Feb. 27, 1864: Union Prisoners arrive at Andersonville

The first Union prisoners arrived at the Confederate prison at Andersonville, Georgia on February 27, 1864.

The Liberator carried a story about the POWs at Andersonville on September 9, 1864:


Four representatives of the Union soldiers, now prisoners of war to the rebels and concentrated at Anderson, Georgia, have just proceeded to Washington, to state their condition to the Government, and see if some measures cannot be instituted for their speedy exchange. If their memorial, our soldiers state that

“Col. Hill, Provost Marshal General, Confederate States Army, at Atlanta, stated to one of the undersigned that there were thirty-five thousand prisoners at Andersonville, and by all accounts from the United States soldiers who have been confined there, the number is not overstated by him. These thirty-five thousand are confined in a field of some thirty acres, enclosed by a board fence, heavily guarded. About one-third have various kinds of indifferent shelter; but upwards of thirty thousand are wholly without shelter, or even shade, of any kind, and are exposed to the storms and rains which are of almost daily occurrence; the cold dews of the night, and the more terrible effects of the sun, striking with almost tropical fierceness upon their unprotected heads. This mass of men jostle and crowd each other up and down the limits of their enclosure, is storm or sun, and others lie down upon the pitiless earth at night, with no other covering than the clothing upon their backs, few of them having even a blanket.

William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator was a weekly abolitionist newspaper published in Boston. The paper held true to the founder’s ideals. Garrison was a journalistic crusader who advocated the immediate emancipation of all slaves and gained a national reputation for being one of the most radical of American abolitionists.
Upon entering the prison, every man is deliberately stripped of money and other property; and as no clothing or blankets are ever supplied to their prisoners by the rebel authorities, the condition of the apparel of the soldiers, just from an active campaign, can be easily imagined. Thousands are without pants or coats, and hundreds without even a pair of drawers to cover their nakedness.

Detailed plan of Andersonville Prison Camp, showing Sweetwater Lick to the north, and the Southwestern & Enfaula Railroad to the east. Shows the main forts, stockade and cemetery. Map by Robert Knox Sneden.

Detailed plan of Andersonville Prison Camp, showing Sweetwater Lick to the north, and the Southwestern & Enfaula Railroad to the east. Shows the main forts, stockade and cemetery. Map by Robert Knox Sneden.

To these men, as indeed to all prisoners, there are issued three-quarters of a pound of bread or meal, and one-eighth of a pound of meat per day. This is the entire ration, and upon it the prisoner must live or die. The meal is often unsifted and sour, and the meat such as in the North is consigned to the soap-maker. Such are the rations upon which Union soldiers are fed by the rebel authorities, and by which they are barely holding on to life But to starvation and exposure, to sun and storm, add the sickness which prevails to a most alarming and terrible extent. On an average, one hundred die daily. It is impossible that any Union soldier should know all the facts pertaining to this terrible mortality, as they are not paraded by the rebel authorities. Such statement as the following, made by——, ——speaks eloquent testimony. Said he: “Of twelve of us who were captured, six died: four are in the hospital, and I never expect to see them again. There are but two of us left.” In 1862, at Montgomery, Alabama, under far more favorable circumstances, the prisoners being protected by sheds, from one hundred and fifty to two hundred grew sick from diarrhea and chills, out of seven hundred. The same percentage would give seven thousand sick at Andersonville. It needs no comment, no efforts at word-painting, to make such a picture stand out boldly in most horrible colors.

Nor is this all. Among the ill-fated of the many who have suffered amputation in consequence of injuries received before capture, sent from rebel hospitals before their wounds were healed, there are eloquent witnesses of the barbarities of which they are victims. If to these facts is added this, that nothing more demoralizes soldiers and develops the evil passions of man than starvation, the terrible condition of the Union prisoners at Andersonville can be readily imagined. They are fast losing hope, and becoming utterly reckless of life. Numbers, crazed by their sufferings, wander about in a state of idiocy; others deliberately cross the ‘dead line,’ and are remorselessly shot down.”

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