officially known as Camp Sumter, was the largest Confederate military prison during the American Civil War. The site is
now the Andersonville National Historic site in Andersonville, Georgia. It includes the site of the prison, the Andersonville National Cemetery, and
the National Prisoner of War Museum.
Of the 45,000 Union soldiers imprisoned at Andersonville, 12,913 died there due to starvation, malnutrition, and disease.
Originally, the prison covered about 16.5 acres of land enclosed by a 15-foot high stockade. In 1864, it was enlarged to 26.5 acres, with the stockade
in the shape of a parallelogram, 1,620 by 779 feet.
Guard towers, called pigeon roosts, were established at 30-yard intervals, and there were two entrances on the west side of the stockade, known as the
"north entrance" and the "south entrance".
A light fence, known as "The Dead Line" was erected around 30 feet inside the stockade wall to designate a "no man's land", keeping the prisoners
away from the stockade wall. Anyone crossing the line was shot by sentries posted at the pigeon roosts.
The prison was frequently lacking food supplies, but even when food was available, it was often of poor quality and poorly prepared. In the summer of
1864, Union prisoners suffered greatly from hunger, exposure, and disease; within seven months, about a third died from dysentery and scurvy, buried
in mass graves as was the practice of the Confederate prison authorities at Andersonville.
The water supply from Stockade Creek was polluted due to the number of Union prisoners at the camp. Part of the creek was used as a sink, with men
being forced to wash themselves in the creek.
Fellow prisoners, called the "Raiders", attacked fellow inmates, stealing food, money, and clothing. Armed mostly with clubs, they killed to get
what they wanted. Another group, the "Regulators", rose up to stop the thefts, catching nearly all of the "Raiders". The "Raiders" were tried by
a judge and jury made up of new prisoners, and were found guilty. Punishment ranged from running the gauntlet, being sent to the stocks, ball and
chain, and in six cases, hanging.
After the capture of Atlanta in the autumn of 1864, the prisoners who could be moved were sent to Millen, Georgia, and Florence, South Carolina. There
were better conditions at Millen, and when the prisoners were moved back to Andersonville, the conditions there were somewhat improved.
During the war, 45,000 Union prisoners were housed at Andersonville; 12,913 died. Some historians contend that the deaths were deliberate,
constituting Confederate war crimes toward Union prisoners. Others argue that it was a result of disease due to lack of food and severe overcrowding,
the incompetence of the prison officials, and the refusal of the Confederate authorities to parole black soldiers, resulting in the imprisonment of
soldiers from both sides, thus overfilling the stockade.
After the war, Camp Sumter commandant Henry Wirz was court-martialed on charges of conspiracy and murder. A number of former prisoners testified to
the conditions at Andersonville, with many accusing Wirz personally of specific acts of cruelty (later found to be either lies or exaggerations by
historians). The court also considered correspondence from captured Confederate records. Wirz presented evidence that he had asked Confederate
authorities to try to get more food and tried to improve conditions at the prison.
Wirz was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. He was hanged on November 10, 1865. Wirz was the only Confederate official to be tried and
convicted of war crimes resulting from the Civil War. The revelations of the sufferings of the prisoners was one of the factors that shaped public
opinion in the North regarding the South after the war.
Andersonville National Historic Site
In 1891, the Grand Army of the Republic, Department of Georgia, bought the site of Andersonville Prison. The site was purchased by the federal
government in 1910. The prisoners' burial ground has been made a national cemetery; it contains 13,714 graves. 921 are marked "unknown".
The National Prisoner of War Museum opened in 1998. It documents the poor conditions not only at Andersonville but also at Northern camps during the
Civil War, as well as those in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.
Andersonville Civil War Prison
Andersonville Civil War Prison
Andersonville Prison Camp