weeks."7 He suggested that Quartermaster stores, including horses, wagons, carts, ambulances, harness, lumber, policing tools, barracks (all military surplus) should be sold at public action.
Camp Parole was vacated by July 18, 1865.
1. Marshall Andrews. Letter to the Editor of an Annapolis newspaper, published September 21,1970.
3. "In Salute to Camp Parole." In The Annapolis Spectator, published by Woodward & Lothrop, 1964. 4. Ibid.
5. Marshall Andrews. Letter to the Editor of an Annapolis newspaper, published September 21, 1970.
6. "In Salute to Camp Parole." In The Annapolis Spectator, published by Woodward & Lothrop, 1964.
"On July 12, 1862, the President, through the Secretary of War, authorized Major General John A. Dix at Fortress Monroe "to negotiate a general exchange of prisoners with the enemy." The ensuing cartel, signed by General Dix for the Federal Government and by Major General D. H. Hill for the Confederate States of America, was announced in Adjutant General's Office General Order 142, September 23, 1862. The articles of this agreement stipulated a detailed scale of equivalents as the basis for exhanges—'man for man and officer for officer,' but a commanding general or admiral, for instance, was the equivalent of 60 privates or common seamen. The cartel also dealt with the problem of civilian prisoners and the actual mechanics of parole and exchange, and it prohibited further military service of released prisoners of war. The negotiators did not anticipate that large numbers of prisoners of war would be held either in the Confederacy or in the North, and they made no provision for the uniform treatment of captured soldiers.
"Adjutant General's Office General Order 187, November 15, 1862, detailed Major General Ethan A. Hitchcock as Commissioner for the Exchange of Prisoners. Until early in 1863 the system of exchange agreed upon in the cartel apparently was respected by both sides, but the unwillingness of the Confederacy to exchange 'man for man' and to agree to the exchange of colored troops or their white officers led to its breakdown.
"Late in 1864 Secretary (of War) Stanton designated Major General Benjamin F. Butler at Fortress Monroe to negotiate for and effect prisoner exchanges; and Commissioner Hitchcock for a time, as he reported to Stanton, "had very little to do with the matter of exchanges." Butler, indeed, conducted his work in this field under the title "Commissioner of Exchange," and Stanton authorized other commanders "to open communications with the enemy, and to effect exchanges whenever the could be made on equal terms."
"Major General Ethan A. Hitchcock served as Commissioner for the Exchange of Prisoners from November 15, 1862, to November 3, 1865, when he succeeded Brevet Brigadier General William Hoffman as Commissary General of Prisoners.
CAMP PAROLE, Annapolis, Md., August 5, 1862.
Hon. EDWIN M. STANTON.
The order which was recently published by the War Department requiring that all paroled prisoners belonging to the New England and Middle States should report at once at the Camp of Instruction at Annapolis, Md., has been complied with by a large number from these sections, and they are now anxiously waiting the further action of Government, and are desirous of learning as quickly as possible what disposition is to be made of paroled prisoners generally. At the time this order was issued it was supposed that every necessary preparation had been made for the proper accommodations of all who should report at this camp, and accordingly many left home with such an impression, and came here expecting to find a state of affairs different from those now existing in reality. It is deemed advisable, sir, to call your serious attention to the highly important tact that there are now a great many here who have not yet entirely recovered from the effects of the hardships which were suffered while in Southern prisons, and who will prove only a burden to the Government if continued in the service, while there are a great many also whose constitutions have become completely undermined and who are now no longer capable of enduring the privations incident to the line of a soldier. All such have a right to demand their unconditional release, and it is asked in common humanity that a more through and faithful examination than that which was recently made may be instituted for the purpose, and that all thus unqualified may be at once mustered out of the service.
In conclusion, sir, allow us to say that it is the earnest wish of all paroled prisoners that they might either be
exchanged at once so that they can join their respective regiments, or else that they may be discharged from the service altogether, thus affording them the opportunity of re-enlisting whenever an exchange shall be made, so as to render it practicable for them to do so. The undersigned have been authorized by the members of the regiments with which they are connected to forward this communication to the Secretary of the War Department in behalf of all paroled prisoners assembled at this station:
John H. Cunningham, Ninth Maine,Any response to this communication will be forwarded to William Duffie, Second Massachusetts, company of paroled prisoners, Annapolis, Md.
Charles C. Drew, Third Maine, representing paroled prisoners from Maine;
Robert F. Wallin, Seventy-first Pennsylvania,
Charles Brandt, representing Pennsylvania;
George W. Bliss, Fourteenth New York State Militia, Brooklyn,
John O'Brien, New York, representing New York;
David C. Bradford, sergeant, New Jersey volunteers,
Cornelius A. Lowe, New Jersey volunteers, representing New Jersey;
John R. Fisher, Henry A. Page, representing Connecticut regiments;
G. W. Fay, John Hogan, representing Vermont;
J. L. Fitts, Charles J. Kelly, representing New Hampshire;
Joshua W. Brown, William J. Crossley, representing Rhode Island;
Charles T. Carroll, James E. Selly, representing Maryland;
Samuel E. Hodgkins, William Duffie, representing Massachusetts volunteers.
ROBERT MURRAY, U.S. Marshal.
* * * * * * * * *
CAMP PAROLE, Annapolis, Md., November 6, 1862.
Commanding Paroled Prisoners.
Permit me to call your attention to the inhuman practice of sending paroled prisoners to this camp while in a state of extreme debility, wounded, weakened by hard work, confinement in Southern prisons and diseases incidental to the parts they have come from. Some of them arrive in a moribund condition and are as it were carted here to be buried. These men you are aware arrive from all parts, are hurried out of the various hospitals in large numbers (and as the men say themselves "just to get quit of us") to report to this camp. I wish you to have this matter represented to the parties having authority and have it stopped. I am, colonel, yours, respectfully,
Surgeon in Charge,
Seventy-ninth New York State Militia
[Indorsement.] Approved. The condition in which these men come to this camp is deplorable. Some come here in such a condition that we have to carry them on stretchers from the steam-boat and cars. All such men should be put in hospitals where there is every comfort and care that their cases need.
Lieut. Col. 47th New York State Militia,
Comdg. Paroled Prisoners.
* * * * * * * * *
OFFICE COMMISSARY-GENERAL OF PRISONERS,Col. F. D. SEWALL,
Washington, D.C., February 24, 1865.
Commanding Camp Parole, Annapolis, Md.:
COLONEL: Miss Clara Barton, who will hand this to you, desires to be the means of informing the friends of prisoners who have been in the hands of the enemy of their fate, as far as it can be learned by inquiries of those who are now arriving at Annapolis on the parole from the South. Please permit her to post notices in the barracks asking for information concerning such prisoners as she may have occasion to inquire for, and if it is practicable to give her any information from your records without interfering with the necessary course of business,
I request that you will communicate such as she may desire in general terms, not giving particulars on which to base a claim for pay or allowances. Report after trial of a few days how far these instructions can be carried out without inconvenience and wait for final approval.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
W. HOFFMAN, Bvt. Brig. Gen., U.S. Army,
Commissary-General of Prisoners.
* * * * * * * * *
OFFICE COMMISSARY-GENERAL OF PRISONERS,Col. J. H. BAKER,
Washington, D. C., February 24, 1865.
Provost-Marshal-General, Saint Louis, Mo.:
COLONEL: Your letter of the 17th instant relative to the proper distribution of prisoners under your charge has been received, and I am directed by the Commissary. General of Prisoners to inform you that your understanding of the letter of instructions from this office dated June 29, 1864, is correct. Prisoners confined for civil offenses not connected with the rebellion, as well as those held under the special order of the general commanding the department, are not political or state prisoners, and should not be reported to this office; nor is it expected that any arrested simply on suspicion and against whom there are not apparently well-founded charges of disloyal acts, will be so reported. Many are arrested under circumstances which render their detention proper, but a little investigation proves their innocence and entitles them to their release. The investigation in such cases should take place before reporting them to this office. All prisoners not included in the above classes should be reported to this office, and all parties reported under these instructions should be forwarded at once to Saint Louis and thence to some Northern prison, and not held at Saint Joseph or other points in Missouri.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Major, Second Mass. Cav.,
Asst. to Com. Gen. of Prisoners.
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