Located near Andersonville, Georgia, the Andersonville National Historic Site is a historic site preserving Camp Sumter, a Confederate war prisoner camp used at the end of the American Civil War, serving as a memorial and museum for American prisoners of war. The Camp Sumter complex, commonly referred to as the Andersonville Prison, was opened in February of 1864. Though it encompassed 16.5 acres of land at its opening, the facility was expanded to 26.5 acres by the end of the American Civil War, enclosed by a 15-foot stockade.
Throughout its year and a half of operations, Camp Sumter came to be known as one of the most infamous and cruel prisons of the Civil War, noted for its overcrowding, inadequate food and water supplies, and rampant death and disease. Nearly a third of the 45,000 Union soldiers held at the prison died during the course of their internment, partly from war crimes and partly as a result of the rapid spread of diseases such as diarrhea, scurvy, and dysentery. A 19-foot fence erected inside the facility, known as the “Dead Line,” served as an escape deterrent, as any prisoner caught attempting to cross or touch the fence was immediately shot and killed, and significant gang activity inside the prison notably contributed to poor living conditions.
After the prison was liberated in May of 1865, the prison’s commander, Henry Wirz, was tried and sentenced to execution by hanging for his war crimes during the prison’s operation, the only Confederate officer to receive such a punishment. Testimonials by prisoners at the Camp during Wirz’s trial are credited with being major influences in shaping public sentiment about the South’s reputation following the war. The prison site was purchased by the Grand Army of the Republic in 1890 and donated to the federal government in 1910. In 1998, a museum was opened at the historic site dedicated to American prisoners of war in all major national and international conflicts.
Permanent Attractions and Exhibits
Today, the National Historic Site includes the Andersonville Prison site, the Andersonville National Cemetery, and the National Prisoner of War Museum. Visitors may tour the historic prison site on foot or via automobile, with a tour road circling the site provided to allow access to major attractions. Portions of the stockade wall have been reconstructed to reflect the appearance of the prison during its wartime use, and other features of the prison are visible from roadside overlooks, including the facility’s north and south gates, hospital sites, and Star Fort. For visitors exploring by car, an hourlong audio tour is provided, available on CD or cassette tape.
Next door to the prison, the National Prisoner of War Museum serves as a visitor center for the site, honoring prisoners of war in all American conflicts. Two half-hour films are shown periodically at the museum, Voices from Andersonville, which details the history of the prison, and Echoes of Captivity, which chronicles the experience of American prisoners of war throughout the history of modern conflict. Several exhibits inside the museum explain the experience of prisoners of war from capture through release, featuring drawers containing touchable POW artifacts.
Established in 1864 as a burial site for Camp Sumter prisoners, the Andersonville National Cemetery has been expanded as a national cemetery for military veterans, one of 14 cemetery facilities operated by the National Park Service. More than 20,000 soldiers are buried at the site today, with monuments commemorating Union prisoners of war from several states and a complete catalog of all interments. As the site serves as a memorial for fallen soldiers, pets are not permitted inside the cemetery, although they are allowed in other parts of the facility. Picnicking, jogging, and other recreational activities are also prohibited inside the cemetery, and grave decorations must abide by park regulations.
Ongoing Programs and Education
A number of annual special events are held at the historic site in correlation with American holidays honoring veterans and prisoners of war, including a Memorial Day Observance in May and the National POW/MIA Recognition Day in September. A Living History Weekend in March brings reenactments of life at the prison during the days of the Civil War, and a Night Museum event in October allows visitors to experience the site’s attractions after dark. Several Avenue of Flags events throughout the year cover the park’s grounds in American flag displays, and a Wreaths Across America wreath-laying ceremony serves as an annual holiday celebration. A Junior Ranger Day in April also allows young visitors to participate in activities to earn Junior Ranger badges.
760 POW Rd, Andersonville, GA 31711, Phone: 229-924-0343
More: Atlanta weather, Atlanta breakfast, BBQ in Atlanta, Atlanta hotels, Atlanta lunch, burgers in Atlanta, Italian restaurants in Atlanta, Savannah weather, weddings venues in Savannah, Atlanta to Savannah, Georgia islands, Athens Wedding venues, Atlanta Parks, Seafood in Atlanta, Best Georgia resorts