What Were the Prisoner Conditions Like at the Camp Sumter Military Prison in Andersonville?

The Camp Sumter military prison in Andersonville, Georgia was overcrowded, leading to poor conditions for prisoners, including malnutrition, disease and lack of proper shelter. The prison was built in 1864 as a way to move prisoners away from the war. The large compound originally was thought to need less guards to house the few men sent there.

Camp Sumter originally was built on 16 1/2 acres but was expanded to 26 1/2 acres during the same year. Sentry boxes sat on top of the stockade at 30-yard intervals to house guards. The interior of the stockade displayed a line of small wooden posts that warned prisoners of their boundaries. If any prisoner was caught crossing the line, they were shot. The prison was designed to hold 10,000 prisoners, but more than 32,000 prisoners were held at Camp Sumter by June of 1864.

The Confederate government was unable to sustain adequate living conditions for the captives, neglecting to supply them with enough, if any, food, clothing, shelter and medical attention in many instances. The conditions led to disease, malnutrition and an extremely high mortality rate. Out of the estimated 45,000 Union soldiers that were sent to Camp Sumter, 12,912 died while in captivity.

The captives that passed away were buried in a crude cemetery near the prison in shallow trenches. After the Confederate surrender in April 1865, the graves of the Union solders were identified and marked.