Andersonville Prison

Perhaps the most famous prison in United States' military history, Andersonville Prison, or Camp Sumter as it was officially known, was the largest of several military prisons established during the Civil War. In November of 1963, a Confederate captain was sent to assess the possibility of building a prison for captured Union soldiers in the small village of Andersonville, Georgia. Its close proximity to the Southwestern Railroad, the abundance of freshwater, and its deep-south location made Andersonville an ideal Confederate prison location. Andersonville was therefore chosen as the site for a prison that would later become infamous for the thousands of prisoners that would die there before the end of the war.
Construction of the 16.4 acre camp began in January of 1864. Thefirst prisoners arrived on February 25, while the stockade was still under construction. Designed to hold 10,000 prisoners, the prison was soon overcrowded, holding 22,000 by June. Although the prison was enlarged in June to 26.5 acres, the number of prisoners continued to swell. By August 1864, more than 33,000 prisoners were confined in Andersonville.
Bad sanitary conditions, crowding, lack of cooking facilities, poor food and exposure soon produced respiratory diseases, influenza and scurvy. Without drugs, the inadequate medical staff could not cope with the situation. More than 45,000 Union soldiers were sent to Andersonville during the 14 months the prison was in operation. Of these, 12,912 died from disease, malnutrition and/or exposure.
Former prisoners blamed Capt. Henry Wirz, commander of the interior of the prison, for the suffering. As a result, Wirz was tried in August of 1865 after the Confederate surrender, on charges of murder and conspiring with Jefferson Davis (the Confederate leader) to murder. He was found guilty by a military commission, and hanged on November 10th, 1865.


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