Saturday, February 1, 2014

Historic site marks Andersonville prison's construction in early 1864

Historic image fused with view today (NPS)

A scheduled site walk and flag raising Saturday at a federal park in central Georgia will mark the 150th anniversary this month of the opening of Andersonville Prison, where nearly 13,000 Union prisoners died in just 14 months.

Andersonville National Historic Site last week began its two-year commemoration of the story of the infamous Civil War military prison formally called Camp Sumter.

The first Union POWs were in the 16-acre stockade at Camp Sumter on Feb. 24, 1864. The camp was expanded a few months later. By then, dozens were dying a day amid the overcrowding, fetid conditions and hot weather.

"In the opening weeks of 1864, the future site of the Andersonville Prison was abuzz with activity as Confederate officials and military officers supervised the construction of a new facility to replace the military prisons in Richmond, Virginia," the National Park Service says. "In this moment, Confederate officials viewed the new prison as a solution to the problems besetting the facilities in Richmond; citizens of southwest Georgia were far more skeptical of the creation of the prison in their backyard."

Issuing of rations in August 1864 (Library of Congress)

The logistical challenges that would mar Camp Sumter's operations were evident early. The camp's quartermaster on Feb. 3, 1864, requests provisions from Columbus, west of Andersonville. A local supplier is able to supply only half of the request.

Saturday's activities commemorate the construction of the site. An 11 a.m. prison site walk is planned, followed by a 1 p.m. discussion on challenges faced by the Confederate military and civilians. At 2:30 p.m., at Star Fort, the second national Confederate flag will be raised.

Visitors this year are receiving an overview of Andersonville and the 150 prisons across the North and South, the travails of those housed there, and the complicated history of how Civil War prisons were devised and operated. 

At one point, more than 30,000 Union soldiers were squeezed into Camp Sumter. The camp effectively became the poster child for the inhumanities and loss at Civil War prisons.

1 comment:

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