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Sesquicentennial of Andersonville Prison

Andersonville Prison
Andersonville Prison
Libary of Congress

The famous Andersonville Prison, also known as Camp Sumter, a Confederate stockade just outside of Andersonville, GA opened 150 years ago this month.

The prison, which was only opened for thirteen months, was originally built to hold about 10,000 men. At its peak it held 32,000 Union soldiers in conditions that were atrocious. The water was polluted. The food supplies were woefully inadequate. There was very little shelter for the prisoners who sat massed together on the ground in the open air. Medical assistance was almost non-existent. Upwards of 100 men died each and every day and throughout its history 12,920 died at the stockade. Many of the prisoners died of starvation or disease as the medical offerings were minimal.

Commandant Henry Wirz arrived to take charge of the prison on April 12, 1864. He was the last prison director.

Following the war, Wirz was tried in a military court (which nine Union Generals serving as judge and jury) for war crimes. He was the only Confederate official to be tried, found guilty and hanged for crimes relating to the conflict.

Of note is that one of the charges against Commandant Wirz was that he tortured an un-named Union prisoner on February 1, 1864 and that the man died on February 6. Since he did not arrive at the prison until April, it is hard to believe that he killed the man in question.

Famed Civil War Nurse Clara Barton went to the Andersonville Prison in July of 1865 to help construct markers for the Union graves at the Andersonville Prison Cemetery. Today it is one of the most well-marked of any Civil War cemeteries.

Today Andersonville Prison is a National Park.

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