American Civil War Prisoner of War History Adrian Fay's Capivity Andersonville Prison

American Civil War Prisoner of War (P.O.W.) camps were not known for their gentle treatment of their captives, and both the Union and Confederate armies were guilty of this.

Out of the 195,000 Union soldiers who were captured and imprisoned, over 30,000 died in the P.O.W. camps. Out of the 215,000 Confederate soldiers who were captured and imprisoned, over 26,000 died in P.O.W. camps. A total of 56,000 American soldiers died in P.O.W. camps accounting for 10% of the Civil War's total death toll and exceeding American combat losses in World War I, Korea, and Vietnam.   

The most atrocious Union camps were Alton Federal Prison and Camp Douglas, Ill., Pont Lookout, Md., and Elmira "Hellmira" Prison, N.Y.  The most atrocious Confederate camps were Salisbury Prison, N.C., Belle Isle, Va., and, the most notorious, Andersonville, Ga., where Adrian Fay spent some time in captivity. Eventually Fay was paroled which was a blessing for any Civil War prisoner, but a miracle for Fay since prisoner exchanges broke down in 1863 because of the issue of exchanging black soldiers. Fay was captured in 1864 during the Battle of Cold Harbor, so the likelihood of his being paroled was small.

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Adrian Fay was captured on June 3, 1864. On June 27, 1864, Philos G. Cook, the chaplain of the regiment, informed Fay's family of his capture.

Immediately after capture Fay was sent to Castle Thunder in Richmond, Va. He shortly left on June 8 and arrived in Andersonville prison camp on June 15. It was not until September 12, 1864 that Fay was transferred to Florence prison, S.C. At some point in February, he was transferred to a prison in Goldborough, N.C. Fay was eventually paroled on March 3, 1865 in Wilmington, N.C. Fay was in capitvity for 274 days.

Fay was sent to Camp Parole in Annapolis, Md. on March 12, 1856. He went on furlough for 30 days and married Sarah Flint, a woman he was courting for some time. Fay returned to Camp Parole on April 17 near Washington, D.C., and rejoined the 94th regiment May 14, 1865. Fay was honorably discharged on June 12, 1865 in Washington D.C. On June 13, Fay started to make his way home.

Camp Parole

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Adrian Fay spent the majority of his captivity in Andersonville, known to be hell for Union soldiers.

The prison was overflowing. Its maximum occupancy was designed for 10,000 prisoners and it held more than 32,000. There was a lack of food because of the over population, rations were sometimes given raw, and the Union prisoners had little or no firewood.

Other basic human needs such as clothing, sanitation supplies and shelter were not given or mantained by the Confederate guards. After a soldier died his clothes would be divided amongst the living. Disease was rampant throughout the camp. Shelters made by the Union prisoners from mud, clay and articles of clothing were called "shebangs," and they protected prisoners from the elements poorly and were never in a stable condition.

Fay not only had to survive the elements, lack of food and water, disease, and malnutrition, but also his fellow Union soldiers. "Raiders" would band together to improve their situation by preying on fellow prisoners.

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