Civil War Research Project Andersonville Prison Meikle, Caleb Mountain View High School Andersonville Prison, which was also known as Camp Sumter, was one of the Confederate Army’s largest military prison camps. It held over 45,000 Union soldiers. Andersonville Prison was the most infamous of all the prison camps because of extreme overcrowding, unsanitary conditions and was commanded by Henry Witz. Infamous Andersonville Prison Out of the 45,000 soldiers that were in the prison camp, 13,000 died.
Although there were many prison camps throughout the Civil War, Andersonville was by far the most deadly and infamous of them all. 0 year old prisoner Robert H. Kellog describes as he enters the camp for the first time, “As we entered the place, a spectacle met our eyes that almost froze our blood with horror… before us were forms that had once been active and erect-stalwart men, now nothing but mere walking skeletons, covered with filth and vermin… Many of our men exclaimed with earnestness, ‘Can this be hell? ‘(Prison Camp)”. This helps to create a mental picture of what these poor Union soldiers had to endure. Overcrowding at Andersonville In February of 1864, the Confederacy established Andersonville Prison in Macon County, which is in southwest Georgia.
The camp was made to hold approximately 10,000 Union soldiers. However, by the summer of 1864, Andersonville already held 33,000 Union soldiers, which was more than any other Confederate prison camp. Because of the rapid growth in population at Andersonville, overcrowding became a serious problem. “By the time it closed in early May 1865, the sanitation, health, and mortality problems stemming from its overcrowding, had earned Andersonville a reputation as the most notorious of Confederate atrocities inflicted on Union troops (Georgia)”.
Overcrowding at Andersonville was a big reason why it was such an infamous prison camp. A major reason for the overcrowding at Andersonville was because Abraham Lincoln stopped the exchange of POWs. President Lincoln wanted to make sure that all African-American POWS were treated the same as any of the White POWs. The Confederacy refused to do this, so President Lincoln stopped POW exchanges. Had the exchanges continued, the mortality rate at Andersonville most likely wouldn’t have been as high. Unsanitary Conditions at Andersonville The conditions at Andersonville Prison were absolutely horrific.
The spread of disease was unstoppable. The unsanitary conditions in the camp resulted in lice and maggot infestations. Diseases such as Gangrene and Typhoid were a result of contamination of the water supply. John L. Ransom, a POW at Andersonville, described what it was like to wake up every morning. “[l] walk around camp every morning looking for acquaintances, the sick, &c. Can see a dozen most any morning laying around dead. A great many are terribly afflicted with diarrhea, and scurvy begins to take hold of some. Scurvy is a bad disease, and taken in connection with the former is sure death.
Some have dropsy as well as scurvy, and the swollen limbs and body are sad to see (War Quotes)”. Scurvy affected many of the prisoners. It is caused by a lack in Vitamin C, and can cause swollen or bleeding gums and the re-opening of previously healed wounds. It is mild at first, but eventually causes joint pain, anemia, and eventually death. Diseases like scurvy and Gangrene would have been less of a problem if there had been proper medical care at Andersonville. Henry Wirz: Commander of Andersonville Henry Wirz became the Commander at Andersonville in April of 1864.
After the war, Wirz was charged for personally murdering 13 of the Union soldiers held captive at the prison camp. It was alleged that Wirz had murdered thirteen Union prisoners of war at Andersonville by shooting, stomping, subjecting such prisoners to the mauling of bloodhounds, and various other mistreatment. However, this is controversial. There were 160 witnesses called to the stand to testify, who all were prisoners. 145 of the witnesses claimed that they had no knowledge that Wirz had murdered anyone at all, and claimed that if he had actually committed these crimes, they most certainly would’ve heard about it.
Talking was all that the prisoners could do at the camp, and if these crimes had happened, they would’ve discussed it while in Andersonville. Also, the 13 people who were claimed to be “murdered” were never identified. James Madison Page, an inmate at Andersonville said, “Fictitious men do not need names (Wirz Trial)”. Wirz however, was found guilty on 11 of the 13 charges of murder and for conspiring with high officials. He was sentenced to death and executed on November 10, 1865. Henry Wirz was the only person executed for war crimes during the Civil War.
Remembering Andersonville Andersonville Prison is a deadly reminder of the bloodiest war in American history. Its prisoners suffered through hell, or something close to hell. Andersonville was the most infamous prison camp in the Civil War. The overcrowding created problems including lack of sanitation. Those who died could have been saved with proper medical treatment and a cleaner water supply. Commander Henry Wirz was executed for the tourterous murder of 13 prisoners. Andersonville is an example of the severe pain and anguish the civil war created.