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Andersonville Prison Photos

Updated on July 25, 2018
Virginia Allain profile image

In researching my Civil War ancestor, I became fascinated by all aspects of that war. If you're a Civil War buff, check out my topics.

One of the guard towers at Andersonville Prison.
One of the guard towers at Andersonville Prison. | Source

Pictures Old and New of Andersonville Civil War Prison

In 2010, I visited Andersonville, Georgia to see the museum and national cemetery there honoring the Union prisoners who suffered and died in that place. My personal motive was to find out more about my great-great grandfather who was an Andersonville survivor.

The photos below include ones I took on that visit, plus vintage Andersonville photos from the Civil War and photos by others who visited Andersonville. Hopefully it will give you a mini-tour of this historic site if you are unable to visit it yourself.

(photo by Virginia Allain)

Photos Taken during the Civil War of Andersonville

The low fence on the right side was the dead line. Any prisoner who ventured beyond that was immediately shot dead by a guard.
The low fence on the right side was the dead line. Any prisoner who ventured beyond that was immediately shot dead by a guard. | Source

Photo from the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress features some of it's photo collection on the Zazzle site. Andersonville Prison, GA 1864 by lc_civilwar.
Photo taken August 17, 1864.

Very few photos exist from the 1860s showing Andersonville Prison while it was filled with Union prisoners of war. This picture gives you a feeling for the crowded, unsanitary conditions of that time.

No shelter was provided, so the prisoners used bits of canvas, clothing and anything they could to create a place to get out of the broiling southern sun or the winter cold. Even though it was in Georgia, the winter months could be bitterly cold.

Imagine being out in the rain on a chill December night with the temperature around 40 degrees. Your tattered clothing would be soaking wet. If you had comrades, you could huddle together, trying to preserve some of your body heat.


Imagine 30,000 men crowded together on this site. Look up at the stockade & feel their despair.

Andersonville Photos - Taken by Virginia Allain

This is the reconstructed entrance to the prison.
This is the reconstructed entrance to the prison. | Source
This shows what the stockade wall looked like with a guard tower. The reconstructed dead line is the short fence in the foreground.
This shows what the stockade wall looked like with a guard tower. The reconstructed dead line is the short fence in the foreground.
Resurrection Spring - A memorial erected by survivors to commemorate the spring that opened up in a violent rainstorm.
Resurrection Spring - A memorial erected by survivors to commemorate the spring that opened up in a violent rainstorm.
Before the spring appeared, the prisoners had access to water through a polluted stream that ran through the stockade.
Before the spring appeared, the prisoners had access to water through a polluted stream that ran through the stockade.
What the guard towers looked like.
What the guard towers looked like.
Few of the prisoners had anything this elaborate. Those that organized into small groups to help each other & share resources had a better survival rate.
Few of the prisoners had anything this elaborate. Those that organized into small groups to help each other & share resources had a better survival rate.
Many prisoners did not have even sketchy tents such as these.
Many prisoners did not have even sketchy tents such as these.
Prisoners carved out shelter in any way that they could. Escape attempts also were made by digging tunnels under cover.
Prisoners carved out shelter in any way that they could. Escape attempts also were made by digging tunnels under cover.
The cemetery shows the horrible toll taken by the conditions in the prison.
The cemetery shows the horrible toll taken by the conditions in the prison.
The many who did not survive the brutal conditions are buried close by in what is now a national cemetery.
The many who did not survive the brutal conditions are buried close by in what is now a national cemetery.

The photos I took on a sunny day at Andersonville make it hard to imagine the misery of thousands of starving and ill prisoners surrounded by filth, fighting to stay alive for just one more day, then one more day.

— Virginia Allain

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As You Walk around Andersonville, Read the Informative Plaques

Source

Imagining My Ancestor in a Civil War Prison

When he first walked into Andersonville, he was a fit soldier, his muscles honed by 2 years of marching from Tennessee to Mississippi to Georgia. Sometimes the troops moved by rail, but often it was by foot.

His uniform showed he was from the 93rd Indiana Volunteer Infantry. Hardened by battles and time in camps, he must still have been appalled by the ragged, lice-ridden creatures that surrounded him as he entered the prison stockade.

They asked for news of the war. He knew only his part in it, the recent defeat of the Union troops by Major General Forrest. As a foot soldier, he knew little of the details, other than the hurried march to aid the Union cavalry under attack at Brice's Crossroads.

The heavy shelling of the infantry with grapeshot forced them back across the river. Already worn out by the forced march to the battle, around 1500 were captured during the retreat. He was one of the soldiers captured.

The surprise tactics of the Rebels in Mississippi separated the larger Union forces, leading to the capture of many Yankees. After days traveling on creaky box cars under armed guard, the new arrivals to the prison were exhausted, hungry and apprehensive.

What would be their fate? Hopefully, they would be exchanged soon. Their hopes fell abruptly as they entered the gates of Andersonville Prison.

The condition of the prisoners already inside the stockade horrified the new arrivals. They saw over 30,000 men, emaciated and dressed in tattered remnants of Union blue, now faded and covered in dirt.

How could they survive in a place so filled with filth? There were no arrangements for shelter, no sewage system, skimpy rations, and barely space to lie down to sleep. They must have felt they'd arrived in hell.

He would spend the next 6 months as a prisoner of war in the notorious Andersonville Prison in Georgia.

(Originally written for Niume by Virginia Allain, that site no longer exists)

Informative Signs Like This Explaine the Scene Before You

Some prisoners assembled tents with whatever they could, but many had no shelter at all from the harsh southern sun or winter weather.
Some prisoners assembled tents with whatever they could, but many had no shelter at all from the harsh southern sun or winter weather. | Source

Read More about It - Andersonville: The Last Depot

Andersonville: The Last Depot (Civil War America)
Andersonville: The Last Depot (Civil War America)

When I read this, I was prepared for horrifying descriptions of the prison, but it's hard to brace yourself for all the details. This draws on many diaries and military records, so it shows the way the overcrowding and starvation developed due to mismanagement and war time disruptions to supplies and manpower.

 

The Nation Grieved

Nancy Hardin commented: "I've always found everything about the Civil War fascinating. So many died, the cemeteries are so quiet and sad. We fought each other, brother, father, uncle, nephew, as though we hated the other, and in truth, at that time we did. When it was all over and people came to their senses, the nation grieved and still does to this day."

Read the Sad Details of Andersonville Prison

Andersonville (Plume)
Andersonville (Plume)

This one won the Pulitzer Prize. I read it in college back in the 1960s and was appalled at the conditions. Little did I know back then, that my ancestor, my great-great-grandfather, lived through the terrible happenings I read about in this book.

 

© 2011 Virginia Allain

Tell Me about Your Interest in the Civil War

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    • profile image

      Theresa 

      4 months ago

      My interest comes from my family history and their involvement in the Revolutionary War, The War of 1812, The Civil War etc.

    • profile image

      MASSE BERNARD 

      5 months ago

      When I was a student, I studied in an exchange program for on year in Davidson College N.C.Then I came back to France ;

      It was a great time to study civil war.So thanks to Virginia for her report.

      I am sure to have lived the civil war in a preceding life

    • gamecheathub profile image

      gamecheathub 

      7 years ago

      Fascinating to understand the history and see current photos of the site. Super cool.

    • Charlino99 profile image

      Tonie Cook 

      7 years ago from USA

      Excellent source of historical information. I had family in the Civil War, too.

    • profile image

      jseven lm 

      7 years ago

      Such sad history of our country and I only hope and pray that we never see war on our soil or any again, for that matter. Great info.

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      7 years ago from Central Florida

      @happynutritionist: You are right, there was a separate movie called Andersonville. I lumped it in with the books above, but should separate it and feature it.

    • profile image

      happynutritionist 

      7 years ago

      I think I remember a movie called Andersonville...or am I remembering that part of "The Civil War" series that Ken Burns did? I bought that for my husband because we were both fascinated by it, talk about pictures and stories, we learned more than we ever did in school...nice lens.

      :

    • Diane Cass profile image

      Diane Cass 

      7 years ago from New York

      I recently discovered that my g-g-g-grandfather on my mother's side was also in the Civil War. He was stationed at a fort near New York City for his entire term. I still have more to learn about him.

    • M Schaut profile image

      Margaret Schaut 

      7 years ago from Detroit

      I love old places like this. We have an old fort that is fascinating, and the digs they've done have turned up some interesting things.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      7 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      That was indeed some harsh conditions.

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