Friday, May 17, 2013

Andersonville National Historic Site

Bronze panel on the rear of the New York Monument.
I made my first visit to Andersonville National Historic Site a couple weeks ago, only 40 some years after my first attempt to read MacKinlay Kantor's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. My wife and I were attending the 26th annual meeting of the Association of Sultana Descendants and Friends. In all, 53 people attended the gathering, headquartered in Americus, Georgia. We spent one full day touring the prison site, the National Prisoner of War Museum, and the National Cemetery. 

Alan Huffman wrote an excellent
book chronicling, in part, the Civil
War saga of Anne's great grandfather.

Interpreting the site for us was historian Kevin Frye, who has devoted countless hours to helping people research the prisoners, and guards, assigned to Camp Sumter. A considerable number of passengers on the Sultana had been held at Andersonville. Anne's ancestor, who survived the disaster, was held at Cahaba prison in Alabama, though apparently some records do list him as spending time at Andersonville (we think erroneously). 

Like so many battlefields, the pastoral scene at Andersonville today, a rural expanse of green, with birds chirping in the pleasant spring weather, presents the visitor with little sense of the abject misery and horrors of the Civil War-era stockade.

One of Thomas O'Dea's drawings of the prison in 1864.
See a full set of his prison drawings here
Issuing rations, Andersonville Prison, Georgia, August 17, 1864.
Photo by A. J. Riddle (click to enlarge)
Below are a few images I took on April 27 (the anniversary of the Sultana explosion). To see a few dozen more photos, visit my Flickr set here
Kevin Frye telling the story of the prison 
Partial reconstruction of the stockade
The "Sinks" — downstream end of Stockade Branch
For reasons lost to history, the stone of Sgt. L. S. Tuttle
of Maine has a stone dove affixed to it, the only grave
in the National Cemetery with a special adornment. 


Chris Evans said...

I just wanted to say having been to Andersonville twice that it is an incredibly powerful place. I think it is a place all Americans should visit.

A American President should one day think about laying a wreath there but sadly I guess it would cause some sort of controversy even though we are all Americans.

I think one of the best things written on the prison is actually in the unit history by Warren Wilkinson of the 57th Mass 'Mother, May You Never See the Sights I Have Seen'.

His chapters on the prisoners captured at the Wilderness and eventually incarcerated at Andersonville where some died is very, very moving.


dw said...

Andersonville is a heavy place, that's for sure.

Too bad President Carter did not lay a wreath there, being the first Southern president in many years, and living, as he does, just over 20 miles from there.

Agreed about the Wilkinson book -- it's tremendous.

Chris Evans said...

Have you been able to get through Kantor's novel since?


Chris Evans said...

On Andersonville I would also highly recommend the 1996 film by John Frankenheimer that was shown on TNT. Even with some liberties taken I find it a highly gripping film and its portrayal of the look of Andersonville is incredible.

Also the PBS film directed by George C Scott and starring William Shatner from 1970 is highly recommended. There is some great acting and dialogue in that film. They don't make 'em like that anymore.