Just say the word Andersonville and most people know the place, or they think they do. When many hear the word Andersonville, many have an image in their mind, a harsh thought perhaps, and some even have a rather vocal opinion. Now what do you see or envision when you hear the word Andersonville? What are your thoughts? Care to share your opinion? I admit, when I hear Andersonville, as well as other POW camps such as Camp Douglas, Camp Morton, Libby Prison, etc., I think of the concentration camps of the Second War, to be exact. I also think, ironically, the one who marched to the sea and through the exact state, Georgia, that was host to Andersonville, explained it best. He explained all things Civil War in the following letter - and war, by the way, includes POWs and the prisons that detained them. General William Sherman said of war:
"You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out. I know I had no hand in making this war, and I know I will make more sacrifices to-day than any of you to secure peace. But you cannot have peace and a division of our country. If the United States submits to a division now, it will not stop, but will go on until we reap the fate of Mexico, which is eternal war. The United States does and must assert its authority, wherever it once had power; for, if it relaxes one bit to pressure, it is gone, and I believe that such is the national feeling." Gen. William T. Sherman in a letter to the City Council of Atlanta (12 September 1864)
Hindered by deteriorating economic conditions, an inadequate transportation system, and the need to concentrate all available resources on its own army, the Confederate government was unable to provide adequate housing, food, clothing, shelter, and medical care for its captives. These conditions, along with a breakdown of the prisoner exchange system, created much suffering and a high mortality rate. More than 45,000 Union soldiers were sent to Andersonville during the 14 months of the prison's existence. Of these, 12,912 died from disease, malnutrition, overcrowding, or exposure. They were buried in shallow trenches, shoulder to shoulder, in a crude cemetery near the prison.