Civil War, Prisoner Exchnage Program, Robert E. Lee


The Confederacy was on the edge, and union forces knew it. In the early months of 1865, General William T. Sherman had rippled through a crippled South on his way to Virginia, following his decisive "March to the Sea." Destroying supply lines and debilitating Confederate morale, Sherman arrived in Bentonville, North Carolina, in March. There, the war's fate hung in the balance: Union morale was at a peak, and soldiers were anxious for an end to the long, bloody conflict. After three long days of fighting, a private from Wisconsin's 31st Regiment, Johann Frenckmann, lay wounded among 4,738 other casualties. Frenckmann's fate at the end of that battle was drastically different than what it could have been in earlier years of the war. Frenckmann's incarceration in the Benton Barracks as a prisoner of war, as well as his almost instant release on parole a month later, symbolized the end of a wartime saga between the North and South regarding the prisoner of war situation. The consequences of the prisoner of war program as well as its eventual demise negatively influenced Confederate ability to continue fighting and ultimately contributed to Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox.