andersonville, georgia

We visited the Andersonville American Civil War, Prisoner of War (POW) camp in Georgia in May 2019. The official name of this POW camp is Camp Sumter, 45,000 Federal prisoners were held captive here from February 1864 until May 1865. During these 14 months 13,000 of these prisoners died of disease, malnutrition, exposure and poor sanitary conditions.

Originally the camp was designed to hold 13,000 prisoners. However, by June of 1864, just four months since it opened, the prison population had grown to over 26,000.

Andersonville is a very sobering place, a bitter reminder of what people are capable of doing to one another. Someone once said, “If we don’t learn from history, we will repeat it.” This is a place that every generation of Americans should visit. God forbid we as a nation ever forget…

In the 14 months the prison was in operation, close to 13,000 POW’s died of disease, malnutrition, and exposure to the elements.

The first prisoners were brought to Andersonville in February, 1864. During the next few months approximately 400 more arrived each day until, by the end of June, some 26,000 men were confined in a prison area originally intended to hold 13,000. The prison grounds were expanded from its original size in an effort to accommodate the large numbers of prisoners, but was still too small to hold the thousands of Union soldiers eventually held here. The largest number held at any one time was more than 32,000 in August, 1864.

Handicapped by deteriorating economic conditions, an inadequate transportation system, and the need to concentrate all available resources on the army, the Confederate government was unable to provide adequate housing, food, clothing, and medical care to their Federal captives. These conditions, along with a breakdown of the prisoner exchange system, resulted in much suffering and a high mortality rate.

Andersonville Prison ceased to exist in May, 1865. Some former prisoners remained in Federal service, but most returned to the civilian occupations they had before the war. During July and August, 1865, Clara Barton, a detachment of laborers and soldiers, and a former prisoner named Dorence Atwater, came to Andersonville cemetery to identify and mark the graves of the Union dead. As a prisoner, Atwater was assigned to record the names of deceased Union soldiers for the Confederates. Fearing loss of of the death record at war’s end, Atwater made his own copy in hopes of notifying the relatives of some 12,000 dead interred at Andersonville. Thanks to his list and the Confederate records confiscated at the end of the war, only 460 of the Andersonville graves had to be marked ” Unknown U.S. Soldier.”

On the grounds at Andersonville is the National Prisoner of War Museum.
American POWs held captive in Japan when the A-Bomb was dropped died at Hiroshima.
A memorial to all American POWs throughout history.
The cemetery at Andersonville, Georgia.
One of the many memorials built here on the grounds of Andersonville.
Each State of the Union that had lost sons here at Andersonville built memorials here on the grounds of the prison and the nearby cemetery.
A memorial to the sons of the state of Illinois who lost their lives at Andersonville.
The soldiers of Illinois who paid the ultimate price at Andersonville.
Turn you to the stronghold ye prisoners of hope, Zechariah 9:12
Originally the prison covered about 16 1/2 acres of land enclosed by a 15 foot high stockade of hewn pine logs. It was enlarged to 26 1/2 acres in June of 1864. The stockade was in the shape of a parallelogram 1,620 feet long and 779 feet wide. Sentry boxes, or “pigeon roost” as the prisoners called them, stood at 30 yard intervals along the top of the stockade.

In the picture above we are given an understanding of the kind of conditions the POWs were forced to endure, living in stick tents the soldiers made themselves if they could find the materials left behind by their fallen comrades. Otherwise they just slept out on the ground with no protection from the weather.
The only source of water for the prison is a spring fed stream that ran through the prison yard called the Stockade Branch, The stream is still flowing there today.
In the middle of the field is a memorial for the fresh water spring at Andersonville.
The memorial to the fresh water spring that miraculously sprung straight up into the air during a thunderstorm when lightning struck the ground in the prison yard.
The memorial of the fresh water spring at Andersonville.
Prisoners returned to Andersonville years latter and gather at the fresh water spring.
The fresh water spring.
The stream that flows through the prison yard even today, 156 years later.
A memorial the sons of Ohio that lost their lives at Andersonville.
Memorial to the sons of Rhode Island. Inside, about 19 feet from the wall, was the ” DEADLINE ,” which the prisoners were forbidden to cross upon threat of death.
The sons of Wisconsin
MaryAnn walking the grounds at Andersonville.
While we were visiting Andersonville we camped at Lake Tobesofkee State Park.
Our campsite.

In case you were wondering, these atrocities committed against POW’s didn’t occur only in the South. The POW camps in the North have similar stories to tell of the horrors witnessed by the Confederate Prisoners of War.

The “Barber Road” continues through Georgia next time…

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