Commentary by Dr. Tom Ward featured in The New York Times
Today’s New York Times Opinion Page features commentary from Spring Hill College professor and department of history chair, Dr. Tom Ward.Ward’s article, entitled “The Plight of the Black P.O.W.,” begins by exploring the fate of members of the all-black 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry who were captured after failing to take Fort Wagner in July 1863. “The entrance of black troops into the Civil War following the Emancipation Proclamation placed the Confederate authorities in a difficult dilemma,” explains Dr. Ward, “what to do with African-Americans in Union blues taken prisoner on the battlefield?”
If not executed, captured black soldiers were often put into forced labor with jobs ranging from loading steamboats to rebuilding breastworks; hundreds of black prisoners were held in Mobile, which housed probably the largest camp exclusively for black Union soldiers captured by the Confederate armed forces.
“Slave owners were also encouraged to retrieve their former slaves or receive restitution for those in service to the Confederacy,” adds Dr. Ward. “While an unknown number of black prisoners were either pressed into Confederate service or returned to slavery, records mention African-American troops being held in at least nine Confederate prison camps, often segregated from white prisoners.”
Visit this link to read Dr. Ward’s full opinion piece in the New York Times: http://goo.gl/S79Dv6
Tom Ward teaches courses in U.S. History, African-American History, and Western Civilization. He is the author of Black Physicians in the Jim Crow South (University of Arkansas Press, 2003) and has written a number of articles on African-Americans and health care history.
Dr. Ward received his Ph.D. from the University of Southern Mississippi and a master of arts degree from Clemson University. He has been part of the Spring Hill College faculty since 2007. Dr. Ward teaches a wide variety of courses on the Spring Hill College campus, among them, The South, The Making of Modern America, the Vietnam War, and Western Civilization.
*Dr. Ward is shown in the photograph with his father, Thomas Ward, Sr.