Sunday, July 20, 2008

Camp Sumter aka Andersonville Prison

My new story began bugging me before I had finished my previous one.

I could hear a woman worrying over a man, a drunkard that used to be one of her best friends. The situation was deteriorating to the point that she feared for his life. And she was mad. Mad at him and mad at the woman she assumed had brought him to this level of his life. Only, the problem wasn't a woman. The man is haunted by his memories of his time in Hell. Andersonville Prison.

Andersonville was officially known as Camp Sumter. Sounds innocent enough, doesn't it? Who could have known it was to become synonymous with shame and terror?

Andersonville was situated in southwest Georgia. In Feburary the Confederancy started shipping prisoners to the still unfinished compound. By the time it was completed in July, the 10,000 man camp had more than 32,000 prisoners inside it's 20 foot walls.

By 1865, when the men there were freed, the prison had a population of 45,000 men. 12,912 prisoners died there during it's brief duration. It is said that more than 100 men died everyday during the summer months.

Why did so many die? Dysentry, scruvy, malaria, exposure-take your pick as all of these were rampant in Andersonville. There wasn't enough rations to go around, the men didn't have enough shelter (remember, it was built as a 10,000 man prison-not to accomadate the 45,000 it held), and the creek that flowed through it was both their source of drinking water and the latrine.

I'm not saying that the Confederate camp was the only one of it's kind. The Union had prison camps that had almost as bad statics in New York and Chicago. But the Union had the means to provide for their prisoners of war-the Confederacy was starving, literally. The Confederate Army couldn't supply enough rations to feed their army, let alone prisoners of war. Regardless of where the blame lay, when the Northern people saw the state of the prisoners, they demanded vegenance. After being found guilty of war crimes, Captain Henry Wirz was hanged in November 1865.

But the images that came from Andersonville haunted me. The men looked like survivors of the German concentration camps. Those that were lucky enough to survive it must have been haunted by what they saw. And the fact that they survived. All of this sparked an idea, that turned into a nagging, that is slowly evolving into a new book.


Gillian Layne said...

Dear Lord, Terry Jo. The thought that this happened on American soil! More stories should be told about such places, so that they are not forgotten. And the love between a man and a woman powerful enough to overcome such memories would be an amazing love story, indeed. Can't wait to read it!

Terry Stone said...

I know, Gillian. I first heard about Andersonville when I watched a Civil War documentary and I was amazed that this had happened in America! When I first saw the images, I was sure in was the Concentration Camps from WW2.

I am so excited to start on this story, it has been with me for months and kept intruding while I was finishing up The Schoolmarm's Seduction. I only pray I do it justice.

Kelly Krysten said...

Wow, Terry, I can't wait to see what you do with this in your story. Reading about Andersonville is shocking. This was a very good post.

Terry Stone said...

Thank you, Kelly! I am hoping I do it justice. It's going to be hard, because I tend to write humorous, so we'll see how it progresses.

I'm sorry it took me so long to respond. This is the summer of the power-outages. Since May, we've had storms every other day and it seems that a good stiff wind takes out the power.