Lesson Plan

Andersonville: Prisoner of War Camp

Andersonville Cemetery

Overall Rating

Not that bad
Add your review
Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Literacy and Language Arts,Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
90 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
6-8.RH.2, 6-8.RH.3, 6-8.RH.4, 6-8.RH.5, 6-8.RH.6, 6-8.RH.7, 6-8.RH.8, 6-8.RH.9, 6-8.RH.10, 9-10.RH.1, 9-10.RH.2, 9-10.RH.3, 9-10.RH.4, 9-10.RH.5, 9-10.RH.6, 9-10.RH.7, 9-10.RH.8, 9-10.RH.9, 9-10.RH.10
Additional Standards:
US History Era 5 Standard 2A: The student understands how the resources of the Union and Confederacy affected the course of the war.
Curriculum Standards for Social Studies from the National Council for the Social Studies
Thinking Skills:
Remembering: Recalling or recognizing information ideas, and principles. Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Applying: Apply an abstract idea in a concrete situation to solve a problem or relate it to a prior experience. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts. Creating: Bring together parts (elements, compounds) of knowledge to form a whole and build relationships for NEW situations. Evaluating: Make informed judgements about the value of ideas or materials. Use standards and criteria to support opinions and views.

Essential Question

What were the individual experiences of and national reactions to Andersonville Prisoner of War Camp?


1. To describe living conditions in a Civil War prison camp and the causes of these conditions;
2. To discuss methods used by prisoners to cope with the prison environment and conditions;
3. To explain how value systems influence attitudes and behavior of prisoners of war;
4. To examine Andersonville's emotional impact on the nation during the post-war months;
5. To identify the location of prisoner of war camps in their community or region.


Time Period: Late 19th century
Topics: The lesson could be used in units on the Civil War or on prisoners of war.


John McElroy wrote in 1864 of the beginning of his stay at the Confederacy's largest prison camp, Andersonville Prison, or Camp Sumter as it was officially known, in southwest Georgia:

"Five hundred men moved silently toward the gates that would shut out life and hope for most of them forever. Quarter of a mile from the railroad we came into a massive palisade with great squared logs standing upright in the ground. Fires blazed up and showed us a section of these and two massive wooden gates with heavy iron hinges and bolts. They swung open as we stood there and we passed through into the space beyond. We were at Andersonville.¹"

Approximately 45,000 prisoners would enter Andersonville's gates during its 14-month existence. Nearly 13,000 would never see freedom again.

¹John McElroy, This Was Andersonville

Lesson Hook/Preview

When the Southern states first considered secession, most people believed that if war came, it would be brief. They did not envision four years of fighting that would lead to cruel deaths and the thousands that were captured as prisoners of war. In 1862 a system of parole and exchange was informally adopted by the Union and Confederate governments. A "paroled" prisoner pledged not to participate in the war or assist his allies. He would often be released on the spot to proceed to a camp where paroled soldiers were concentrated until the two governments officially exchanged prisoners. He could then return to the military. In the fall of 1863, the U.S. government suspended exchanges. The growing number of captured soldiers soon began filling Union and Confederate prisons.

Although conditions were bad in both Southern and Northern prison camps, the large number of prisoner deaths at Georgia's Andersonville Prison combined with the defeat of the Confederate states resulted in national attention and public outrage on the treatment of Union prisoners there.


Getting Started Prompt
Map: Orients the students and encourages them to think about how place affects culture and society
Readings: Primary and secondary source readings provide content and spark critical analysis.
Visual Evidence: Students critique and analyze visual evidence to tackle questions and support their own theories about the subject.
Optional post-lesson activities: If time allows, these will deepen your students' engagement with the topics and themes introduced in the lesson, and to help them develop essential skills.



Additional Resources

Andersonville National Historic Site
Andersonville National Historic Site is a unit of the National Park System. The park's web page details the history of the park and visitation information.

National Park Service Civil War Website
Visit the official National Park Service Civil War website. Offering the current generation of Americans an opportunity to know, discuss, and commemorate this country's greatest national crisis, while at the same time exploring its enduring relevance in the present, the website includes a variety of helpful features and links such as the About the Civil War page that offers a timeline and stories from various perspectives. Also included are links to Civil War Parks, NPS education programs, and much more.

Civil War Soldiers & Sailors System
The National Park Service's Civil War Soldiers & Sailors System is a recently created database containing facts about Civil War servicemen, lists of Civil War regiments, and descriptions of significant Civil War battles. Also on this site is a descriptive history of African-Americans in the Civil War.

Historic Places Honoring Those Who Served
The National Register of Historic Places online itinerary Civil War Era National Cemeteries: Honoring Those Who Served commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. This itinerary explains where the idea of national cemeteries came from and their meaning today.

Southeast Archeological Center
Southeast Archeological Center, a division of the National Park Service, offers a detailed discussion of their archeological investigation at Andersonville Civil War Prison. The site includes historical background and a description of the conditions at Andersonville.

National Archives and Records Administration
The National Archives and Records Administration offers a wealth of information about the Civil War as well as Andersonville Prison. Included on the site when searching "Andersonville Prison" is a special collection of photographs covering many aspects of the Civil War, such as prisoners and prisons. Another interesting search on "Civil War records" provides comprehensive sources of Union and Confederate records.

Library of Congress
The Library of Congress web page has selected Civil War photographs in their digital collections. Included on the site is a photographic time line of the Civil War covering major events for each year of the war.

The Valley of the Shadow
For a valuable resource on the Civil War, visit the University of Virginia's Valley of the Shadow Project. The site offers a unique perspective of two communities, one Northern and one Southern, and their experiences during the American Civil War. Students can explore primary sources such as newspapers, letters, diaries, photographs, maps, military records, and much more.

Wirz Trial Home Page
The Wirz Trial Home Page provides coverage of the famous trials surrounding the execution of Henry Wirz. Included on the site is a discussion about the controversies of the trial, the impact it had on military rules of conduct, and the legal implications. The materials were prepared as part of a class assignment at the University of Missouri-K.C. School of Law.

Contact Information

Email us about this lesson plan

Last updated: October 12, 2018