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Both the Union and the Confederacy built prison camps to handle the 409,000 soldiers captured during the American Civil war. Initially, the Union and Confederate governments both relied on the traditional European system of parole and exchange of prisoners.

A prisoner who was on parole promised not to fight again until his name was “exchanged” for a similar man on the other side. In 1863 this process broke down and the number of POWs soared high enough to seriously damage the confederate economy and war effort. This huge collection of over six million records lists the details of prisoners of war from both sides of the conflict. They contain useful information such as a prisoner’s name, the side they fought for, their military unit, rank and the place and date of their capture.