My road trip around the state of Georgia continues…
From Stone Mountain just east of Atlanta my next stop was the busy little city of Athens the home of the University of Georgia (chartered 1785). I walked about the historic part of the massive campus and explored the downtown area. This seems like a fun place with lots of events and concerts going on and plenty of bars (as you would expect in a college town).
A little further south is the charming and historic Madison. Picture classic Antebellum homes and you have this town to a tee.
I was then in need of some more Civil War history (1861-1865) and Andersonville National Historic Site was the place to be. This was the site of the rather brutal Camp Sumter military prison that was established in early 1864 and run by the Confederates. During the 14 months the prison operated, over 45,000 captured Union soldiers were imprisoned there (at its peak 32,000 were there at the same time within a 26.5 acre area!). Illness, disease and infection were rife. Sadly almost 13,000 of them died whilst confined within those prison walls (apparently many Confederate guards died from much the same causes). It must have been an absolute hell hole of squalor and filth.
Nothing really remains today of the prison other than earth ramparts from old gun emplacements but they have recreated parts of the prison walls and gates along with a section showing how the prisoners made tent and lean-to shelters to live in (none were provided, they had to make their own with what ever was available – sticks, blankets, clothing etc., as such some prisoners had nothing at all. They called these shelters “Shebangs“). Between the prisoners camp sites and the wall was a gap known as the dead-line where if you crossed it, you became liable to be shot by the guards in the towers above.
There are memorials to the troops kept prisoner there and also an excellent Prisoner of War monument and museum. The museum covers many periods of history before and after the US Civil War. Numerous photos and artifacts are on display.
At the far end of the historic site is the location of the Confederate fort that overlooked the prison. Again nothing but the earth ramparts remains today. This location provides a very good overlook of the old prison site.
Nearby is the Andersonville National Cemetery. Established July 26th, 1865 it has remained in constant use ever since. Row upon row of tombstones is always a somber sight and a stark reminder of those who gave their all for their nation.
The next leg of the journey will cover some interesting snippets of history very unique to Georgia. The peach state sure has a lot to offer!