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"Thousands of Civil War soldiers, including many held in Confederate prison at Salisbury, were exchanged here, Feb. 26-Mar. 4, 1865."In early February 1865 Gen. Ulysses S. Grant informed Secretary of War Edwin Stanton that an agreement regarding prisoners held by the warring armies was at hand. The negotiated agreement was completed on February 16 and word relayed to field officers and prison commandants. In Salisbury, where as many as 10,000 prisoners of war were held prior to the bitter winter of 1864-1865, word was received on February 21. A total of 3,411 of the 10,000 died between October 1864 and February 1865.
Wilmington fell to Union troops under the command of Maj. Gen. J. M. Schofield on February 22, 1865. The following day he sent word to his Confederate counterpart, Gen. Robert F. Hoke, that he was prepared to receive prisoners of war “at the crossing of the Northeast Cape Fear River, on the main road from Wilmington to Goldsborough.” Schofield assigned Brevet Brig. Gen. Joseph C. Abbott as his special agent of exchange. Abbott reported that the exchange of troops at that site commenced on Sunday, February 26, and extended to the following Saturday, March 4. A total of 8,684 Union troops (992 of them commissioned officers and 120 African American troops) were part of the exchange. No information is available on the number of Confederate prisoners exchanged. Rations and medical attention were offered at a field hospital onsite.
Roughly one-third of the total number of former Union prisoners was from the Salisbury prison. (The sickest among them were transported directly to Richmond.) Gen. Robert E. Lee requested that able prisoners be marched overland so that the rails might be reserved for supplies. The 2,750 prisoners from Salisbury marched on February 22 in a two-mile-long column to Greensboro where they boarded a train to Goldsboro and then marched to the Northeast Cape Fear River. A few prisoners remained at Salisbury until the site was destroyed by Stoneman’s troops in April.
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, series II, vol. VIII, pp. 296-299, 304-305, and 358-373 (1989) and map # CXXXVIII in accompanying map series
Louis A. Brown, The Salisbury Prison (1980)
U.S. Coast Survey map (1865)
Related Themes: C.S.A., Confederate States of America, Confederacy
North Carolina Civil War Historical Markers.