Andersonville Escape Tunnel
Iron fences now surround the
remains of tunnels and wells
dug by Civil War prisoners.
Andersonville Prison Site
Monuments now dot the
grounds of the prison site at
Andersonville National Historic Site - Andersonville, Georgia - Andersonville National Historic Site, Georgia - Andersonville National Historic Site, Georgia
Andersonville Prison Stockade
A section of the prison stockade has been
reconstructed on its original site at Andersonville
Naitonal Historic Site in Georgia.
Camp Sumter Civil War Prison
The grounds of Andersonville National
Historic Site in Georgia are among the most
historic in the South.

This was the site of Camp Sumter, a major
prison camp operated for fourteen months by
the Confederate military. One of many such
stockades that existed in both North and
South during the Civil War,  the Andersonville
site serves as a memorial to all American
prisoners of war.

Overwhelmed with prisoners following the
bloody campaigns of 1863, the Confederacy
selected the small South Georgia community
of Andersonville for the construction of a
stockade. Then just a railroad siding, the site
offered the advantages of rail transportation,
plentiful pine timber and it was away from
points that could be easily threatened by
Union troops.

Designed to house 10,000 prisoners on a
10.6 acre site, the original stockade received
its first prisoners in February of 1864, but
was quickly overwhelmed. To try to relieve the
overcrowding, the Confederates expanded
the facility by 10 acres. It was not enough.
Even with the expansion the prison was
severely overcrowded and, as was the case
at virtually all Civil War stockades, human
suffering reached tragic levels.

By August of 1864, Camp Sumter held more
than 32,000 prisoners, more than 100 of
whom were dying each day. By the time the
prison closed with the end of the war, more
than 12,000 men had died within its walls or
hospital sheds.

The commandant of the prison,
Henry Wirz, was later tried and executed for
war crimes. Although he became the only
Confederate to be executed by the Union
army after the war, in truth there was little he
could do to relieve the suffering of the
prisoners. Food supplies were short and
many Union prisoners could not eat the
course cornbread shared by guards and
inmates alike. Red Cross founder Clara
Barton later observed piles of uneaten corn-
bread on the prison grounds. The Union
blockade of the South also prevented
medicines from reaching both Confederate
soldiers and Union prisoners.

In a desperate attempt to relieve the situation
at the prison, the Confederates carried
thousands of prisoners by rail to Union lines
at Jacksonville, Florida, and offered to turn
them over to the Federal army. The prisoners
were turned away by their own comrades and
the South had no choice but to return them to

The refusal led to even more deaths at the
prison. Nearly 13,000 soldiers were buried in
trenches at today's national cemetery.
Visitors to the site today can explore the
grounds on which the original prison stood.
The outline of the stockade has been marked
and two small sections restored. The forts
once manned by Confederate troops are well
preserved and still ring the prison site.
Several of the wells and escape tunnels dug
by prisoners also still survive. Monuments
dot the beautifully landscaped grounds.

Andersonville National Historic Site is also
the setting for the National Prisoner of War
Museum. A joint effort of the National Park
Service and the American Ex-Prisoners of
War organization, the museum provides an
emotional reminder of the sufferings and
sacrifices of American prisoners of war from
the American Revolution to the present.

Adjoining the park and accessible via the tour
road is the
Andersonville National Cemetery.
Nearly 18,000 American servicemen and
women are buried here, including the nearly
13,000 prisoners who died during their
confinement at Camp Sumter.

Located on Highway 49 in Andersonville,
Georgia, the national historic site is open
daily from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. The National
Prisoner of War Museum is open daily from
8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is no cost to visit
either the prison site or museum.

Please click here to visit the park's official
website for more information.
Confederate Fort
Well-preserved Confederate
forts still ring the prison site.
They were build both to keep
attackers away and to keep
the prisoners from rioting.
National POW Museum
The National Prisoner of War
Museum is a major feature
the national historic site.
National Cemetery
Nearly 13,000 Union soldiers
died at Camp Sumter and are
buried at Andersonville.
Photos by Lauren Pitone
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Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
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