Civil War Prisons

When the war first started, prisoners were exchanged on the battlefield after the fighting was over. Not long into the war, this practice started to fall apart. Instead, the North and the South started to build prisons to hold the men that were captured during a battle. Some of the prisons were okay. Others were more dangerous than the battles that the men were fighting in.

One of the most notorious prisons was called Andersonville. This prison was in southwest Georgia. It was started in early 1864. In February, Union soldiers were moved to the prison even though it wasn't done yet.

When it was first built, the prison was about sixteen acres. It was surrounded by a fifteen-foot tall stockade made of logs. It was built to hold ten thousand men. The prison was enlarged to twenty-six acres later in the war. It was still overcrowded. By July of 1864, there were more than thirty thousand men at Andersonville Prison.

The conditions at the prison were horrible. The men were not allowed to build shelter for themselves. Some managed to make tents out of old clothes and blankets, but this did not protect them from the weather. There was no medical treatment for sick or wounded soldiers. As many as one hundred men died each day during the summer.

As the Confederacy started to fall apart, there was less food for the men in the prison. The only fresh water came from a stream in the stockade. This stream was also used to dump garbage in. The water in the stream made many soldiers sick.

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