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Civil War Prison Camp Essay

2099 words - 8 pages

Andersonville Prison Camp The American Civil War left behind a long list of controversies that even after well over a century still stir emotions and provoke debate. "No controversy ever evoked such emotions as the mutual recriminations between Northern and Southern partisans over the treatment of prisoners of war. To the end of their lives, ex-prisoners wrote books, appeared before Congressional committees, and addressed conventions of veterans to recount their adversities and to point accusing fingers at their cruel and conspiratorial enemy" (Hesseltine 5). Throughout the war approximately 193,743 Northerners and 219,865 Southerners were captured and confined. Over thirty thousand Union prisoners died in captivity and around thirteen thousand died in Andersonville alone (Davis 351).Historians continue researching this inhumane prison camp to reveal its facts and conditions. Andersonville was a small village in Sumter County, Georgia where Confederate captain W. Sidney Winder was sent in November of 1863 to assess the building of a new prison camp. In December 1863, Winder adopted the prison design and in January 1864 the slaves from local farms began the building of the prison ("Andersonville Civil War Prison"). Andersonville was a favorable prison location because of its deep South location, availability of fresh water, and its proximity to the Southwestern Railroad (Davis 351). The prison was designed to hold ten thousand prisoners in sixteen and a half acres of land. It was rectangular in shape and had a small creek flowing roughly through its center. The stockade enclosure was approximately one thousand and ten feet long and seven hundred and eighty feet wide. The walls were constructed of pine logs, cut square, then set vertically in a wall trench that was dug five feet deep. These poles were cut to a thickness of eight to twelve inches and placed right next to each other so no glimpse of the outside could be caught ("Andersonville Civil War Prison"). A light fence known as the deadline was erected approximately nineteen to twenty-five feet inside the stockade wall to keep prisoners from trying to escape. Anyone crossing this line was immediately shot by sentries who were posted at intervals around the stockade wall. Included in the construction were two gates which were placed along the West Stockade line. These gates were about thirty square feet and were built from massive timbers. They had heavy doors that opened into the prison on one side and outside on the other. Each gate also contained a door-sized entryway known as a wicket ("Letter From Georgia"). The population of Andersonville Prison continued to increase and by August there were over thirty-three thousand prisoners held there. As a result of the overpopulation a larger prison was necessary. The prison walls were extended six hundred and ten feet to the north, about ten acres, bringing the total prison area to twenty-six and a half acres...

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