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War between the States
Civil War Prison Links

Andersonville Prison
By Carrie W.

In November 1863, Confederate Captain W. Sidney Winder was sent to the town of Andersonville in Sumter County, in south central Georgia near Americus and Plains. Andersonville PrisonersCaptain Winder was appraising the possibility of building a prison for Union soldiers. Its Deep South location, its proximity to the Southwestern Railroad, and availability of freshwater made Andersonville a good location for a prison. The community of Andersonville had a population of less than twenty people. They could not politically oppose the building of such an unfavorable facility. For that reason Andersonville became the site of a soon to be disreputable prison where thousands of prisoners died because of horrible prison conditions.

After the location was chosen, Caption Richard B. Winder was sent to Andersonville to build a prison. Captain Winder designed a prison lay out that enclosed about 16.5 acres. He thought this would be enough to accommodate 10,000 prisoners. The prison was a rectangular shape with a little creek flowing through the middle of the premises. The prison was named Camp Sumter.

In January 1864, slaves cut down trees and dug ditches for the building of the stockade. The stockade enclosure was about 780 feet wide and 1,010 feet long. The walls were constructed of logs set vertically in trenches dug five feet deep. The inner line of the palisades gave no peek of the outer world. The Deadline, a light fence, was assembled about 19-25 feet inside the stockade wall to mark a no-man's land keeping the prisoners away from the wall. Anyone crossing this line was shot by sentries posted at intervals around the stockade wall.

Andersonville Prison was built to hold 10,000 prisoners, but by August 1864, the population had enlarged to over 32,000. This was due to the breakdown of the prisoner exchange system and deteriorating resources. This overcrowding quickly affected nutritional and health conditions. The Confederates lacked the amounts of food and essential materials. No clothing was provided. Many prisoners wore rags or nothing at all. One and one fourth pound of corn meal and either one third pound of bacon or one pound of beef were the daily rations for the prisoners and the guards. Available shelter was reduced to unrefined tent fragments, huts made of scrap wood, or holes dug in the ground. Many had no safety against the cold, heat, or rain. Diseases such as scurvy, dysentery, diarrhea, and gangrene killed many prisoners. These problems resulted in 12,912 deaths by the end of the war.

General Winder ordered the building of defensive embankments and a middle and outer stockade around the prison because of Union raid threats. By early September, Sherman's troops occupied Atlanta. The threats on Andersonville prompted the transfer of most of the prisoners to other camps in Georgia and South Carolina. Only a few guards remained to police the remaining prisoners.

After the war ended, the prison was returned private owners. Crops such as cotton were planted. In 1891, the Grand Army of the Republic of Georgia purchased the land. During their management, stone monuments were built to mark portions of the prison, including the North and South Gates and the Four Corners of the inner stockade. In 1970, the U.S. Congress designated Andersonville National Historic Site as a memorial to all the Prisoners-of-war in American history.

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