The holding of prisoners of war has always been both a political and a military enterprise, yet the military prisons of the Civil War, which held more than four hundred thousand soldiers and caused the deaths of fifty-six thousand men, have been nearly forgotten. Now Lonnie R. Speer has brought to life the least-known men in the great struggle between the Union and the Confederacy, using their own words and observations as they endured a true “hell on earth.” Drawing on scores of previously unpublished firsthand accounts, Portals to Hell presents the prisoners’ experiences in great detail and from an impartial perspective. The first comprehensive study of all major prisons of both the North and the South, this chronicle analyzes the many complexities of the relationships among prisoners, guards, commandants, and government leaders.
Lonnie R. Speer is a freelance writer with a special interest in the Civil War. His articles have appeared in Civil War Times Illustrated and America’s Civil War.
"This is an excellent book for any military historian, Civil War Roundtable group, researcher, or anyone interested in learning more about an aspect of the Civil War behind the lines."—Larry S. Sterett, Gun Week