The Yankee Plague

Escaped Union Prisoners and the Collapse of the Confederacy

By Lorien Foote

256 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 10 halftones, 5 maps, appends., notes, bibl., index

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-3055-7
    Published: November 2016
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-3056-4
    Published: October 2016

Civil War America

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Awards & distinctions

A CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title, 2017

During the winter of 1864, more than 3,000 Federal prisoners of war escaped from Confederate prison camps into South Carolina and North Carolina, often with the aid of local slaves. Their flight created, in the words of contemporary observers, a "Yankee plague," heralding a grim end to the Confederate cause. In this fascinating look at Union soldiers' flight for freedom in the last months of the Civil War, Lorien Foote reveals new connections between the collapse of the Confederate prison system, the large-scale escape of Union soldiers, and the full unraveling of the Confederate States of America. By this point in the war, the Confederacy was reeling from prison overpopulation, a crumbling military, violence from internal enemies, and slavery’s breakdown. The fugitive Federals moving across the countryside in mass numbers, Foote argues, accelerated the collapse as slaves and deserters decided the presence of these men presented an opportune moment for escalated resistance.

Blending rich analysis with an engaging narrative, Foote uses these ragged Union escapees as a lens with which to assess the dying Confederate States, providing a new window into the South’s ultimate defeat.

About the Author

Lorien Foote is professor of history at Texas A&M University.
For more information about Lorien Foote, visit the Author Page.


“An illuminating and powerful study that enhances both Civil War history and POW studies. Essential.”--Choice

“Packs a very powerful scholarly punch. . . . Definitely merits award consideration and will likely earn a spot on many of this year’s ‘Best Of’ lists.”--Civil War Books and Authors

“Anyone interested in the Carolinas during the war, prisoners of war, or the war on the Southern home front will not regret adding this book to their library.”--Journal of America’s Military Past

"The rare title that delivers new information and challenges readers to reconsider what they are confident they already know."-Indiana Magazine of History

The Yankee Plague makes for an important addition to the literature on Civil War prisoners and the collapse of the Confederacy.”--Civil War Monitor

“One of the most intriguing books on Civil War captivity in years.”--The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society