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Robert Ould (January 31, 1820 – December 15, 1882) was a lawyer who served as a Confederate official during the American Civil War. From 1862 to 1865 he was the Confederate agent of exchange for prisoners of war under the Dix–Hill Cartel. After the war he became a member of the Virginia General Assembly and was later elected president of a railroad company.

Robert Ould
Robert Ould-wmm2.jpg
Born(1820-01-31)January 31, 1820
Georgetown, Washington, D.C.
DiedDecember 15, 1882(1882-12-15) (aged 62)
Richmond, Virginia
Place of burial
Allegiance Confederate States of America
Service/branch Confederate States Army
Years of service1862–1865 (CSA)
RankConfederate States of America Colonel.png Colonel (CSA)
Commands heldCommissioner of Exchange
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War


Early lifeEdit

Ould was born in Georgetown, Washington, D.C., on January 31, 1820. After attending Jefferson College in Pennsylvania, he graduated in letters at Columbian College in D.C. in 1837, and in law at William & Mary College in 1842. During the antebellum period he worked as a lawyer in Washington,[1][2] and in 1855 he was appointed under Franklin Pierce to a commission to codify the district's laws.[3][4]

In 1859, following the shooting of Philip Barton Key II, Ould was appointed by James Buchanan to succeed Key as United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. Ould charged Key's killer, Daniel E. Sickles, with murder, but lost the case after Sickles' lawyer (and future United States Secretary of War) Edwin M. Stanton invoked one of the first uses of the temporary insanity defense in U.S. history.[5][6]

Civil WarEdit

Ould was also a Brigadier General in the District of Columbia militia; in his role as United States Attorney, he advised Buchanan not to arm newly raised Unionist militia companies in the District.[7] Following the secession of Virginia in 1861, Ould decided to support the Confederacy and moved with his family to Richmond. Early in the war he was appointed to the War Department as Assistant Secretary of War, serving under Judah P. Benjamin.[5][2]

In July 1862 Ould was appointed as the chief agent of exchange under the terms of the Dix–Hill Cartel, with the rank of colonel. In this position he was responsible for negotiating the exchange and treatment of prisoners of war with his Union counterparts.[8][9] He held the office for most of the remainder of the war, until he was succeeded by William Norris in April 1865.[10] During the war he also served as judge advocate in Richmond[1] and seems to have been a high-ranking official in the Confederate Secret Service.[11][12]

Postwar careerEdit

After the surrender at Appomattox in 1865, Ould was arrested and briefly incarcerated at Libby Prison on charges of misappropriating funds belonging to Union prisoners, but was soon after released,[1][13] and on October 30 he received a pardon from Andrew Johnson.[14] He subsequently defended former Confederate president Jefferson Davis against charges of treason.[5]

After the war, Ould remained in Richmond and returned to practicing law. In 1866 he was elected to one term in the Virginia Senate, and from 1874 to 1875 he served as a representative for Richmond in the House of Delegates.[5][15] In 1878 he was elected president of the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad Company.[5]

Ould died on January 15, 1882, and was buried at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Allardice 2008, p. 296.
  2. ^ a b Evans 1899, pp. 630-31.
  3. ^ Hall 1981, pp. 185-86.
  4. ^ Ould & Cross 1857, pp. v-vi.
  5. ^ a b c d e Hall 1981, p. 186.
  6. ^ Wheelan 2010, pp. 23-24.
  7. ^ Charles Pomeroy Stone, "Washington on the Eve of the War" , in Robert Underwood Johnson and Clarence Clough Buel (1887), edd., Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, reprint, Secaucus, NJ: Castle, pp. 12, 18-20, ISBN 0-89009-569-8 .
  8. ^ Wagner, Gallagher & Finkelman 2002, p. 620.
  9. ^ Heuvel & Heuvel 2013, p. 115.
  10. ^ Tidwell, Hall & Gaddy 1988, p. 85.
  11. ^ Tidwell, Hall & Gaddy 1988, p. 49.
  12. ^ Blackett 1989, p. 325.
  13. ^ Ainsworth & Kirkley 1899, p. 667.
  14. ^ Bergeron 1991, p. 214.
  15. ^ Commonwealth of Virginia 1918, pp. 190, 195.


External linksEdit