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Photo of Andersonville Prison Drawing of Andersonville Prison

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Andersonville Civil War Prison, located in the village of Andersonville, Sumpter County, Georgia, became notorious for its overcrowding, starvation, disease, and cruelty.  It was in operation from February 1864 to April 1865.


Andersonville Prison was established as a "stockade for Union enlisted men".  The prison consisted of 27 acres and was enclosed with walls made of pine logs, which stood 15-20 feet high.  The "stockade" held a hospital but no barracks were ever constructed for the prisoners.  Originally intended to hold 10,000 men, Andersonville at one time held over 33,000 men.  According to records, a total of 49,485 prisoners went through the gates of Andersonville Prison.


Prisoners suffered from hunger, disease, medical shortages, and exposure.  The death rate at Andersonville was the highest of all Civil War prisons.  A staggering 13,700 men died within thirteen months!


The superintendent of the prison was Captain Henry Wirz.  It is said he was heartless and high-handed.  John L. Ransom, a Michigan sergeant and Andersonville prisoner, wrote in his diary on May 10, 1864:  "Captain Wirz very domineering and abusive, is afraid to come into camp any more.  A thousand men here would willingly die if they could kill him first.  The worst man I ever saw."  Captain Wirz was tried and hanged by a military court after the war.  John Ransom's Diary has been published and can be ordered here. 


Andersonville Prison was investigated by the Confederate War Department and they recommended that the majority of the prisoners be transferred to Florence, SC and Millen, GA.  This mere fact would attest to the horrors suffered by prisoners at Andersonville.


The prisoner's burial ground is now a National Cemetery and contains 13,737 graves, of which 1,040 are marked unknown.  The area is now designated as a National Park and can be visited.  Visitors will experience a great sense of sorrow upon seeing this vast number of graves.


NOTE:  When Belle Isle Prison in Richmond, Virginia became extremely overcrowded, prisoners were transferred to Andersonville Prison.


Recommended Reading:


A Soldier's Book

by Joanna Higgins

A Soldier's Book

In a place like Andersonville, even acts of mercy are nightmarish: 
One surgeon tells the prisoner to lie on the floor. Another puts chloroform against his nose. The third surgeon, an old fellow, kneels alongside the man and in one quick move, severs flesh and arteries, then commences sawing the bone above the elbow.... They pour whiskey into him and then it's my turn. 
Throughout the terror, Ira and his comrades try to maintain a sense of family, sharing their limited provisions, reading to one another from two now-priceless books that they managed to retain, and nursing one another through compounded illnesses for which the only medicine is persimmons-berry tea or bartered quinine. Joanna Higgins's excellent research makes this tale both a stunning fiction and a realistic historical account of the country's darkest war and the hell that was Andersonville. 

John Ransom's Andersonville Diary/Life Inside the Civil War's Most Infamous Prison

John Ransom, Brigade Quartermaster of the Ninth Michigan Calvary, was only 20 years old when he became a prisoner of war in eastern Tennessee in 1863. He had everything to live for, and much to live with.

A war was on, and he was in it, and things were happening that seemed worth putting down from day to day. The result is a straightforward diary, free of the embroideries and purple passages of many an author of the time.


"One of the best first-hand accounts to come down to us from the Civil War, uncommonly rich in the love of life...a tale of adventure, of suspense, of fierce hate and great love.

 See the Index of Names in John Ransom's Diary


John Ransom's Andersonville Diary/Life Inside the Civil War's Most Infamous Prison
by Bruce Catton 

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