Historic Markers Across Alabama

Captive Boys in Blue

Marker ID:  
Location: in the Cahawba Archaeological Park (nominal fee required), 9518 Cahaba Rd, Orrville, AL
County: Dallas
Coordinates: N 32° 19.016    W 087° 5.76
  32.31693333    -87.096
Style: Interpretative Sign **
Waymark: None


Captive Boys in Blue

In 1862 the Confederacy used one of Cahawba's brick cotton warehouses to temporarily house men captured at the Battle of Shiloh. In 1863, they officially converted the warehouse into a military prison. The inmates called it "Castle Morgan," reportedly after the daring Confederate raider John Hunt Morgan.

The warehouse only measured 200 by 125 feet, but by the end of the war, 3,000 men were confined in this small space. Over the course of the war thousands more passed through the prison, and yet only 142 to 147 men died here. Such an exceptionally low death rate can be attributed to an artesian well that supplied fresh water for drinking, bathing, and sanitation.

As the war drew to a close, flood waters inundated the prison, making a bad situation worse. After several days of standing in foul water, these captive boys in blue were removed from Cahawba and sent to Vicksburg, Mississippi for parole.

The Sultana Disaster

At the end of the war, many of the Federal soldiers from Cahawba's prison were placed aboard a steamboat called the Sultana. After surviving bloody battles and harsh prison life, they were finally headed home. Joy ended in tragedy, when the crowded boat exploded near Memphis on the Mississippi River. Most of the men aboard were killed. The Sultana disaster is still considered the worst maritime disaster in U.S. History.

Engraving of the Sultana Disaster Harper's Weekly, May 20, 1865.

2015 by the Alabama Historical Commission.

Photographs of the marker can be found on HMDB.org

End of Captive Boys in Blue