Andersonville prison camp

I spent part of a day at Andersonville prison, rightly named Camp Sumter, of the Confederate States of America.
The name Andersonville in the minds of many is synonymous with Auschwitz, or the 7th circle of Hell. Constructed in early 1864 to relieve congestion around Richmond, and reduce the perceived security risk of having so many enemy troops interned close to the Capital of the Confederacy, and easing the burden on Virginia’s resources.
The location of Camp Sumter was decided when a former Governor of Georgia, M. General Howell Cobb suggested the central part of that State would best serve the needs of the project owing to the distance from the fighting, proximity to railroad services, and the presence of water, and other natural resources.
All of these desirable things came together near the town of Andersonville (which truly is in the middle of nowhere) The design, and construction began under the command of Richard B. Winder (Capt. CSA)
Originally planned to cover 16.5 acres, holding 10,000 prisoners, it had a stream running through the mid part of the stockaded compound. The compound built with slave labor was surrounded by a wall of close fitted Pine logs some 20 ft. in height. Within this wall was constructed a warning fence called the “Dead line” a prisoner found between these two barriers could be shot. To be continued…

the first pics shows white posts, the outer most show the position of the stockade, the inner posts are the deadline.
The second pic is of one of the state’s monuments to their sons who died in Andersonville. This one is from my home State. The others are spread around the prison site.
The third pic shows the prison area from the S.W. corner, next to the Star fort. (the fort was one of the artillery positions located at each corner of the camp)

Just going to say this … Wirz got the shaft. Im sure he was a bastard but no worse then the majority of the camp comandants (USA or CSA). Camp Douglas in the North was diffently in the same ballpark as Andersonville as far as humanity would be concerned.

For those that dont know anything about Andersonville they made a decent movie about it 15 years ago or so. Pretty accurate … although some complaints.

That movie was one of the reasons I had wanted to visit Andersonville myself, The feeling of the actual place is darker than it appears in the movie. The Park Service published information about the camps of both sides, (for what its worth,) Andersonville has a death rate of 29%, Camp Douglas is 15% The Union Camp at Elmira, N.Y. lists a rate of 24%. Statistics aside, I agree that none of the camps were run humanely. The reason the camps became so overcrowded was that Lincoln had demanded equal treatment for all Union soldiers, regardless of their color. The Confederacy held a different opinion. In answer to that, Lincoln suspended the prisoner exchange program then in operation. So the camps on both sides filled up. The question of Capt. Wirz will probably never be settled, though I personally believe he could have done much more to at least lessen the privations of Andersonville. In todays world, who knows what he might have gotten.
The pic shows a recreation of the types of shelters the prisoners were allowed to make for themselves. Barracks, cabins etc. for whatever reason were not allowed.

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Some pics from wikipedia …

Notice the lovely stream in the middle :smiley::frowning:

Im sure the smell had to be awful.

With as many as 30,000 men interned at one time, (the camp was designed for 10,000) that stream was the source of water for washing, drinking, and on the down stream end, the latrine. After a hard rain, one day, a spring broke through a bit uphill from the “sweet water branch” and furnished clean (er) water. The prisoners named it “Providence Spring” The stone house in the background is built over the actual spring.

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I have a book (somewhere) titled “From Battlefield to Prison Pen” from the 1870’s-1880’s. Found it in my grandparents book collection. It recalled a Union soldiers time in Andersonville among other experiences. If I can find it I’ll maybe post some excerpts from it.

Andersonville Prison being a regular military installation (Camp Sumter) it had artillery batteries placed at intervals outside of the Stockade, built into Earthworks. The remains of these are visible today, and have guns placed in them. The guns now present appear to be bronze smooth bores of about 3" bore. I looked at one of these, and its marks show it to have been cast in 1861, Mfg by Marshall & Co. of St. Louis, Mo. (the one I looked at had a bird’s nest W/ eggs down in the barrel. ) The positions to the North are smaller than those at the South end of the camp.
Pics 1, and 2 are of the “Star Fort” at the N.W. corner of the camp, is a somewhat star shaped Earthwork with a defensive trench surrounding it.

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Andersonville National Cemetery was the burial ground for those who died in the prison, but after the War, in 1865, it was established as a National Cemetery. By 1868 it held over 800 additional interments of Union Soldiers who died in hospitals, other camps, or on the battlefields of southern Georgia. The Cemetery presently holds 18,000 graves.

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A stunning set of postings TG.
Small question. Was the reason internees were not permitted to build barracks because then, under CSA law were there dwellings they would then be would qualify to receive resources that could otherwise be denied because the camp had no permanent housing structures for the inmates?

In other words, did they “keep it classed as temporary” to avoid using resources or finances needed elsewhere?

Kind and Respecftul Regards TG my friend, Uyraell.

Although I suspect that either thought,be it resources, or that a temporary facility wouldnt need barracks may be the reason, any answer on my part would be speculation, as I have found no supported, factual information about the shelter issue, and few bare mentions of it. If I do ,I will post it here.

Many Many Thanks TG, much appreciated my friend.

There’s an eerie parallel with the use of concentration camps during the Boer War, a generation later.
Despite that they had Dutch/Boer civilians interned, and despite that same were often women and children, for the first few weeks at least, the UK Govt refused to allow permanent shelters to be built, and was even trying to deny/restrict the availability of tents. In this manner, the need to provision for the camp population was avoided because, being “temporary” the camp did not in effect legally exist.

Which is why I was curious if similar circumstances had obtained during the US Civil War.

Kind and Respectful Regards TG my friend, Uyraell.

I couldnt be sure either! But the camp was ready about the time Grant took command of the Army. He was completely against prisoner exchanges due to the simple mathmatics of it. The North had more able men. Not everyone shared his idea or liked it. As a result im sure most thought it would be temporary. Although exhanges did happen after Grant was in command … the were mostly stopped. Actually, John Wilkes Booth’s original idea was to capture Lincoln and use him for the purpose of an exchange.

I had read that it was Lincoln, and Grant that stopped the exchanges due to Confederate refusal to treat all Union soldiers equally, (some mention of a massacre of Black soldiers was made.) I found this info which makes no mention of said mistreatment, but lays the blame on a few specific people.
In 1862 Representatives of each side met to arrange the format of exchanges, and how many of a particular rank were equal in value to higher officers etc.
Gen. John Dix (U.S.) and Gen. D.H. Hill (CSA) were these representatives.
In 1863 Gen. Henry Halleck (U.S.) became the representative in authority for the exchanges. He was pressured by Edwin Stanton then Secretary of War for the U.S. who proceeded to impede the program, and when Gen U.S. Grant was made the overall Commander of the Army the exchanges trickled away to nothing.(cut & paste follows)
General Benjamin F. Butler later said what Grant had told him: “He (Grant) said that I would agree with him that by the exchange of prisoners we get no men fit to go into our army, and every soldier we gave the Confederates went immediately into theirs, so that the exchange was virtually so much aid to them and none to us.”

I was watching some History Channel tonight, and there was a bit about Camp Douglas, “80 acres of Hell” It was postulated by some at the time that the Camp’s officials were under-reporting the deaths at the camp by a significant margin. It may be that Both Douglas, and Andersonville, were much closer in death rates than official figures would indicate.
Now as to the breakdown of the prisoner exchange program, the “Official Reason” was the south refusing to accord black union soldiers equal POW status. (Now it had been stated by other prisoners of Camp Douglas,(or rather shown on this show ) that Black Confederate soldiers were in some cases shot out of hand just for being black confederate soldiers.I dont know if any official records were made of this practice, or if its even true.)
The actual reason was stated as Stanton, and Grant had said, that the South derived great benefit from the exchange, but the Union did not, so why continue.
One bit of info may possibly answer the question of why there were no barracks in most camps, there were barracks in Camp Douglas, and they were said to be wholly infested with vermin, and that their eventual burning by disgruntled Union parolees was seen by the Chicago Medical establishment as a blessing. Perhaps living out in the open was less lousy.(just a thought…)

My 5th great grandfathe,r Joseph A Ledford of Kentucky, died at Andersonville 6-13-1864. Papers actually say he died of diarrhea, which is listed as one of the top 3 killers there. He is buried in the mass grave on the site.

Dysentery, Scurvy,and Pneumonia, were among the leading killers at Andersonville Prison, as well as insect borne diseases as the place is hot and humid in summer, so insect populations will be enormous. (although this may have provided a bit of extra protein to the men held there.) Sadly, starvation, and physical abuse from other prisoners, as well as the prison guards accounted for many of those deaths.
I hope the pictures have given you some idea of life there, and some manner of connection with your Ancestor. It is a far more peaceful place now, and is well worth the time it takes to visit if you are anywhere near S.W. Georgia. Sorry to be so long in responding, but I have not been to this thread in awhile.

Rickets must have meant something different in Andersonville / Civil War usage to more recent usage.

Rickets as I’ve understood it for about half a century (because it was still around when I was a kid, ableit fairly rare in Australian born kids except those born during the Depression but less so in post-war immigrants and especially those from Southern Europe who came from more nutritionally deprived backgrounds) is a childhood disease caused by a lack of Vitamin D and calcium, which causes insufficient formation of the bones and leads to skeletal deformities, such as bow legs, in later life. It is not fatal. It also led to the school milk program from the 1950s to the 1970s, where free (I think Vitamin D and or calcium enriched) milk was provided to schools, ably assisted by a government desire to help the dairy industry. At my school I used to trudge past crates of it on summer days at the eastern gate about 10 to 9 in the morning where it had been sitting for an hour or two in the sun. By the time we got it about 11 a.m. it was warm to hot and vomit making with a thick lump of cream on the top. This well intentioned public health program turned a whole generation off milk for life.

Have you any information on the symptoms of rickets during the Civil War?

You are correct RS* , I made an error, I believe the malady I was thinking of was Scurvy. We had a similar program in grade school, milk came every day, and luck to whoever got a cold one. While I never developed an aversion to milk, I never drink it “straight up” has to be part of something else. Everyone spoke of something called “buttermilk” and acted like it was Napoleon Brandy. I tried it once, and it was just lumpy, spoiled milk basically. sort of a liquid lumpen yogurt. Never fell for that one again… :slight_smile:

That’d make sense.

And what’d also make sense is that, being old like me and therefore of limited memory capacity, you saw a reference to rictus and remembered it as rickets. (This is vaguely related to the deficiency I experience several times a day of going from one room to another and being unable to remember what I wanted when I arrive in the second room about five seconds after I embarked on the expedition.) Rictus can refer to an open mouthed grimace in life or death but I think it can also, or in earlier centuries did, refer to rigidity of limbs etc, as in this description of scurvy which, thanks to Australia being discovered by Captain Cook and his overcoming of the previous scourge of scurvy my generation was well schooled in (although now I suspect he’s just taught as an imperialist, colonialist **** with no redeeming features and determined to exterminate our indigenous people)

The difference between the link and what we were taught is that Cook made his crew take lemon or orange juice every day and that this stopped scurvy, as it would given that it was a disease caused by lack of Vitamin C. Until now, it never occurred to me to wonder how he managed to keep citrus fruits or juice fresh for months after leaving Europe where he must have acquired them, if he had them. The other version is that he had lime juice, which could be obtained in parts of Asia, and which is consistent with him administering it as his voyage got into the Vitamin C deficiency zone.

Well, if America was the inspiration for our program, as it was for much of our post war things, it’s something for which I will never forgive your country. :frowning:

Nor will I forgive the stupid little bastard who reputedly inhaled the centre of a flavoured straw which made that hot milk slightly bearable, so that the straws were banned in all schools. (Probably the same stupid little bastard who kept getting eye injuries every year on cracker (fireworks) nights so that that marvellous avenue of pleasure has been denied to us all for decades.)

Not that I was one of the lucky few to have such straws, or a chocolate powder in a twist of paper to add to the vile milk. Like most of the class, I just had to overcome my revulsion at the ring of fat around the top of the bottle and chug it down.

This may surprise you, but my recollection is that milk vomit was the most common non-issue item in our classrooms and school playgrounds.

Same experience here with milk straight from the cow, pure and in tea with nauseating little lumps of fat floating around in the cup.

I didn’t have the adults’ expected orgasm of gastronomic delight when fed milk straight from the cow’s teat (that was a real case of rictus). It may have been around that time that I decided that if I was going to consume any part of a cow, it would be in the form of a steak or roast, to which I have remained true since about 1960.

Milk is best left in the cow, unless it’s being used for edible products such as butter and cheese.