William Comfort, who was with the 35th New Jersey Volunteers, wrote this poem in 1864 while he was being held in Andersonville Prison.

Prisoner exchanges between the North and South were halted on May 25, 1863, on the authority of General-in-Chief Henry Halleck. Although some limited exchanges continued sporadically throughout the War, they were even fewer and farther between after Ulysses S. Grant replaced Halleck as overall commander. Southern refusal to consider blacks in the Federal ranks as soldiers eligible for exchange contributed to Grant's obstinance on the issue, as did his desire to deprive the Confederate Army of irreplaceable manpower. To further discourage general exchanges, Grant named the detested Benjamin F. "Beast" Butler as commissioner for exchanges. Remembering the heavy hand General Butler had exercised in occupied New Orleans, the South was not eager to deal with him but finally did, although exchanges did not resume.

As a result of this political manuevering between the two governments, many Union soldiers were left to languish in overcrowded, unsanitary Southern prison camps. The overwhelming convinction that their leaders had abandoned them after their devoted service to the Union cause gave rise to sentiments like the ones expressed in these heartbreaking verses.

Thanks to Dennis Maggard for contributing this poem.

"A Cry from Andersonville Prison"

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Last modified 16-April-2001