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First Union prisoners arrived at Andersonville Prison

National Cemetery at Andersonville Prison
National Cemetery at Andersonville Prison
Bob O'Connor collection

On February 24, 1864, the first trainload of Union soldiers arrived at Camp Sumter, better known as Andersonville Prison in Georgia.

The stockade originally built to hold about 7,000 men, ended up being in operation for 14 months. Its overcrowded population grew to over 35,000 at one point in the summer of 1864.

About 100 prisoners died there each day as the population swelled. The first federal soldier to die while incarcerated in the Confederate prison was J. H. Swarner, Co. H of the 2nd New York Cavalry, who died on February 27, 1864. By the time the prison was finally shut down, 12,912 died at the facility.

They are buried nearby at the National Cemetery. The graves are marked with the man’s name and the number indicating the order in which he died. They were placed on the graves in mid-1865 by Clara Barton from a list of dead soldiers that had been kept by prisoner Dorance Atwater.

Andersonville was among over fifty Confederate prisons. Its death rate of nearly 29% was the highest of all prisons, in both the North and the South, during the Civil War.

Today the site is known as the Andersonville National Historic Site. The site also houses the National Prisoner of War Museum.

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