The problems with obtaining lumber even affected sanitation at the
prison camp. Captain Wirz came up with a very good idea for the problem
of the sewage and the "sinks," toilets in modern terms. He planned to
build two dams across the stream running through the stockade and open
those dams and flush out the bottom end of the stream daily. It could
have worked, but both lumber and tools were hard to acquire and other
projects vied for attention.
In May, 708 prisoners died. According to the Confederate adjutant
general there were 12,000 prisoners on the 16-1/2 acres, with at least
500 arriving each day. The stream, "Stockade Branch," was fast becoming
a quagmire. Prisoner Charles Chesterman, Co. A, 13th US Infantry, was to
write, "All of the filth from the prison ran into the creek and we had
to strain the water through our teeth to keep the maggots out."
NOTHING COULD MATCH IN NOTORIETY THIS PLACE IN SOUTHWEST GEORGIA
OFFICIALLY KNOWN AS CAMP SUMTER. IN AUGUST 1864 SOUTHERN PHOTOGRAPHER
A.J. RIDDLE TOOK THE ONLY KNOWN PHOTOGRAPHS OF ANDERSONVILLE PRISON.
THIS PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS THE NORTHWEST VIEW OF THE STOCKADE. THE DEATH RATE
THAT SUMMER WAS WELL OVER 100 PER DAY. (LC)|
There were 1,200 guards, four pieces of artillery and a cavalry
company, so the chance of escape was extremely small. Even the guards
spoke about the excessive heat for May. In this heat the prisoners
suffered from many types of diseases. Dr. Josiah H. White did everything
in his power to alleviate the condition of the suffering patients.
On the 21st the tunnel was opened
and two fellows escaped to the outside. Myself next went outjumped
up and ran for dear life. In an hour we had traveled perhaps three
miles. We heard dogs after us. Capt. Wirz interviewed us. We were put in
the chain gangnot so bad at all. We had more to eat than when
inside. Am not permenently hurt any.
John L. Ransom
It was in the beginning of May that Dr. R.R. Stevenson superseded Dr.
White as medical director. In a letter to Major Thomas P. Turner in
Richmond he said, "I wish to add a word in relation to the officer
commanding the interior of the prison, Captain Wirz, who, in my opinion,
deserves great credit for the good sense and energy he has displayed in
the management of the prison at Andersonville. He is the only man who
seems to fully comprehend his important duties." He went on to say that
two commissioned officers should be assigned to assist him.
Captain Wirz reported on May 8 that he had received axes and spades
from Columbus, Georgia, and would have everything in the interior of the
prison completed in two weeks. In the same letter he said, "I am here in
a very unpleasant position growing out of the rank that I now hold and
suggest the propriety of being promoted. Having full control of the
prison consequently of the daily prison guard, the orders which I have
to give are very often not obeyed with the promptness the occasion
requires, and I am of opinion that it emanates from the reluctance of
obeying an officer who holds the same rank as they do."
Now authorities were advised to move the hospital from the inside of
the prison to the outside and furnish enough tents for 1,000 patients.
There was insufficient room for the prisoners, much less for the
hospital patients. Also, plans were being made to enlarge the stockade
in the very near future.
A SHOOTING AT THE "DEADLINE" (SS)|
May 9, 1864
Men are continuously going up to the dead line and getting shot. They
do not get much sympathy as they should know better.
John L. Ransom
On May 7 the Macon Telegraph newspaper reported, "Mr.
Fidderman informed me that the prisoners unanimously express themselves
much better pleased with Andersonville than any place they have been
since they were captured. They are now living bountiful on the very best
that Southwestern Georgia can afford. Their daily ration consist of 1/3
of a pound of good ham or bacon and 1-1/2 pounds of meal. They also get
peas and sometimes fresh and pickled beef. The patients in the hospital,
in addition to ham and meal, get rice flour, potatoes, chickens and
On May 8 John Ransom wrote in his diary, "We get a quarter of a loaf
of bread, weighing about six ounces, and four or five ounces of pork."
After rations were issued each day, there would be a general meeting of
densely packed prisoners, all trying to trade for something more
palatable, or for that which they had not gotten. Some would cry out,
"Who will trade salt for wood? Who will trade wood for beans?" At this
time Howell Cobb reported, "The duties of the inside command are
admirably performed by Captain Wirz, whose place it would be difficult
to fill. I still think the rank of the commanding officer of the post
should be a Brigadier-General."
ANDERSONVILLE PRISON, GEORGIA, FROM A SKETCH BY JOHN BURNS
WALKER, CO. G., 141ST PENNSYLVANIA VOLUNTEER INFANTRY. VIEW IS FROM
STOCKADE BRANCH LOOKING NORTH. (LC)|
Camp Chase, located in Columbus, Ohio, was a training camp for newly
inducted recruits, but it also became a prison camp for Confederate
prisoners. The first prisoners arrived in July 1861 and the camp closed
after the war. During its existence it held 9,416 prisoners and had 650
guards. Water was obtained from wells 15-20 feet deep. The sinks
consisted of a ditch which ran across the prison. Wood for cooking was
delivered within the camp at three sticks per man per day. Rations
consisted of bacon, beef, coffee, sugar and one loaf of bread each per
The wooden stockade700 feet long and 300 feet widewas
smaller than the one at Andersonville. The prisoners were housed in
barracks. During the time the prison was open 2,200 men died. They were
buried in the prison cemetery which today is cared for by the United
Daughters of the Confederacy.
(OHIO HISTORICAL SOCIETY)|
May 15, 1864
Sunday comes again. But, oh what a place to spend the Sabbath. No
chiming bells. Nothing to put us in the mind of this being the Lords
day, OH! How I long to be at home once more (and) go to church every
Leander W. Kennedy,
Co. I, 5th Michigan Infantry
Many occupations were taken up by the prisoners, not only to kill
time but to make money for their needs. There were bakers, bucketmakers
and kettlemakers. Most of the raw materials were smuggled in since the
guards had a fondness for Yankee greenbacks. John Ransom's diary entry
on May 22 reveals that he had taken up laundering with a Minnesota
Indian named Batiste.
According to a report dated May 10 from the adjutant general's
office, Captain Wirz was trying to implement his idea of draining the
swamp area to make it more habitable for the prisoners. There would be
an upper dam for drinking and a lower one for bathing. One million feet
of lumber had been ordered; but there was no way to transport the lumber
to the prison. Two squads of prisoners of twenty-five each were detailed
every day, supplied with shovels and charged with the duty of removing
from the encampment all offal, the combustible part of which was burned
and the rest thrown into the stream.
May 25, 1864
In the early summer, Captain Wirz issued to the prisoners picks and
shovels, with which to dig wells for increased water supply. From some
of these wells the men started tunnels through which to escape.
Discovering this, the commander withdrew the tools, and ordered the
wells to be filled up.
John L. Maile
Co. F, 8th
Prisoners had been allowed outside of the prison to collect wood and
pine boughs for their shebangs, but the intimacy between the guards and
prisoners became so great, the practice had to be discontinued. The
prisoners were allowed to receive boxes of food from outside after a
careful inspection of the contents. They also were allowed to receive
and send mail subject to the post commander's approval. A letter box was
installed inside the stockade. If a box was received for a prisoner who
had died, the box was given to hospital authorities for
By mid-May the guards numbered 1,193. Artillery consisted of four
guns: two 10-pounders, rifled, and two Napoleons. Both sets of guns were
on hills commanding the two prison gates and the interior of the prison.
The number of men detailed for guard duty each day was commissioned
officers, 7; noncommissioned officers, 16; privates, 280; total 303,
exclusive of artillery. The guard was posted as follows: one man in
each sentry box on the top of the stockade, forty men at each gate in
the day and eighty at night. The remainder were posted around the
stockade, fifty yards from the wall.
Camp Douglas, located in Chicago, Illinois, became a prisoner-of-war
camp in February 1862 when General U.S. Grant captured Fort Donelson and
sent between 8,000 and 9,000 captured Confederates to the prison. Over
the course of its existence the prison housed upwards of 30,000.
The prisoners stayed in barracks. The prison had an inadequate
sanitary system, sometimes poor food, not enough clothing or blankets,
inept and inaccurate record keeping, confused leadership and oftentimes
cruel discipline. Death came from diseases such as typhus, dysentery and
small-pox, but mostly from the cold. A total of 3,759 prisoners died at
Camp Douglas. They were buried at Oak Woods Cemetery. Located within the
cemetery is the Confederate Mound Monument, which notes that this is the
largest burial site for Southern soldiers in the North.
(CHICAGO HISTORICAL SOCIETY)|
The hospital was divided into two divisions, with a full surgeon in
charge of each. One of these divisions was subdivided into three wards
and the other into two. Each ward was under the care of an assistant
surgeon. Numerous prisoners were detailed as nurses and hospital
stewards for all purposes. A surgeon was appointed each day as
professional officer of the day whose duty it was to see that the
hospital was well policed and that the nurses and stewards discharged
their duties promptly and efficiently. This officer was required to make
a daily morning report.
The diseases most prevalent among the prisoners were dysentery and
diarrhea. About one mile from the prison was the smallpox hospital. On
the 20th of May, the hospital was moved from inside the prison to
outside the stockade. It was located in a stand of timber on two acres
of land to the southeast of the main enclosure. It was enclosed by a
board fence about six feet in height and was laid out in regular
streets, or wards. The hospital was supplied with water from a creek
that ran through the southwest corner and was unadulterated with the
filth and garbage of either the rebel camps or the prison pen.