Thursday, December 10, 2009

Friends of Andersonville: 'People need to remember' the plight of prisoners

Their haggard faces show a world-weary expression that belies their relatively few years.

Filmed in stark monochromatic color, the young actors recite lines from diaries and letters at Andersonville prison that truly convey the horror of life inside the Civil War stockade.

The film is the starting point for your visit to the National Prisoner War of Museum (above) and Andersonville National Historic Site, scene of the Civil War Confederate prison and the national cemetery.

The Friends of Andersonville, a non-profit group, paid for the movie.

“People need to remember” the plight of American prisoners in all wars, says John Bates, president of the group.

The Friends of Andersonville promote visits to the site through billboards and brochures.

It also provides significant assistance to the National Park Service by paying many of the expenses for many events at Andersonville, including Memorial Day, volunteer efforts and the annual National POW/MIA Recognition Day in September.

Bates, who lives in Hickory, N.C., says the related Andersonville Trust’s $1.3 million endowment is the backbone of financial support. Many of the donations are bequests from veterans and former prisoners of war.

During the Civil War, 45,000 Union prisoners were housed at the Camp Sumter in South Georgia. Nearly 13,000 succumbed to horrible conditions.

When he lived in nearby Americus, Bates was part of the Sumter Players, a local theatrical group that used to portray the trial of prison commander Maj. Henry Wirz, who was executed after the war.

The drama was held on the edge of the actual prison site. Testimony at the trial conveyed the prisoners' misery.

“In the moonlight there sure was an eerie feeling,” Bates recalls of hearing the testimony while looking at the 26 acres Camp Sumter occupied in 1864-65.

The trust’s principal goal for 2010 is to support the construction of the POW Legacy Traveling Exhibit. The historic site is working to produce a major traveling exhibition based on the current thematic exhibit halls of the National POW Museum.

The Andersonville Trust hopes to donate up to $60,000 for the $400,000 project, Bates says.

More info on the Friends of Andersonville and the Andersonville Trust

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