Prisoner Exchange
The Dix-Hill Cartel


     As the Civil War began to accelerate into high gear, two general officers, representing their own respective governments, agreed and signed a nine article document setting the future guidelines for prisoner exchange. On July 22, 1862, Major General John A. Dix and Major General Daniel Harvey Hill set the prisoner exchange standard for both governments and it became known as the Dix-Hill Cartel.

     Each rank structure would be permitted exchange for a service member of equal rank or a set number of privates and ordinary seaman based on the senior ranking service member to be exchanged. Along the same terms of agreement any civilian personnel captured by either party will likewise be exchanged for civilian personnel of like standing, one regimental sutler for another. Likewise, any privateers that managed to get themselves captured would be placed on the same footing as a normal officer or enlisted man of the Navy.

     The captor would parole and deliver prisoners of war to a designated area no later than ten days after their capture. This would also be done at the expense of the capturing authority.

     Article 4 of this unique document stated that paroled prisoners would not be able to take up arms again or perform any like functions of a soldier or sailor until properly exchanged by proper authority. Soldiers and sailors returning from an enemy prisoner of war camp would be sent off to a parole camp, repatriated and await his exchange. Once this became official, that service member was then entitled to rejoin his combat unit and return to the field of battle.

     Although paroled within ten days of capture, there were many times when it was not convenient for the parolee to return to his respective side in a timely fashion. In these cases, both armies would possess many paroled prisoners; however, the exchanges were not completed because his Union or Confederate counterpart had not reached his own lines. Often times this may take several months for an exchange to become final in having both return to their combat units.

     Aiken's Landing on the James River and Vicksburg, Mississippi were both agreed upon as the two authorized areas for prisoner exchange with the one exception of not depriving opposing army commander's the right to exercise exchange across a battlefield.

     Should any disagreement as to the exchange of prisoners take place between either agents thus designated by proper authority, Article 9 required they be addressed by verbal explanation in order that the purpose of the meeting not be postponed or delayed.

     For the remaining three years of the war, the terms as provided in the Dix-Hill Cartel would be closely followed by both governments in the exchange of prisoners of war. The War Departments on both sides of the line agreed to the terms thus making it a standard for returning those captured. For a time it helped to relieve both sides from excessive overcrowding. Chivalry still prevailed, and the days of the overpopulated stockades had not yet come.


Dan (Aldie) Daniel Moran
© 2002

Editors Note: Mr.Moran is a feature writer on the US-Civilwar.com writers staff. He may be contacted with your questions, ideas and requests at dmoran@us-civilwar.net