ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Thomasville Civil War Prison Camp
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Thomasville Civil War Prison Camp
Civil War Prison Camp Site
The ditches forming one corner of the five acre
prison can be seen here. The short-lived facility held
as many as 5,000 Federal prisoners of war.
Civil War Prison Camp Site
Prisoners were moved to
Thomasville while Sherman's
Army was marching through
Preserved Ditches
The Thomasville prison camp
was constructed quickly by
slaves who excavated a deep
ditch surrounding five-acres
on the outskirts of town.
Civil War Prison Camp - Thomasville, Georgia
A P.O.W. Camp in Thomasville
Copyright 2012 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.

Updated May 8, 2012
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Civil War Sites in Georgia
Historical Marker
A marker at the site provides
a brief description of the
prison and its history. One
corner of the extensive site
has been preserved.
Ditch that replaced a Wall
The deep ditches at the
Thomasville camp served the
function of stockade walls at
places like Andersonville and
The Civil War Prison Camp at Thomasville,
Georgia, was one of the shortest-lived of the
Confederacy's large prisons. Remarkably,
traces of it can still be seen today.

In December of 1864, the Union army of Gen.
William Tecumseh Sherman was burning its
way through Georgia on its infamous March
to the Sea. Not only did the Confederates
scramble to organize a defense against his
movements, they also moved desperately to
relocate thousands of Union prisoners of war
from camps along his possible lines of

One of these camps was at the Georgia town
of Blackshear, where Col. H. Forno had
placed his headquarters. On December 5,
1864, he received orders to relocate the
prisoners at Blackshear to Thomasville.

Forno immediately impressed trains and
within two days was able to report that he
had shipped 1,600 prisoners to Thomasville
with sufficient troops to guard them. Another
2,500 were still in Blackshear, waiting for
trains to carry them as well.

Local planters, legitimately concerned that a
prison might prove an inviting target for a
Federal raid, refused the use of their slaves
in building the camp. Capt. Theodore
Moreno, a Confederate engineer, was given
permission to impress as many as needed.

Unlike most Civil War prison camps both
North and South, the Thomasville facility was
never enclosed by a timber stockade. It was
designed by Col. Forno, who described its
construction in his report to Commissary-
General of Prisons J.H. Winder on December
7, 1864:

...I learn that in the vicinity of the streams
timber is scarce, and I directed the engineer
to inclose an earth-work of sufficient
dimensions, inverted; that is, the ditch, twelve
feet wide, on the inside, to serve as a dead-
line. The guard on the parapet wall, with the
artillery, I think will render it perfectly safe and
much more easily guarded.

Forno expected to have the prison finished by
December 17 at the latest and noted that he
expected "it will be but temporary, and that
Anderson or Lawton will be in a short time
the place for prisoners."

The prisoners used the natural timber growth
inside the 5 acre compound to build shelters
for themselves, even as area slaves worked
feverishly to complete the ditch and earthen
parapet. The guard force consisted of the
Second Georgia Reserves, three companies
from the Fourth Georgia Reserves, 60 men of
the "garrison guard" (disabled men) and
Capt. E.E. Dyke's Company  A, Florida Light
Artillery. Also known as the Leon Light
Artillery, Dyke's unit had been raised just
across the border in Leon County, Florida.

The Civil War Prison Camp at Thomasville
soon grew to hold 5,000 Union prisoners of
war. The facility was not even complete when
Sherman began to close in on Savannah
with his cavalry operating far afield. Worries
grew that the Federals might attempt a
mounted raid up the railroad to free the men
being held at Thomasville. Gen. P.G.T.
Beauregard raised concerns over their status
to Adjutant and Inspector General Samuel
Cooper in Richmond, asking they be moved.

On December 17, 1864, Cooper ordered
Gen. Winder by telegraph to remove the
prisoners from Thomasville and close the
facility. Union cavalry commander Gen.
Judson Kilpatrick was already attempting a
raid up the railroad and Gen. Winder relayed
the orders to evacuate the prison on the
same day..
Marched overland to Albany, the prisoners
boarded trains for the journey up the line to
Camp Sumter at Andersonville. The Civil War
Prison Camp at Thomasville had been in
service only two weeks.

Union commanders, however, did not know
the prison had been evacuated and in late
February, two months after the prisoners had
been moved on to Andersonville, plans were
made for an expedition to capture the facility
at Thomasville.

Brig. Gen. John Newton, in cooperation with
the U.S. Navy, moved a large force of Federal
troops from Key West and Cedar Key up the
Gulf of Mexico. Coming ashore at the St.
Marks Lighthouse south of Tallahassee on
March 4, 1865, he turned his force inland
intending to take St. Marks, Tallahassee and
Thomasville. At the later place, he told the
reporters accompanying the raid, Southern
forces were holding 5,000 prisoners of war
and he planned to liberate them.

The expedition ended in disaster for Newton
at the
Battle of Natural Bridge, fought on
March 6, 1865, on the St. Marks River south
of Tallahassee. The Confederate victory not
only saved Florida's capital city from capture,
it also preserved Thomasville and its
environs from destruction.
Please click here
to learn more.

Most of the Civil War Prison Camp Site at
Thomasville is now covered with modern
neighborhoods. One corner of the site is
preserved, however, and the original ditches
and ramparts can still be seen. A historical
marker stands at the site, which is located
Wolf Street in Thomasville.

To reach the site from West Jackson Street
(US 319) in Thomasville, turn north on Martin
Luther King, Jr., Drive. Travel north across the
railroad and turn left (west) on Wolf Street.
The prison site will be three blocks ahead on
your right between Cobb Street and Cook
Street. The grounds are open daily and are
free to visit.

Local legend holds that several hundred
prisoners died during the two weeks they
were held at Thomasville. The marker at the
site notes they were buried in the Methodist
Cemetery, an apparent reference to Old City
Cemetery on North Broad.