Hell On Earth- Andersonville Prison-The Horrors Of Andersonville Prison Rival Anything Seen At the Nazi Death Camps. This Happened Here in America, At The Hands Of Americans~
The Camp Sumter military prison at Andersonville was one of the largest Confederate military prisons during the Civil War. During the 14 months the prison existed, more than 45,000 Union soldiers were confined here. Of these, almost 13,000 died. As evidenced by the photo’s of survivors, it had to leave its mark on survivors for life, physically and psychologically. These photos were later published in northern newspapers and used as propaganda against the south.
Prisoners, walking skeletons, regularly died of starvation on a daily ration that was not enough for a single meal. The prisoners augmented the meat rations by harvesting the camp’s rat population. Gangrene resulting in death from untreated frostbite was an issue. In the crowded squalid sheds, vermin and parasites were an aggravating challenge. Close personal contact, inadequate scanty clothes, and no bathing or sanitary facilities contributed to the failing health and starving conditions of the prisoners, many of which were under eighteen years of age. The guards physically abused the prisoners who also suffered constant mental abuse. The sadistic guards immediately shot many of them or bludgeoned them to death for minor infractions. The guards, possibly for sport or retribution, repeatedly shot through the flimsy-walled sheds during the night. Andersonville’s commander, Captain Henry Wirz (1823-65), was tried, convicted and executed for war crimes.
A prisoner described his entry into the prison camp:
As we entered the place, a spectacle met our eyes that almost froze our blood with horror, and made our hearts fail within us. Before us were forms that had once been active and erect;—stalwart men, now nothing but mere walking skeletons, covered with filth and vermin. Many of our men, in the heat and intensity of their feeling, exclaimed with earnestness. “Can this be hell?” “God protect us!” and all thought that He alone could bring them out alive from so terrible a place. In the center of the whole was a swamp, occupying about three or four acres of the narrowed limits, and a part of this marshy place had been used by the prisoners as a sink, and excrement covered the ground, the scent arising from which was suffocating. The ground allotted to our ninety was near the edge of this plague-spot, and how we were to live through the warm summer weather in the midst of such fearful surroundings, was more than we cared to think of just then.
More than 12,000 prisoners died at Andersonville and are buried in the National Cemetery on the grounds. It is still an active military cemetery. The site of the prison is now the Andersonville National Historic Site which is part of the U S. National Park Service. The Park’s museum serves as a memorial to all American prisoners of war.