Andersonville is a little city located in Sumter County, Georgia, USA.
Andersonville lies in the Upper Coastal Plain of Georgia
The little hamlet of Anderson was named for Mr. John Anderson who was a Director in the South Western Railroad at the time it was extended from Oglethorpe to Americus in 1853. It was known as Anderson Station until the post office was established in November 1855 and the government changed the name of the station from "Anderson" to "Andersonville" in order to avoid confusion with the post office in Anderson, South Carolina.
During the Civil War, the Confederate army established Camp Sumter to house incoming Union prisoners of war. The town served as a supply depot during the period,and it included a post office, a depot, a blacksmith shop and stable, a couple of general stores, two saloons, a school, a Methodist church, and about a dozen houses.
(Ben Dykes, who owned the land on which the prison was built, was both depot agent and postmaster.)
Until the establishment of the prison, the area was entirely dependent on agriculture, and, after the close of the prison, the town continued economically dependent on agriculture. The town changed very little over the years, until 1968 when the large scale mining of kaolin, bauxitic kaolin, and bauxite was begun by Mulcoa, Mullite Company of America, which turned 2,000 acres of scrub oak wilderness into a massive mining and refining operation. The company now ships more than 2000 tons of refined ore from Andersonville each week.
During the American Civil War, it was the site of a prisoner-of-war camp which is now Andersonville National Historic Site.
The Camp Sumter military prison at Andersonville was one of the largest Confederate military prisons during the Civil War. During the 14 months the prison existed, more than 45,000 Union soldiers were confined here. Of these, almost 13,000 died here. Today, Andersonville National Historic Site is a memorial to all American prisoners of war throughout the nation's history.
Andersonville National Historic Site began as a stockade built about 18 months before the end of the U.S. Civil War to hold Union Army prisoners captured by Confederate soldiers.
Located deep behind Confederate lines, the 26.5-acre Camp Sumter (named for the south Georgia county it occupied) was designed for a maximum of 10,000 prisoners.
At its most crowded, it held more than 32,000 men, many of them wounded and starving, in horrific conditions with rampant disease, contaminated water, and only minimal shelter from the blazing sun and the chilling winter rain.
In the prison's 14 months of existence, some 45,000 Union prisoners arrived here; of those, 12,920 died and were buried in a cemetery created just outside the prison walls.
The cemetery site serving Camp Sumter was established as Andersonville National Cemetery on July 26, 1865. By 1868, the cemetery held the remains of more than 13,800 Union soldiers whose bodies had been retrieved after their deaths in hospitals, battles, or prison camps throughout the region. Andersonville National Cemetery has been used continuously since its founding and currently averages over 150 burials a year. The cemetery and associated prison site became a unit of the National Park System in 1970.
Today, Andersonville National Historic Site comprises three distinct components: the former site of Camp Sumter military prison, the Andersonville National Cemetery, and the National Prisoner of War Museum, which opened in 1998 to honor all U.S. prisoners of war in all wars.
In 1974, long-time mayor Lewis Easterlin and a group of concerned citizens decided to promote tourism in the town by turning the clock back and making Andersonville look much as it did during the American Civil War. Now today Andersonville welcomes tourists from all over the world who come for the history, museums, and to step back in time.
The National Prisoner of War Museum opened in 1998. The Museum tells the story of prisoners of war throughout American History. This facility doubles as the park's visitor center and is the best place to begin a visit.
Two films, shown on the hour and half-hour, provide an excellent introduction to the story of the Andersonville Prison and the experience of American prisoners of war.
"Voices from Andersonville"
Shown on the hour, this 28 minute film focuses on the history of the Andersonville Prison.
"Echoes of Captivity"
Shown on the half-hour, this 27 minute film is an introduction to the experience of prisoners of war throughout American history.
The first exhibit gallery answers the question "What is a POW?" This is followed by exhibit areas exploring the themes of capture, living conditions, news and communications, those who wait, privation, morale and relationships, and escape and freedom.
Throughout the exhibits there are touchable items and exhibit drawers that may be opened to find out more about prisoners of war. In order to conserve the artifacts on display, the exhibit areas of the museum have reduced or dim lighting.