Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Visit to Andersonville

This Saturday, I took a day trip to Andersonville. I'd read the book "Andersonville" in high school. It is a must-read; I highly recommend it to everyone. This was my second visit, but the first for my dear friend who joined me for the trip.

Andersonville, known at the time as Camp Sumter, was a Confederate POW prison during the Civil War.

Most of the prison walls are gone, but the park service has marked off where the wall used to be. Parts have been rebuilt so visitors can see what they looked like.

There was a area between the walls and the "dead line". Prisoners who crossed this line would be shot.

Prisoners had to make their own shelters from the items they were able to bring in with them or smuggle in later.

The site is basically just a big field now. It is actually quite beautiful and peaceful. It's hard to imagine that it was the site of so much suffering and death.

My friend and I got a little camera crazy. Read on for the photographic tour.

Prisoners arrived from the nearby rail line. They were brought through these gates.

The only source of water for the prison was a small branch that ran though the middle of the camp. The planners had intended for the prisoners to get drinking water upstream and use the downstream end as the latrine.

The plan did not work as intended. For starters, the bakehouse and guards quarters were located upstream of the camp. The water entering the camp was contaminated before it ever got to the prisoners. Then, the branch had so little force that waste was not washed out as intended. The whole area around the stream was a toxic swamp.

Archaeologists have uncovered more than 50 holes within the camp. Some were tunnels to freedom, many are believed to have been wells dug by the prisoners using spoons, plates or whatever tools they could find.

It was in the low 90's on Saturday. We took off our sandals, rolled up our pants and spent a good half hour sitting on the edge of the pool with our feet in the icy clear water.

The story goes that in midsummer, I think it was 1864, there was a storm. A bolt of lightning struck the ground just inside the dead zone and uncovered a spring. Fresh water burst into the air. The prisoners saw it as a sign from God and named the spring Providence Spring. The memorial and fountain were built in 1901.

The spot, in the shade of three large elm trees with the coolness of the spring and soothing trickling of the water over rocks seemed too peaceful considering the site's history. I have to believe that the prisoners were right, the spot felt as though it was blessed by God.

Andersonville National Cemetery.

Thousands of men died at Andersonville. Prisoners and guards alike. There were hardly enough supplies to feed the guards. Prisoners went without.

So many men died that there was not enough labor to bury them in individual graves. They were numbered and buried in trenches. A worker at the infirmary kept record of the deceased's names and helped to match name and number after the war.

Even though many prisons in both the north and south were nearly as bad and there were no provisions available for the Confederate Army, let alone the prisoners, after the war, Captain Wirz, the man in charge of Andersonville was tried for war crimes and hanged.

There is so much more I could write about Andersonville, but I don't work for the National Park Service. Go read the book. I hope you enjoyed the pictures.


  1. This looked like a very interesting outing, Kirstin.
    When I first read the title, I thought you meant Andersonville in Chicago, which is an old neighborhood not too far from me.

    Good think you didn't visit that one, it was pretty busy this weekend with the gay pride parade runoff and such. You could have seen the "man Country" bath house that obummer & rham are lifetime members of, though....hee hee.

  2. Bunni, you were expecting pictures of rainbow flags and men in drag? Maybe Woodsterman was at that one, (see comments on Cotton post). Just kidding Odie. :)

  3. I really enjoyed your pictures. Too bad so much of this nation's history has been either re-written or thrown into the trash bin.

  4. It was a good reminder about what can happen when citizens fight back against an overreaching federal government....

  5. Civil war was an out and out blood bath. I pray citizenry isn't whipped to that level of frenzy again, but have my doubts with BO in office. "Andersonville" the novel was most excellent. Thanks for the photos.

    Anyone know the legality today of states wanting to seceed? I hear rumblings but don't believe it's very interested in knowing more.