Camp Sumter, also known as Andersonville prison, housed 45,000 captured Union soldiers during the Civil War. Conditions at Andersonville were so horrific that 13,000 soldiers perished, many from overcrowding, starvation, and exposure. After the conflict, the Andersonville commander was put on trial for war crimes.
Andersonville was originally built in 1864 after the Civil War prisoner exchange system broke down. When Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, the Confederacy responded by declaring they would no longer return captured Black soldiers to the North. Lincoln ordered a halt to all prisoner exchanges until the Confederacy treated Black captives equal to white POWs. The Confederacy hastily built the Andersonville facility using Black slave labor to house 10,000 POWs. Instead, more than three times that number were shoved onto just 16 acres of land, with no fresh water, no housing, and barely any food. Described as “hell-upon-earth,” Andersonville claimed the lives of thousands of Union soldiers.
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