Camp Sumter at Andersonville

Camp Sumter at Andersonville
Camp Sumter, or as it is better known today as Andersonville prison, was a civil war prison located in Andersonville, Georgia and housed Union soldiers that were captured during the latter part of the Civil War. The prison was an open air built with wooden stockade walls. There were two stockade walls built so if somehow a prisoner got over or through one wall, there was another wall just a few feet from that one, with patrols guarding the area between the two fences. There was also a small rail fence built inside the prison just a few feet from the first wall and this was called the deadline.
Anyone caught at the deadline or trying to cross over it, was shot dead immediately with no warning.

The prison was only in operation for just over a year from February 1864 until May of 1865 when Union soldiers stormed it and released what prisoners were left. Camp Sumter was an atrocity and was built on about twenty-five acres of land and also built to hold about ten thousand prisoners. It held over forty-five thousand prisoners. Most of whom had to live outdoors and their only shelter was makeshift hovels of wood and blankets. They were called shebangs. When the prison was constructed, it was supposed to have wooden barracks to house more prisoners but they were never built due to the rising cost of supplies.

The conditions there were reprehensible. There was a creek running through the camp where the prisoners drank their water because wells were covered as prisoners tried to use them as escape tunnels. However, this is the same water that they bathed and relieved themselves in so dysentery, smallpox and scurvy ran amok throughout the prison as well as malnutrition, in which a majority of the prisoners had succumbed to. Food rations were scarce and usually went to feed the Confederate soldiers, guarding the prison.

The prison commander was a man named Heinrich "Henry" Wirz, a Swiss born physician and ranked a Captain in the Confederate army. When the prison was liberated and the atrocities there at Camp Sumter had become public knowledge, Captain Wirz was arrested and taken to Washington, D.C. To face trial. He was found guilty and sentenced to hang. Captain Wirz's last words were “I know what orders are, Major. I am being hanged for following them.”

By the end of the Civil War, the prison held 45,000 prisoners and over 13,000 had died there. The conditions at Andersonville prison and the treatment of the prisoners therein, make this one of the worst atrocities suffered during the Civil War.

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