Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 27, 2013


February 27, 1864: The first Northern POWs arrive at the Confederate run prison camp outside Andersonville, Georgia. At the beginning of the Civil War, captured men were held until both sides could arrange an exchange. The two sides would trade prisoners and the newly freed men could then return to their respective front lines. Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s men killed a group of black Union soldiers instead of holding them for an exchange. Ulysses S. Grant unilaterally voided the exchange policy.

Confederate POWs were detained without parole until the South guaranteed that all soldiers, regardless of race, would be treated the same. This promise was not forthcoming from either CSA President Jefferson Davis or General Robert E. Lee. The South began constructing its own prisons instead. A site in central Georgia was selected because it was deemed to be far enough away from raiding Union troops.

The original prison construction began in January 1864 and contained 16.5 acres of land within a 12-foot stockade. It was to house 10,000 prisoners. The prison was of a rectangular design with a creek running through the center. Area slaves were impressed to build the original stockade. No barracks were constructed. By June, the prison population had climbed to 20,000 and more space was needed. One hundred, thirty prisoners were forced to work for 14 days to enclose an additional 10 acres. By August, more than 33,000 Union soldiers were held on the 26.5 acres.

Andersonville prison had a total of 49,485 prisoners come through the gates during the 14 months it was in operation. Of those, 13,700 men died of malnutrition, exposure, or disease. Nearly one-third of the prisoners died of dysentery. The South was chronically short of supplies by this time in the war, but the treatment of the prisoners was cruel and inhumane regardless of the issue of supply shortages. The Commanding Officer, Henry Wirz, was arrested in May 1865 and sent to Washington, DC where he stood trial for war crimes. He was found guilty and hanged, the only man to be so convicted from the War.

“A prisoner of war is a man who tries to kill you and fails, and then asks you not to kill him.” – Winston Churchill

“To my mind, to kill in war is not a whit better than to commit ordinary murder.” – Albert Einstein

“I’ll tell you what war is about: you’ve got to kill people, and when you’ve killed enough, they stop fighting.” – General Curtis LeMay

“No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.” – Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.

After the war ended, many of the survivors of this death camp were returning home on the Sultana when disaster struck again. A very sad ending to a horrible story. – the editor

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: This was not the only horrible POW camp in the US during the Civil War. There was also Camp Douglas located in Chicago. It was a place of deprivation and hardship as well. Scurvy was rampant with about 13% of inmates ill during October 1864. The next month, water was shut off while repairs were being made and prisoners risked being shot to gather snow for drinking purposes. The next month, remnants of General Hood’s troops arrived and were forced to stand naked in the ice and snow while they were robbed of any and all valuable. Records show that 2,235 prisoners died while at the camp, but there are some who say this is 967 short of the actual figure. Others put the death toll at over 6,000. Most died of disease or starvation while others succumbed to the bitter cold of a Chicago winter.

Also on this day: Party in New Orleans! – In 1827, Mardi Gras was celebrated in New Orleans for the first time.
The Lord and the Luddites – In1812, George Gordon Byron spoke out in the House of Lords.
Suffrage – In 1922, Leser V. Garnett was decided by the US Supreme Court.

2 Responses

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  1. Bobby Dias said, on February 27, 2013 at 9:41 am

    No slaves in the south at the time of the building of the Andersonville prison-the cotton gin had replaced more than 500,000 slaves. The out of work blacks(and other former slaves of other races) needed pay to buy food to survive. The few black soldiers mentioned as shot were executed for desertion as they had been in the Confederate Army-death has been the standard punishment for desertion in every country in the history of mankind no matter what the color of their skin. The author of this article is the racist.

    • Sherry said, on February 24, 2014 at 3:08 pm

      You just called Ms. Hysell a racist. You also routinely dispute the info in her blog entries – without citation, I might add. Why do you even subscribe to this blog, Bobby, since it is so riddled with errors and misinformation? Certainly YOU could do a better job!

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