By JIM PURCELL
The Confederate States of America's chances of winning the Civil War diminished substantially after July 3, 1863. It was then that the Army of Northern Virginia, commanded by Gen. Robert E. Lee, retreated southward after a devastating loss at the hands of Major General George G. Meade's Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
|Camp Sumter, a.k.a. Andersonville Prison|
By the time that the camp was liberated, in May 1865, it had earned a reputation as a notoriously dangerous place for Union prisoners.
The distinct possibility that their cause might be lost did not deter the CSA's leadership from opening up an enemy prisoner of war camp, near Andersonville, Georgia, named Camp Sumter, also known as the infanous Andersonville Prison, in February 1864.
During the war, Camp Sumter held 45,000 Union Army prisoners of war. At the time of its liberation, prisoner deaths totaled 13,000. This occurred, in large part, due to unsanitary living conditions, scurvy, diarrhea, dysentery and starvation. Some prisoners were chained, starved, beaten, clubbed or outright shot.
The one and only commanding officer of the camp was Capt. Henry Wirz, who was executed for war crimes at the conclusion of the war.
The prison camp originally spanned 16.5 acres, enclosed by a 15-foot high fence. In June of 1864, the camp was expanded to 26.5 acres.