Andersonville Prison Still Haunts
Rainy morning. We are guarded by an Alabama regiment, who are about to leave for the front. Georgia militia to take their places…Carpenter is now sick with scurvy, and I am beginning to get the same disease hold of me again. Battese cut my hair which was about a foot long. Gay old cut. Many have long hair, which, being never combed is matted together and full of vermin. With sunken eyes, blackened countenances from pitch pine smoke, rags and disease, the men look sickening. The air reeks with nastiness, and it is a wonder that we live at all.
John Ransom – 9th Michigan Cavalry
That is a day at Andersonville prison or also known as Camp Sumter. There were many reasons that the village of Andersonville in Sumter County, Georgia was picked in 1863 for the site of the prison. First and foremost, Andersonville was located in the Deep South which had never come under any real threat from Union troops; it had readily available water and was close to the Southwestern Railroad. At the time Andersonville was populated by less than 20 people, making it easy to overcome opposition to having a prison in their backyard.
The original design was a rectangular prison which would sit on approximately 16.5 acres and hold 10,000 Union prisoners. It was January of 1864 when slaves from local farmers started the construction of the stockade. The walls were pine logs that were cut on site and set vertically in a ditch dug five feet deep. It has been written that the wall was so well matched and put together, that there was no view of the outside world from inside. There was another smaller fence approximately 19 ft. from the outer wall called “the dead line”. Anyone found crossing into this area was shot.
Prisoners began coming in by late February 1864 and by that June, the population had grown to 20,000 men though only built for 10,000. 10 more acres were acquired and 100 Union prisoners along with 30 slaves built an extension to the fort that now covered 26.5 acres. By August over 33,000 Union prisoners called Andersonville home.
All told almost 45,000 Union prisoners crossed the large doors of Andersonville prison. Of those, 12, 913 died. Most died from starvation, malnutrition, diarrhea, and disease but not all. There was a group of prisoners that called themselves the Andersonville Raiders who would attack their fellow inmates for food, money, clothing and anything they considered valuable and they would at times kill if any resistance was given. Another group calling themselves the “Regulators” banded together and tired of the abuse, captured all the Raiders. There was a trail with jurors selected from a group of new prisoners. They were all found guilty and punishment ranged from running the gauntlet, being sent to the stocks and being hooked to ball and chains. Six of the Raiders however where hanged.
As you can imagine there is a lot of paranormal activity claims attached to the prison. Claims of gunshots, marching, voices and moaning are reported with regularity. There have been numerous claims from visitors and staff of an awful stench coming from inside the prison.
Apparitions have been reported as well. Some have been said to be those of the Raiders still wielding there power in the encampment, some are soldiers seen in the mist accompanied by load moaning and there are also claims of seeing Father Whelan, a priest, who tried to comfort the men during their imprisonment.
Today you will find that Andersonville prison is a national park and has three main features you can visit there: National Prisoner of War Museum, the historic prison site, and the National Cemetery. You can visit the National Park Service website here: http://www.nps.gov/ande/index.htm