The Andersonville Civil War prison in Georgia offers an astounding and chilling glimpse into the past. Nearly 40,000 American soldiers were housed at the facility during the latter years of the civil war. The also encompasses a massive National Cemetery, with monuments donated from nearly all 50 states represented on the grounds. Andersonville Civil War prison is a free attraction near Macon, Georgia.
Visitors to Andersonville Civil War Prison can participate in a self-guided walking or driving tour of the grounds. Portions of the prison stockade and outer containment walls are still intact on the grounds. Authentic Civil Ware cannons can be found facing the barrack walls of the prison, just as they once stood nearly 200 years ago.
A brick paved walkway leads visitors to the natural spring, which offered life saving water to the Andersonville prisoners. The layout of the prison, initially known as Camp Sumter, was poorly designed for drinking water sustainability. The waste of prisoners, along with water used for washing flowed into the camp, causing the water to become diseased. Thousands of thirsty Andersonville prisoners died a gruesome death after drinking the contaminated water. Prisons were desperate for fresh water, and in what was termed as a miracle by prisoners who detailed their days of contained in journals, crystal clear water burst from the ground, unearthing a natural spring. Today, visitors can view a monument built around the spring, and touch the ceramic fountain, which was donated to the site by former prisoners after the war ended.
Countless markers and monuments can be found while touring the grounds of Andersonville prison. A walk through history is often the reason for school field trips, and scouting excursions to the site. Few photos exist of the actual camp and inmates, but visitors can view vivid reproductions of the aged photos at placed on the historic markers found on the prison camp grounds.
Nearly 50,000 prisoners were housed at Andersonville, which was built for just a fraction of the total population, which strived from survival during their incarceration in Georgia. The health of the prisoners was hampered further by the lack of food, and blankets needed for their survival. The Confederate soldiers didn’t intend to make live in the prison so harsh, but they themselves suffered through similar desires for nourishment and warmth near the end of the war. Provisions were scarce both inside the walls, and for those guarding the Union soldiers from the watchtowers.
Visitors can search through a computer file and research ancestors who may have been housed at the prison. Records aren’t complete, but have been compiled by information, which was written down when the prison was in use. Many prisoners, which passed through Andersonville and lived, are not necessarily noted in the files. One such prisoner from Ohio, John Avery Dodrill, survived the horrors of the Civil War prison, only to die on the train ride north to his home.
This free Georgia attraction is listed as a National Historic Site, and also serves as the National Memorial to all U.S. prisoners of war. Visitors can tour the National United States Prisoner of War Museum free of charge. Donations are accepted at the reception center near gift shop. Touring the museum is an eye-opening experience even for studied historians who are familiar with the history of American Prisoners of War. The personal stories, photos, and cherished possessions of the prisoners cause more than a few eyes to become damp while inside the state of the art museum.
The side of quiet and respectful teenagers amazed at what has to be endured by the prisoners is commonplace at the National Prison of War Museum. The goofing around and laughter which is usually associated with a youth field trip is replaced by silent reverence and shock as teenagers sit inside of a cell similar to the one John McCain spent five years contained to in Vietnam. Short videos featuring interviews with former Prisoners of War and their families require both a tissue, and gratitude.
The exhibits display items, which evoke powerful patriotism in those who visit the museum. Behind one acrylic case is an Air Force bomber jacket. The squadron emblem was ripped off the jacket by prison guards, only to be painstakingly sewn back on by prisoners using Red Cross unraveled bandages for thread. Another display cause holds a tattered piece of paper which prisoners used water and ink rubbed from other items to create an American flag. The prisoners endangered their lives each morning when they pledged their allegiance to the United States from their prison cells.
A visit to the Andersonville Civil War Prison site and National P.O.W. museum will take approximately three hours to completely tour. The facility is open daily, closing at dark. Museum hours are adjusted or closed during holidays. For additional information visit www.nps.gov/ande