Andersonville National Historic Site is the only park in the National Park System to serve as a memorial to all American prisoners of war. Congress stated in the authorizing legislation that this park's purpose is "to provide an understanding of the overall prisoner of war story of the Civil War, to interpret the role of prisoner of war camps in history, to commemorate the sacrifice of Americans who lost their lives in such camps, and to preserve the monuments located within the site." Sacrifice and Courage
From the Revolutionary War to Operation Iraqi Freedom, American prisoners of war have endured untold hardships, and shown tremendous courage. Andersonville NHS commemorates the sacrifices of these brave Americans through exhibits in the National Prisoner of War Museum; preserves the site of Camp Sumter (Andersonville prison); and manages Andersonville National Cemetery.
The park has three main features: the National Prisoner of War Museum, the historic prison site, and the National Cemetery. (1) NATIONAL PRISONER OF WAR MUSEUM
The idea of a Museum to commemorate the sacrifices of all American prisoners of war took root many years ago, when in 1970, Congressional legislation was passed to create Andersonville NHS. This legislation mandated that the new historic site should tell the story of Andersonville and other Civil War era prisons, protect the physical features of the historic prison site and Andersonville National Cemetery, and should “interpret the role of prisoner of war camps in history and to commemorate the sacrifices of Americans who lost their lives in such camps”.
For a number of years, the park maintained a small historic building as the POW museum, with exhibits developed by park staff. In the mid-1980’s the park staff began to work with American Ex-Prisoners of War (AXPOW) a national organization of former POWs and their families, setting in motion the idea that a National Prisoner of War Museum should be a part of this National Park Service unit. It was not until the 1990s when Congress appropriated funding for planning and development of the Museum that the project began in earnest. The NPS and AXPOW continued to work closely together to raise funding and corroborate on both design for the building and for the interpretive exhibits. The overwhelming goal for the project was that the Museum would be a fitting visitor center for the public and give visitors a total understanding of the story of all POWs.
As the project continued, another partnership group joined the effort. The Friends of Andersonville, a group of local and national supporters of the park, became involved in the fund raising process and also served as a petitioner to the state of Georgia for assistance with construction of a new entrance road for the park which would lead directly to the site of the new Museum. Finally in the summer of 1996, construction of the building began. April 9, 1998 not only commemorated the 56th anniversary of the fall of the Island of Bataan during World War II, but marked a new era of interpretation at Andersonville NHS. Thousands of former prisoners of war and their families along with national and local supporters of the park gathered to dedicate the National Prisoner of War Museum. (2) HISTORIC PRISON SITE
One of the features of the park is the site of Camp Sumter, commonly called Andersonville. The site of Camp Sumter (Andersonville Prison) is preserved as part of the National Historic Site. The historic prison site is 26.5 acres outlined with double rows of white posts. Two sections of the stockade wall have been reconstructed, the north gate and the northeast corner.
Camp Sumter was established in late 1863 and early 1864 to provide an additional place to hold Union prisoners captured by Confederate forces. The first prisoners were brought to the new prison in February 1864 from Richmond, Virginia. Camp Sumter was built to help lessen the crowding in the facilities in and around Richmond. The new prison was originally designed to hold a maximum of 10,000 prisoners and was 16.5 acres in size. Overcrowding was an almost immediate problem and by early summer an expansion of 10 acres was completed. By August of 1864, Camp Sumter held over 32,000 prisoners and the death rate was a staggering 100+ daily. In 14 months, nearly 13,000 Union prisoners perished. (3) ANDERSONVILLE NATIONAL CEMETERY
Andersonville National Cemetery was established to provide a permanent place of honor for those who died in military service to our country. The initial interments, beginning in February 1864, were those who died in the nearby prisoner of war camp. Today the cemetery contains nearly 18,000 interments. Andersonville National Cemetery, administered by the National Park Service, uses the same eligibility criteria as cemeteries administered by the National Cemetery Administration of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
For more pictures and a virtual tour of the Andersonville National Historic Site, visit the NPS Virtual Tour website
Andersonville NHS is located 10 miles north of Americus, Georgia on GA State Route 49.
Approaching from the north via I-75, exit at Byron, GA (exit number 149) follow GA State Route 49 South, through the towns of Fort Valley, Marshallville, Montezuma and Oglethorpe. The entrance to the park is on the left, approximately 10 miles south of Oglethorpe.
Approaching from the South via I-75, exit at Cordele, GA (exit number 101) follow US 280 West to Americus, GA. From Americus follow GA State Route 49 north to the park entrance on your right, approximately 10 miles.Information and pictures "Courtesy of the National Park Service."