THIS IS THE ONLY RECORDED COVER BEARING A "SOLDIER'S LETTER" LABEL FROM CAMP PAROLE IN MARYLAND. ONE OF THE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE COLLECTION AND AN IMPORTANT ARTIFACT OF CIVIL WAR POSTAL HISTORY.
Frequently, captured soldiers would be paroled in the field, which meant that they gave their word (on penalty of death) not to bear arms again until exchanged for a comparable number of paroled soldiers from the other side. Soldiers were paroled to avoid the inconvenience of processing them through the P.O.W. system, or because their captors were unable to transport them to a prison. Because of their status, when parolees returned to their own side, they were held in special parole camps in their own territory until they were exchanged. U.S. parolees were held in U.S. parole camps, and C.S.A. parolees in C.S.A. camps. Detailed information on these camps can be found in Harrison's 1997 Prisoners' Mail from the American Civil War.
Relatively little parole camp mail survives. No covers are known from C.S.A. parole camps. Letters to or from U.S. parole camps can be identified by addresses, endorsements or letter contents. Some of the surviving letters are on U.S. Sanitary Commission stationery. The label on the cover offered here represents the only parole camp label known to have been used, and it is the sole recorded example. Camp Parole was the largest U.S. camp, and was in use from September 1862 until the end of the war. Fewer than 30 covers are known to or from this facility.
This soldier who mailed this cover was part of the 16th Corps and was captured at Fredericksburg. Rules for prisoner-of-war mail from regular prisons included a requirement that the content of letters be limited to personal matters. As such, descriptions of battles and discussions of how a soldier was captured are rare. Since this letter was sent from Camp Parole, those requirements were not relevant and the letter contains a wonderful narrative of the soldier's experience at Fredericksburg and his capture and march to Richmond and to Camp Parole: "...we chased them away & took their works, pressed on & fought them again on same day. I made a narrow escape, a grape shot passing through a tin can that I had fastened to my haversack, it made a hole 1-1/2 inches in diameter." First-hand accounts of military action in soldiers' letters are among the most prized primary source material for Civil War researchers and collectors.
Illustrated in Antrim (p. 106) and Special Routes (p. 87)
EXTREMELY FINE. A WONDERFUL ARTIFACT OF CIVIL WAR BENEVELONCE SIGNED BY CLARA BARTON, FOUNDER OF THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.
According to Wikipedia: "In April 1862, after the First Battle of Bull Run, Barton established an agency to obtain and distribute supplies to wounded soldiers. She was given a pass by General William Hammond to ride in army ambulances to provide comfort to the soldiers and nurse them back to health and lobbied the U.S. Army bureaucracy, at first without success, to bring her own medical supplies to the battlefields. Finally, in July 1862, she obtained permission to travel behind the lines, eventually reaching some of the grimmest battlefields of the war and serving during the Siege of Petersburg and Richmond, Virginia. In 1864 she was appointed by Union General Benjamin Butler as the 'lady in charge' of the hospitals at the front of the Army of the James."
In 1865, President Abraham Lincoln placed Barton in charge of the search for the missing men of the Union Army. With a former Andersonville prisoner, Dorence Atwater, she helped identify thousands of dead prisoners at Andersonville and the two became known as the "Angels of Andersonville," according to a biography of Barton. She embarked on a nationwide campaign to identify all soldiers missing during the Civil War. She published lists of names in newspapers and exchanged letters with soldiers' families. Her activities with the Correspondence with Friends of Paroled Prisoners represents some of her early efforts in her wide-ranging work to identify and ensure the return of Union soldiers. Barton founded the American Red Cross 1881 and served until 1904. She died in 1912.
Illustrated in Antrim (p. 107)