History Topics: Civil War Prisons - Andersonville
Captured Civil War soldiers often found themselves in situations more perilous than the battlefield. The prison camps of both sides were unable to house the large numbers of prisoners confined in them. Overcrowded and unsanitary, they were breeding grounds of disease. Many men who came in as healthy prisoners died from these illnesses before they could be exchanged or released.
Some Confederate prisons were little more than open pens, where the problems of disease were aggravated by exposure and starvation. The most notorious of these camps was Andersonville Prison (officially known as “Camp Sumter”) in Sumter County, Georgia in the southwestern part of the state. Here tens of thousands of Federal prisoners were held in an open area covering 16 acres. Between February 1864 and March 1865 some 45,000 prisoners passed through Andersonville and more than 12,000 of them died there.
A number of Minnesota soldiers were prisoners of war in Andersonville, and quite a few did not live through the experience. The collections of the Minnesota Historical Society included accounts of survivors and some letters and diaries of men who did not make it, but were remembered by their comrades. The story of Andersonville and other Civil War prisons is a little told and tragic aspect of the conflict.
Get Started with Secondary Sources
- Andersonville the Story of a Civil War Prison Camp, by Raymond F. Baker, based on research by Edwin C. Bearss. Washington,Office of Publications, National Park Service, U.S. Dept. of the Interior, 1972.
MHS call number: E612 .A5 B24
- The Tragedy of Andersonville: trial of Captain Henry Wirtz, the prison keeper. By N. P. Chipman N.P. Chipman, 1911.
MHS call number: E612. A5 C53
- History of Andersonville Prison by Ovid L. Futch. [Gainesville]University of Florida Press,1968.
MHS call number: E612 .A5 F8
- Civil War Prisons, a study in war psychology, by William Best Hesseltine. Columbus, Ohio,The Ohio State University Press,1930.
MHS call number: E611 .H45
- Prisons and Prisoners of the Civil War, by Richard F. Himmerline. Boston,The Christopher publishing house, c. 1934.
MHS call number: E615. H36
- Andersonville Prison, Sumter County, Georgia. Minnesota: a roster of Soldiers interned there between February 1864 and May 1865. Compiled by John H. Lundquist.
MHS call number: E612 .A5 A564 2001.
- Resources for Civil War History at the Minnesota Historical Society, by Hampton Smith.
MHS call number: Reading Room F 602.5 .S65 1998.
- Minnesota in the Civil War, 1861-1866: A Bibliography of Published Sources, by Stephen E. Osman.
MHS call number: Reading Room Z1242 .O76 2000.
- Daniel Bond Reminiscences.
Bond’s handwritten reminiscences (334 pages) of his Civil War service (1861-1865) with the First Minnesota Infantry and as a prisoner of war at Andersonville, Georgia (1864-1865).
MHS call number: Microfilm M165 (there is 1 roll of microfilm).
- Ransom A. Chadwick Diaries in Andersonville Prison.
A 2-volume diary kept by Chadwick in Andersonville Prison, Georgia, as a member of the Eighty-fifth New York Infantry; a typed transcription of the narrative portion of the diary; a few pages of drafts of other transcriptions; and related memorabilia. Chadwick later lived in Winona, Minnesota.
MHS call number: A/-C432 (there are 2 volumes and 6 items of material).
- David Kennedy Diary.
Two typed transcripts of the Civil War diary of a sergeant with the Co. G 9th Ohio Cavalry, primarily recording his experiences (May-Sept. 1864) as a prisoner in the Confederate prison camp at Andersonville, Georgia. The diary records camp living conditions, treatment by captors, the deteriorating health of the union prisoners, and the many deaths that occurred. The transcripts also contain portions of two undated letters from Kennedy and a newspaper article that give further information on the company’s capture and internment. The transcripts are accompanied by a photocopied roll of 90 union prisoners at Andersonville that Kennedy called each day..
MHS call number: P519 (there is 1 folder containing 3 items of material).
- James M. Woodbury, Diary and Miscellaneous Letters and Papers.
Diary of a soldier from Mower County, Minnesota who served in the Ninth Minnesota Infantry Regiment in Missouri and Mississippi until his capture by Confederate forces and his subsequent incarceration and death at Andersonville Prison. There are also letters written by Woodbury to his wife Amanda, and letters received by Amanda from a variety of relatives and friends. Woodbury’s letters to Amanda (Oct. 1863-May 1864) were primarily written from various camps in Missouri and concern the regiment’s movements, camp routine, fellow Minnesotans in the regiment, and similar matters. Diary entries begin May 21, 1864, and follow Woodbury’s travels through Missouri, Tennessee, and Mississippi; his capture by Confederate forces at the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads; and his imprisonment at Andersonville Prison, Georgia. Entries by a second writer continue until October 9, some two months following Woodbury’s death at Andersonville. The diary speaks of "dismal" conditions at the prison; Woodbury’s removal to the prison hospital and his subsequent death (August 1862); the deaths of other men from the regiment; and the second writer’s eventual transfer from Andersonville to Florence Prison, South Caroline (September 1864)..
MHS call number: P1091 (there are 4 folders of material) .
- The Saint Paul Pioneer and Democrat
- The Saint Paul Press
- The Austin Minnesota Courier
- The Winona Republican
- Check the library catalog for other materials.