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The Infamous Civil War Prison Andersonville

5343 words - 21 pages

The Infamous Civil War Prison Andersonville

The Confederacy established Andersonville, that most infamous of Civil War prisons, in late February, 1864. It built a stockade in west central Georgia to accommodate approximately 10,000 prisoners of war. As the fighting moved ever deeper into the South in the last year of the war, the expanded stockade at one point held nearly 33,000 Union soldiers. The termination by the North of the prisoner of war exchanges which had existed previously and the continually depleting resources of the Confederacy left these prisoners stranded in miserable conditions.

By the end of the war, 13,000 of the total 45,000 prisoners had died. They were buried in shallow trench graves with numbers to identify the dead. The northern states erected large memorial monuments of the site of the prison after the war to honor their citizens who died there. Tennessee also built a monument to commemorate the more than 750 men from Tennessee who died there. The suffering of these men was recognized even though they did not support the decision of the state to join the Confederacy.

About half of the Tennesseans in Andersonville were from East Tennessee. The mountain area of eastern Tennessee had been unsympathetic to the southern case. Mountain people were often unwilling to fight to preserve a plantation economy in which they did not participate. Furthermore, many were also stauchly Unionist. Several Union regiments had been raised in the east including the 2nd Tennessee Infantry, which had 475 of its men captured at Rogersville, Tennessee and sent to Andersonville Prison.

The West Tennessee Unionists in Andersonville, however, were not mountaineers but were farmers from a cotton growing area of small farms and plantations. The largest number of West Tennesseans, about 450, were from the 7th Tennessee Volunteer Cavalry. The entire regiment, except for one group on scout was captured at Union City, Tennessee on March 24, 1864 by a detachment of Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest's regiment under the command of Col. William L. Duckworth. The captured men were mainly from Carroll, Henderson and McNairy Counties with some recruits from Henry, Weakley, Benton, Madison, Gibson, Hardin, and Decatur counties. These men suffered horribly during the time they were prisoners. Two-thirds of them died within a year of the capture. Their high mortality rate can be attibuted both to the prison to which they were sent and to the actions of their captors.

One group within the captors of the 7th Tennessee Cavalry USA was the 7th Tennessee Cavalry CSA. Both groups were primarily West Tennesseans and there was intense ill feeling between them. Some men were neighbors and personally knew each other. For the 7th Tennessee USA, the humiliation was almost total. Colonel Duckworth tricked them into surrender when help was nearby. And, it was the second time that Forrest's men had forced them to surrender. The first time at...

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