Andersonville National Cemetery

The Andersonville National Cemetery landscape, located within Andersonville National Historic Site, is significant for its distinctive commemorative design, its association with the Civil War, and connection to important historical individuals like Clara Barton.  The overall site was created to provide an understanding of the Prisoner of War story in the Civil War and to commemorate the sacrifice of Americans who lost their lives in these places.

When author Albert Webster and his wife visited Andersonville in 1873, he remarked upon features of the landscape. Copses of thick-leaved trees speckled the area, and "their fresh, dark shadows give rich variety to the strange landscape." Albert Webster, "A Jaunt in the South," Appleton's Journal Vol. 10, No. 234, Sept. 13, 1873.

The marble Iowa Monument stands out above rows of white grave markers in a foggy cemetery.
The Iowa Monument at Andersonville National Cemetery on a foggy day.

NPS/C. Barr courtesy of Andersonville National Historic Site

Rows of uniform white grave markers fill a flat grassy field, bordered by tall trees.
The Andersonville National Cemetery landscape is part of Andersonville National Historical Site.

NPS Photo

The Andersonville National Cemetery was established on July 26, 1865, to formally preserve the place of burial for Union soldiers who perished at the Camp Sumter military prison (Andersonville) and continues to provide a permanent resting place of honor for deceased veterans. The cemetery is a 27.15 acre site located in the north central area of the Andersonville National Historic Site, approximately 300 yards northwest of the prison site. 

A public entrance from a two way road leads from the prison site to the cemetery. Within the cemetery, two axial roads bisect the landscape into four quadrants, which together contain eighteen sections with burials or open space for future burials. The cemetery landscape displays a formal geometry with two orthogonal axes terminating in structures, entrance gates, and circular paved loops.

Andersonville National Historic Site is significant as the site of Camp Sumter (also known as Andersonville Prison), where 45,000 Union soldiers were imprisoned and nearly 13,000 died of disease and starvation between February 1864 and May 1865. The prison site represents events of this period of the war and the lives of those who lived and died there, as illustrated by the remains of earthworks constructed to guard and defend the prison and sites of prisoner excavated wells and escape tunnels within the prison boundaries.

The site is also significant as it represents the commemoration of the suffering and deaths of the Union prisoners held at Andersonville, beginning with the United States Army’s efforts in 1865 to mark all the graves in the cemetery, followed by the establishment and development of the national cemetery, as well as the erection of monuments and memorials.
 

A view over a sea of white headstones looks like fish scales
Marble headstones mark the graves of the nearly 13,000 who died at the prison camp. Since the 1870s, many more have American servicemen and their families have been laid to rest here.

NPS/Andersonville National Historic Site

Andersonville National Historic Site was created to provide an understanding of the overall Prisoner of War story in the Civil War, to interpret the role of Prisoner of War camps in history and commemorate the sacrifice of Americans who lost their lives in such camps. 

A mature tree arches over the brick wall that defines the edge of the cemetery.
A brick wall defines the landscape boundary at Andersonville National Cemetery.

NPS, 2008

The National Cemetery, located 300 yards north of the prison site established in 1865, is an integral part of the significance of Andersonville Prison Site. Most of the 12,920 men who died at the prison camp are buried in the cemetery. The first burial took place on February 27, 1864, when Pvt. Adam Swarner was interred. Graves for both the Union prisoners and the Confederate guards were in trenches 3 feet wide. In July 1865, Clara Barton accompanied a UN Army expedition to identify and mark the graves of Union soldiers by using the Confederate death rolls. 

Andersonville Prison Site and Cemetery constitutes a valuable historical resource of the Civil War period. It represents a grim but significant aspect of the war. To the National Park System and to the country it has become a place to memorialize all prisoners of war throughout our country’s history.

Quick Facts

  • Cultural Landscape Type: Historic Site
  • National Register Significance Level: National
  • National Register Significance Criteria: A,B,C,D 
  • Period of Significance: 1863-1941

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Last updated: November 26, 2017