Andersonville Prison, Georgia, officially named Camp Sumter, was the largest Confederate prison camp. It only existed for 14 months, but during that time, more than 45,000 Union soldiers were confined here. 13,000 of these men died from disease, poor sanitation, and malnutrition. The first prisoners arrived at Andersonville in late February 1864, and nearly 400 more arrived each day. By the end of June, the prison, which covered 26 acres and was designed to house 10,000 prisoners held 26,000. By August, it held more than 33,000. The prison’s water supply was polluted by sewage and other garbage dumped into the stream.

Captured at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, Cage and the Ohio men finish the war at Andersonville Prison, where they experience the cruelty of Captain Henry Wirz and the kindness of Father Peter Whelan, the Angel of Andersonville.  

By this time in the War, the Confederacy was losing badly. As Gen. William Sherman‘s huge army bludgeoned its way south, the Confederates’ already poor transportation system could not provide adequate food, clothing or medical care for their own troops, let alone prisoners. Ironically, the capture and burning of food warehouses and railroads by the Union Army destroyed food meant for the prisoners.

After the South surrendered, the North’s outrage, inflamed by Northern newspapers’ sensational and often inaccurate reporting on the conditions at Andersonville, demanded blood. Captain Henry Wirz, the prison’s commandant, was arrested and charged with conspiring with high Confederate officials to negligently and deliberately “injure the health and destroy the lives…of Federal prisoners.”

Such a conspiracy never existed, but Wirz was found guilt by a military court and hanged, becoming the only person executed for war crimes during the Civil War.

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