Saturday, October 9, 2010
Related Lands - Andersonville Prison, Macon and Sumter Counties, Georgia
On May 14, 1864, Pvt. Jesse A. Adams of the 10th New Jersey Infantry Regiment was captured by Confederate forces overwhelming his unit during fighting on Myer's Hill, near Spotsylvania Courthouse. The above image features an original photograph of Adams taken shortly after his enlistment, November 14, 1861, by the regimental photographer, J. B. Brown.
Adams was sent nearly 700 miles south to the Andersonville, GA prison camp.
Today, the former prison is now the home of the National Prisoner of War Museum,
administered by the National Park Service.
This is the reconstructed northeast corner of the stockade that contained the prisoners. The view is looking southwest. Towering above the walls are representatives of the guard towers that monitored the prisoner activities inside the compound.
Inside that compound today are a sampling of makeshift shelters that prisoners struggled to maintain inside the 26.5 acre rectangular enclosure. Barracks that had been originally planned to house the prisoners were never built due to shortage of materials and manpower.
A photograph taken on August 17, 1864 from one of the guard towers, looking northwest. The top of the stockade wall is running along the right hand edge of the image. At ground level, just to the left of the stockade, is the infamous "dead line", which if crossed, would mean being shot by the guards above.
Here is the rebuilt "north gate" into the compound on the west wall of the stockade. Its name derives from being on the "north" side of a creek that flowed through the compound. A fellow inmate of Adams wrote of the horrors new prisoners witnessed upon arrival, "Once inside... men exclaimed 'Is this hell?' "
One of the NPS interpretive signs inside the gate.
Looking across the site of the compound from near the southwest corner. The location of the stockade walls and dead line are indicated by white stakes. The location of the rancid creek flowing through the prison runs along the low area between the high ground. It served as a drinking and bathing water source as well as the latrine. Dysentery was rampant. Of the near 45,000 men held here, 12,913 would die from starvation, malnutrition, and disease.
Among the dead was Jesse Adams, who succumbed to pneumonia on August 2, 1864,
a mere eleven weeks after his capture. His remains rest under the soil of Georgia.
For myself, as a student of the Civil War for now over forty years, my visit to the Andersonville Prison site in 2008 was a profound experience. I have visited many battlefields and had been to the location of POW facilities in Richmond, Virginia, chiefly Belle Isle, where approximately 1,000 prisoners died out of 30,000, and the former location of Libby Prison, but visiting Andersonville changed it all for me. I can't see the war in its entirety in the same light as I did before. It is no longer simply the strategy and tactics of battles or the clash of political ideals. It is no longer "Still Rebels, Still Yankees" as Donald Davidson opined.