by Kathy Cannon Wiechman
(Kathy’s A to Z blog posts are tidbits of fact gleaned from her research for her historical fiction novel LIKE A RIVER.)
Camp Sumter is the real name of the prison camp that history remembers as Andersonville Prison.
As the American Civil War neared the end of its third year, the Confederacy’s prisons were filled beyond capacity with captured Union soldiers. A new prison was planned near Andersonville, Georgia. Built stockade-style with upright posts of yellow pine, Camp Sumter’s first prisoners arrived in February, 1864, before it was fully completed.
Intended to hold 10,000 prisoners, its numbers reached a peak of about 33,000 in August, 1864. More than 45,000 men passed through those gates to hell.
Prisoners often slept in makeshift shelters that offered little protection from the elements. They were underfed, and medical care was poor.
By the time the last prisoners were released from Camp Sumter in March, 1865, its cemetery and burial trenches held at least 13,000 bodies. Many men who had survived horrific battles took their last breaths inside the prison’s unforgiving walls. Sometimes deprivation and disease were a more formidable foe than shot and shell.