The Infamous Civil War Prison Andersonville

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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...

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...is grandfather to prison. Well over one hundred years after the Civil War, the area from which the 7th Tennessee was recruited remains a Republican stronghold where nearly every family can tell at least one Andersonville story.

The above article was printed in the West Tennessee Historical Society Papers and was written by Peggy Scott Holley, a history instructor at Austin Community College. The complete article with source references and deaths listed among the 7th Tennessee Cavalry after their capture can be found in the 1988 issue of the West Tenn Historical Society Papers, Vol XLII. Thanks Peggy, for allowing me to share this wonderful article with my Altom ancestors. We had three of our family members serve in this Unit and perhaps now we can see and imagine more vividly how they must have suffered for the freedoms that we sometimes take for granted today.

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