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Civil War Prisoners of War

January 24, 2018, Dr. James R. (Rusty) Neal presented a discussion on Civil War Prisoners of War that focused on the prisoners’ conditions and perspectives. He examined how prisoners reacted when captured and how they related their experiences traversing the enemy’s country to prison and what letters and diaries prisoners wrote while they awaited release can tell us about their prison experiences. He also explored prisoners’ principal hopes for release through a system of prisoner parole and exchange the belligerents established and the less well-known route to freedom that the vast majority of prisoners refused: taking the oath of allegiance to their enemy. Finally, Dr. Neal talked about the darkest aspects of the prisoner condition: death at the hands of their captors and the grueling conditions that existed in Civil War prisons, which too often deprived prisoners of adequate food, shelter, sanitation, and the most rudimentary necessities for health, which resulted in the deaths of at least 56,000 Union and Confederate prisoners through starvation and disease.

Rusty holds a Ph.D. in Nineteenth-Century U.S. history and an M.A. in Medieval history from the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). From 2007 through 2013, Dr. Neal taught Humanities courses at Morrison University in Reno, NV as the senior humanities professor. His primary historical research interests include the American Civil War, the German Empire, Medieval Europe, and Sumer. He is currently engaged in ongoing research in these areas as an independent scholar and recently published “‘We Were Surrendered’: Civil War Prisoners and the Trauma of Capture” (2016) in the University of Virginia's Academic Journal, Essays in History. His master’s thesis, “Defining Power in the Mercian Supremacy: An Examination of the Dynamics of Power in the Kingdom of the Borderers” (2008), and doctoral dissertation, "Surrendered: The Prisoner-of-War Condition in the American Civil War" (2015) were both completed at UNR.

Dr. Neal served in the U.S. Army (Infantry) for eleven years including a tour in the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), a tour in West Germany guarding Pershing II Nuclear Missiles, and three years in the National Guard. He currently works as a Program Analyst with the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C., and previously served as a Management Analyst, Training Manager, and Veterans Service Representative at the Reno Regional Office.

Dr. Neal and his wife are founding members of the Fredericksburg-Este Association and he has given numerous lectures to that organization on topics related to Italian literature, culture, and history. In addition, he has presented to the American Revolution Round Table of Fredericksburg on the topic of Revolutionary War Prisoners of War. Dr. Neal is currently working on preparing his dissertation on Civil War Prisoners of War for publication.

Dr. Neal currently lives in Stafford, VA with his wife, Helen, and their three dogs: Henry (a Golden Retriever/Pekingese mix), Otto (a Brittany Spaniel), and Blue (a Corgy mix).

Civil War Round Table of Fredericksburg
Civil War Round Table of Fredericksburg
Civil War Round Table of Fredericksburg
Civil War Round Table of Fredericksburg

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