For the first two years of the Civil War captured soldiers were exchanged and allowed to return to their units. Soon commanders on both sides realized this was an untenable situation, and each made plans for a prison system. Gerard describes North Carolina's infamous prison at Salisbury, where over 15,000 prisoners were held in miserable sanitary conditions and food and clothing were scarce. Prisoners lived in holes dug into the ground. Over 5,000 died. On April 12, 1865, General George Stoneman assaulted Salisbury, liberating the remaining prisoners and burning the prison and the town.