May 10, 2014: Field trip to Andersonville National Historic Site
Twelve members of the CWRNF visited Andersonville National Historic Site on Saturday, May 10, to tour the famous Civil War prison. The tour also included the National Prisoner of War Museum and the Andersonville National Cemetery. National Park Ranger Eric Leonard, Chief of Interpretation and Education, guided us across the former open-air prison grounds, and concluded the tour at the national cemetery. The cemetery contains the neatly aligned 13,000 grave sites of those Union POWs who perished at Andersonville (from 1864-1865) from malnutrition, exposure to the elements, dehydration, contagious diseases, scurvy, pneumonia, severe diarrhea, deadly dysentery—and no medicines and no hope. Of the 45,000 Federals who had entered through its gates of hell at various times in 1864, 13,000 died—a 29% death.
Prior to arriving at the National Historic Site, we stopped at the nearby Jimmy Carter Regional Airport (ACJ) to see the monument to Charles Lindbergh’s first solo flight in May 1923. He made this historic flight in his recently purchased Curtiss JN-4 (“Jenny”)—one of thousands of Army surplus bi-planes sold after the Great War. The group then headed to Andersonville Village to see the obelisk monument to Andersonville’s commandant, Henry Wirz, which was erected in 1909 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The still functioning trains that brought the Federal prisoners of war to Camp Sumter (as the camp was officially called) unloaded their human cargo at this village depot. From the depot, the POWs marched eastward across a field to “Andersonville,” as the stockade camp came to be formidably called.
The National Prisoner of War Museum asks the question “What is a POW?” The galleries contain themes of capture, living conditions, news and communications, those who wait, privation, morale and relationships, and escape and freedom. Throughout the exhibits are touchable items and exhibit drawers that may be opened to find out more about prisoners of war.
The trip covered 480 miles roundtrip with Ira Fischler driving the van the entire distance. Thank you, Ira! It was a memorable day spent at one of the Civil War’s most darkest and infamous sites. Ranger Leonard’s deep knowledge of the events and context of Andersonville prison, as well as his enthusiasm and compassionate storytelling, were inspiring and greatly appreciated.
The 12 CWRNF members and guests on this trip included: Diane & Ira Fischler, John Walsh, Mark Stringfellow, Bill & Carol Zettler, Ann Christie, Bob & Bonnie Wright, Kevin McCarthy, David Jennings, and Wayne Crawley.