A Sad Date to Remember

George2_editedOn this date, February 27, 1864, Andersonville Prison Camp in Sumter County, Georgia, officially received its first Union prisoners of war. One of the prisoners, a seventeen-year-old, wrote that it was “a hole cut in this wilderness.” The fence was barely finished, few shelters existed, and no clean water flowed into the camp. More than 2,000 prisoners arrived by the beginning of March. One of them was George W. Shriver.

The men built lean-tos and huts as best they could. Some used blankets to make tents. Even before the heat and humidity of summer was upon them, the men were exposed to harsh elements. The water they had to use for bathing and drinking was contaminated because it was being used as a latrine, too. They received rations twice a day, usually corn meal and salted beef. The men were allowed to gather wood for fires. At first. Then a new commander came to the prison—Captain Henry Wirz.

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Andersonville Prison, Camp Sumter, Ga., as it appeared August 1st 1864 when it contained 35,000 prisoners of war/Library of Congress

“During the 14 months it existed, more than 45,000 Union soldiers were confined here. Of these, almost 13,000 died from disease, poor sanitation, malnutrition, overcrowding, or exposure to the elements.”*

Nearly a quarter of all the prisoners died. Henry Wirz was the only man tried and executed for war crimes in Civil War—for the atrocities committed under his command.

*To read more about Andersonville, check out the Civil War website’s page here: http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/warfare-and-logistics/warfare/andersonville.html

I also highly recommend Catherine Gourley’s book, THE HORRORS OF ANDERSONVILLE, from Twenty-First Century Books/Lerner.

 

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