About Andersonville Prison
Andersonville Prison, also known as Camp Sumter, in Georgia was a military prison established by the Confederates in February 1864, during the American Civil War.
History of Andersonville Prison
Camp Sumter was built in Georgia in order to relocate the majority of Union prisoners further away from Richmond (VA), where the original camp was, which was close to the fighting. Despite a relatively short time in operation, Camp Sumter became a byword for terrible sanitation and dire conditions: of the 45,000 Union POWs held there, around 13,000 died from a mixture of scurvy, dysentery and diarrhoea.
Finding enough food to feed the quantity of prisoners was a major issue, as was the lack of fresh water. The only water supply also served as a latrine, which unsurprisingly led to major outbreaks of disease throughout the camp. Exposure was also a major problem – despite being surrounded by forest, prisoners had no opportunity to artificially generate heat and winters could be harsh.
Andersonville’s commander, Henry Wirz, was tried for war crimes following the Union’s liberation of Andersonville in May 1865. The extreme suffering and overcrowding that happened under his watch meant that overwhelming evidence saw him found guilty and executed by hanging.
A couple of months later, some former prisoners returned to Andersonville in order to try to identify and mark the graves and names of some of the Union war dead. In 1890 the site was purchased by a Union veterans organisation, the Georgia Department of the Grand Army of the Republic, who in turn sold it to the Women’s Relief Corps. They made strenuous efforts to turn the site into a memorial park, and in 1910, donating the site to the people of the United States.
Andersonville Prison today
Today, Andersonville Prison, together with the National Prisoner of War Museum and the Andersonville National Cemetery form a Nation Historic Site. In addition to exploring the prison itself, visitors can learn about the role of American POWs in numerous different conflicts and view exhibits detailing their sacrifice. Entrance to the National Park and museum is free. The Andersonville Prison site also includes the cemetery, which is now a National Cemetery and is still active today as a burial place for war veterans.
Getting to Andersonville Prison
Andersonville is located in southwest Georgia, 12 miles north of Americus and 11 miles south of Montezuma on GA-49. It’s clearly signed from the road and there is ample parking. You’ll struggle to get here via public transport, which is somewhat limited outside of cities in the south.
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