All posts are copyright Barbara Rogers 2018. Please ask if you wish to share, and give attribution to the author.My ancestry and more personal notes are now at a revised version of "When I Was 75."

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Free at last

My grandmother's (on my father's side) grandfather was a Prisoner of War in the Civil War.  Alexander Swasey had been Captain of a side wheeler ship the "Ella" which was trying to run the Union's blockade around Wilmington, NC when he was captured. (I've posted about him before HERE)

Alexander Swasey, Master, "Ella" - entry 11th down from top (Click on photo to enlarge)

I just found US Army documents about his capture, his 4 years in prison in Boston Harbor, and his release on this date, July 11, 1865.

He spent the whole Civil War in Fort Warren prison.  He was one of 8 officers kept there.  Many times officers were traded between the north and the south.  Not him.

He had been born in Newport, Rhode Island in 1812, then moved to the Florida Territory and lived in St. Augustine where he married and had 4 children, then apparently moved to Charleston, SC and kept business dealings in Newport, RI as well.

As a ship captain, he worked for people who owned the ship, and carried the cargoes they arranged.  Thus he was captain of several ships carrying slaves to New Orleans, LA from Charleston in the 1840s.  The manifests of 3 of these trips remain with his name and the several slaves' names on them.  There didn't appear to be an agent or owner with them, so he must have been responsible for taking them to someone in New Orleans.  This was his choice, and since there weren't many abolitionists around, he may not have had any second thoughts about it.

Then the owners of his ship donated it to the cause of the Confederacy, (if they really had a choice) and he stayed with it.  That was probably the worst mistake he made in his life.  His wife and children were probably in Florida still, since they were in the 1850 census, but that's not certain when 1862 came around.

According to the above Army document, on Nov. 10, 1863 he was captured off Wilmington, NC, and transferred on the 20th to Fort Warren, in Boston Harbor, MA.   (My initial posting says he was captured on April 24, 1862, so I wonder about that first year and a half, since this document infers that he'd just been captured.)

There are around 55 copies of army records of cash accounts of his and other prisoners, which were saved and now I have them on my ancestry site.  Most of them are not really clear to me.  But there was one which showed when he was released at the end of the war. His name is he fourth after the space in the middle of the page below.

(Click on photo to enlarge)

And that's it.  A man spent 4-5 years in prison, doing who knows what.  He never fought in the war at all.  And he was released on July 11, 1865.

He died in Charleston on March 26, 1866 of consumption.  He does not have a grave marker, though he was buried in a friend's family plot.


  1. so sad his health probably suffered being in jail all that time; interesting you can trace your roots so far back, both my mom and dad were mum about their heritage and sadly I know little to nothing, except that my grandmother was Cherokee (curiously from Georgia - and her mother was on the trail of tears) this I got from my grandmother when visiting her one of the times. dh can trace his roots way way back, he is 100 percent Finnish and we've seen the manifest when his grandparents immigrated via Ellis Island from Finland. his grandmother was sent back because her health wasnt' good enough to immigrate and she came two years later.

    1. Linda...I think just having your parent's birthdays and perhaps death dates, Ancestry might have some info for you...and the first month is free. So you could probably find out about at least grandparents, and maybe more. It's all in the other relatives who have made trees as well as US documents which can be census up to 1940 I think. Most people who are alive aren't listed on Ancestry, but sometimes just a marriage will be listed of people who are still with us. If you have an hour you might try it and see what you can find.


Looking forward to hearing from you! Since I didn't know the 1000+ people who supposedly looked at my blog the other day, I'm back to moderating comments. If that doesn't help, I don't know why blogger doesn't have a filter that stops this hacking...