Paternalism and Imprisonment at Castle Thunder: Reinforcing Gender Norms in the Confederate Capital

TitlePaternalism and Imprisonment at Castle Thunder: Reinforcing Gender Norms in the Confederate Capital
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsZombek, Angela
JournalCivil War History
Date Published09/2017

Castle Thunder’s inmates were a hard lot. In 1863, members of a special congressional investigative committee derided them as “desperate and abandoned characters,” mainly murderers, thieves, deserters, substitutes, forgers, and “all manner of villains.” Commandant George Alexander’s harshness inspired the Confederate Congress to investigate the legality of his favored punishments, which included whipping, bucking and gagging, and solitary confinement. Ultimately, the committee, and Alexander’s subordinates—like warden Baldwin T. Allen, who testified on his behalf—condoned his conduct, and emphasized the necessity of rigid rules, since anything less would hinder officers’ ability to control the motley crew of inmates.

Scholars’ focus on military prisons has painstakingly chronicled inmates’ suffering and intentional maltreatment. But Castle Thunder had a broader function: the Confederate government consolidated power through establishment and control of military prisons. National control over prisons was radical, especially since antebellum southern civilians remained skeptical of state-controlled penitentiaries and Americans generally believed that the national government should be restrained in criminal matters. But Confederate political and military officials eschewed antebellum disdain for institutions of confinement. They instead believed that military prisons should punish enemies, suppress dissent, and promote Confederate ideology.

-Project Muse 

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