Lesson Plan

Exploring Andersonville: A Self-guiding Prison Site Walking Tour

Visitors stand next to large wooden gate
Visitors stand at the reconstructed north gate of the prison
NPS/Andersonville National Historic Site

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Grade Level:
Fifth Grade-Twelfth Grade
Subject:
Civil War, History, Military and Wartime History
Duration:
Allow at least two hours
Group Size:
Up to 60
Setting:
outdoors
National/State Standards:
This activity aligns to the common core standards for ELA/social studies.

Overview

The site of the Camp Sumter Military Prison, commonly known as
Andersonville, is preserved as part of the Andersonville National
Historic Site. Today a grassy field punctuated with stakes to mark the
location of the deadline and stockade wall, the prison site provides
a unique opportunity to explore the experiences of the 45,000
prisoners of war held here in 1864-65. This document provides a guide
for teachers leading students around the prison site.

Objective(s)

At the end of the activity, the students will be able to:

  • Provide students with a basic overview of the historical features surrounding the Andersonville Prison site.
  • Help students understand the challenges faced by both prisoners and Confederate staff at Andersonville.
  • Provide students with a sense of place for the daily operation of Andersonville Prison.


Background

On account of moving last night we got no rations, consequently had to turn in hungry. Hard place for a fellow with no money. When hunger stares him in the face he can sit and look at it and think of home. If I ever get there again I think I'll stay there.
~ James Burton, Company F, 122 New York Infantry

There is a whole diff erent side to Civil War history besides the study of tactics and politics; the consequences of the war were wide and complex and affected the lives of millions of Americans. What happened to prisoners confined behind the stockades of military prisons during the Civil War tells us something about just how uncivil the Civil War truly was. Nowhere is this harrowing story told more completely than during a field trip to Andersonville National Historic Site.

The site of the Camp Sumter Military Prison, commonly known as Andersonville, is preserved as part of the Andersonville National Historic Site. Today a grassy fi eld punctuated with stakes to mark the location of the deadline and stockade wall, the prison site provides a unique opportunity to explore the experiences of the 45,000 prisoners of war held here in 1864-65. This document provides a guide for teachers leading students around the prison site with information about prison site features, prisoner experiences, and questions for students. 

This is an outdoor Program
For safety and comfort, students should wear close-toed shoes and be appropriately dressed for the weather. The prison site is a large field, and may have uneven surfaces, long grass or insects. Participants should be prepared to walk at least one mile

Please keep in mind the following

  • Be aware of the weather. In the event of thunder and lightning seek shelter immediately.
  • Have your students wear comfortable walking shoes
  • In the event of hot weather it is a good idea to have water bottles with you
  • The only restrooms and water fountains are at the National Prisoner of War Museum.
  • Watch out for vehicles driving along the tour road, move aside to let them pass.
  • Much of the terrain is uneven. The roads are paved, but the actual prison site is not. Plan accordingly, especially in the event that you have students or chaperones in wheelchairs.
  • Please review the Field Trip Policies and Expectations on page two of the park's field trip planner. Ensure that your students understand the rules of park etiquette.


Materials

Provided by Teacher - copies of the station texts for leaders. A limited number of copies are available at the museum for use on-site.



Procedure

The purpose of this self-guided program is to allow you, the teacher, to provide your students with a meaningful experience while here and to hopefully engage in higher order critical thinking. We have developed six "stations" around the prison site for your students to explore. As part of this packet you are provided with overview text, potential questions students may ask you, and safety considerations for each of the six stations. You are strongly encouraged to review these materials before you arrive and clarify any questions you may have before you get out on the site. Plan on 10-15 minutes per station at minimum.

The North Gate - the students will learn about the process of becoming a prisoner and arriving at Andersonville. What challenges faced prisoners when they first entered these gates?

Providence Spring - How did the desire for clean water affect prisoners' behaviors and beliefs?

The South Gate Area - Along the walk from Providence Spring to the Star Fort students will explore the preservation of Andersonville by the Civilian Conservation Corps before moving into the South Gate Area. At the South Gate itself students will learn about the role of African Americans at Andersonville Prison as well as how the dead were removed, documented, and buried.

The Star Fort - How did Captain Wirz and the Confederate guard force attempt to maintain order and control over a growing prison population?

The Reconstructed Corner - Students will explore how prisoners lived and died on a day to day basis in Andersonville Prison.

The Monuments - How was Andersonville Remembered? Students will consider how the experience aff ected prisoners long after they left Andersonville and how they chose to memorialize their lost friends.

If possible you will should visit these locations in order. Bear in mind that this will require walking. Your bus will drop you off at station 1 and pick you up at stop 4 for the drive back up to the reconstructed corner, where you'll walk from station 5 to station 6. It is important that you convey to your students that they need to wear comfortable walking shoes - sandals and flip flops are strongly discouraged.

If you have a very large group it may be necessary to divide your group among the different locations and rotate them from station to station. In the event of this your students will need to walk almost the entire site, as there is very limited parking around the perimeter of the site. The total walking distance around the perimeter is approximately 1 mile.

While the tour is structured with some bus transportation around the prison site, as an alternative, you may park all buses at the museum parking lot; this will result in a much longer walk, at least 1 mile in distance to complete the tour.

Visiting all six stations may take as long as 2 hours. If necessary, limit the number of stations you visit. Plan ahead on this and remember that bus parking is severely limited around the prison site.