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…
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.”
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…