February 6th we arose early, broke camp and headed to Montezuma, Georgia. Our campground was rural and adjacent to a working sheep farm. It’s lambing season and the lambs were cute to watch. That released some of the feelings that occurred while we toured this area.
Our first tour was to The National Prisoner of War Museum which was opened in 1998, it tells the story of prisoners of war throughout American History. This was created through a partnership of former prisoners of war and the Andersonville National Historic site. To date it is the only museum solely dedicated to interpreting the American prisoner of war experience. There are many testimonials both verbal and written as to the horrors of being a POW.
Touring this museum can be be quite overpowering and can overload ones senses. It was very emotional for me and reinforced the idea that war should be avoided at all costs and only be the ultimate last resort. The very last resort. More info here: https://www.nps.gov/ande/planyourvisit/natl_pow_museum.htm
After the POW museum we made it over to Andersonville, which originally was built as the Camp Sumter in 1864 and was only open for 14 months. It was built to house Union POWs that were being moved from the Richmond, Virginia to a more secure area. It was built to contain 10,000 prisoners but ended up with a total of 45,000.
The Confederate government was unable to provide the prisoners with adequate housing, food, clothing, and medical care. Due to the terrible conditions, prisoners suffered greatly and a had a high mortality rate. In 14 months 13,000 prisoners died. So many died daily that they were buried shoulder to shoulder in trenches by other prisoners.
Captain Henry Wirz, the stockade commander was arrested and charged with “murder, in violation of the laws of war.” He was tried in Washington, D,C. and was found guilty and hung on November 10, 1865. The United Daughters of the Confederacy erected a monument to Wirz in Andersonville town center to honor his service to the confederacy. What? Yes!
The prison stopped operation in May 1865. Former prisoner Dorence Atwater and Clara Barton went to Andersonville to identify and mark the graves of the Union dead in July and August of 1865. They transformed the area into the Andersonville National Cemetery. 12,000 dead are interred there. Due to their efforts only 460 of the Andersonville dead are marked “unknown US soldier.” The following are pictures of the town of Andersonville, the prison site and the cemetery. More information here: https://www.nps.gov/ande/index.htm
This was and emotional day of experiencing man’s inhumanity to man. I leave you with this: “War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing.” From a song by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, originally sung by the Temptations then remastered and sung by Edwin Starr. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01-2pNCZiNk
Tomorrow is another adventure……