Photographer's scribbled notes or etchings on the negatives became captions on postcards, and quoted in books and now on the Internet. Dr. Black with the Chattanooga History Center suggests this photo is not of 'Confederate prisoners' as has been described. See his comments to the right. The same photo has been discussed in Civil War online forums. Those participants also reached the same conclusion.
Long believed to be an image of Confederate prisoners "waiting to be transported north", recent analysis by historians demonstrates it to be an image of United States soldiers awaiting rail transportation at the Union Depot in Chattanooga. The details of the story this image tells are unknown. However, one scholar has suggested that the picture shows United States soldiers on their way home for a veterans furlough in early 1864. Thousands of northern volunteers had re-enlisted in late 1863 and early 1864 and were rewarded with a 30 day furlough. They traveled home by rail and many passed through the Union Depot in Chattanooga.
This photo is of special interest to me, as my great 3x grandfather and namesake was taken prisoner and transported from Chattanooga to a northern prison. He was a farmer in Walker County, Georgia. Records show he sold crops to the Confederate Army. The last receipt voucher dated 11/9/1863. I do not know which prison he was taken to.
From a short autobiography by his daughter; Ruth (Hall) Davis b.1849 - d.1909:
My father (Samuel P. Hall) was arrested by a man by the name of Bascomb Hendrix, and taken to Chattanooga, Tennessee, and put in prison there. Uncle Calvin Hall was in prison with him. ...He was taken to Evansville, Indiana, kept prisoner there a while, and then turned loose in the bitter cold of winter and not allowed to cross the Ohio River and return home. His clothing was scant, and he contracted a disease of the bowels from cold and hunger that he never recovered from. The first work he did there was to clean yards and saw wood for rich Yankees. He bought him some tools and went into the carpenter business, and followed that until he was allowed to return home, which was some little time after the war was over. Brother Burwell returned from the War one day in May, 1865, and Pa returned the next day. Burwell came by way of LaFayette (GA) riding, and Pa came from Chattanooga walking.
'In the beginning of the war, captured soldiers were expected to 'give parole,' or promise not to escape. Paroled soldiers could expect to be sent back to their own lines under a flag of truce, at which time they would be sent home until an exchange was effected. Union and Confederate military officials reached an agreement in 1862 that stipulated that all prisoners were to be exchanged within ten days of capture. The fact that promises were made and kept demonstrates the gentlemanly nature of the Civil War during its first years - a man's word was his honor. However, if a soldier broke his promise by returning to the field unexchanged, he ran the risk of being shot or hanged.
In 1864, the Union ceased prisoner exchanges altogether in an attempt to bring the Confederacy down by attrition. Union officials finally realized that every Confederate soldier in a POW camp was one less rifle aimed at Union soldiers. The policy had a devastating effect on the South, where manpower shortages were rampant. Unfortunately, many POWs also suffered greatly as a result of the no-exchange policy.- SOURCE: Prisoners of War by Brooke C. Stoddard and Daniel P. Murphy, Ph.D.