Thursday, January 18, 2018

Alexandria’s Military Prisons in the Civil War

The Cotton Factory

The Union Army operated five prisons in Alexandria, Virginia during the Civil War.  The Mount Vernon Cotton Factory, now transformed into luxury condominiums, housed some 1,500 Confederate POWs. Prisoners housed at this Washington Street prison were generally in route to prison camps in the North.  Spies and enemy sympathizers were housed in Odd Fellows Hall. 

The Duke Street slave pen

The Duke Street slave pen was used to house drunken and disorderly Union soldiers. Union deserters were imprisoned in the Prince Street prison (formerly Green’s Furniture Factory which had been requisitioned by the Army).  The old Alexandria Jail, in use since 1826 was also used.  Captain Rufus D. Pettit served as superintendent of U.S. Military Prisons in Alexandria (1864-65).    In November, 1865, Pettit was court-martialed for his brutal treatment of prisoners he believed to be deserters from the Union army, found guilty and dishonorably discharged.

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