Saturday, May 9, 2009

Family Field Trip Day

Today we travelled to Andersonville GA to tour the National Park there (Official Site), (Condensed history info site).The Andersonville Prison Camp is a POW camp from the Civil War. Also on the grounds are a cemetery that resulted from the horrible conditions and the National Prisoner of War Museum. It is located off back roads, as is most of Georgia, I'm starting to believe.

It's difficult for me to wrap my mind around what the realities of the camp actually were. 32,000 people on 26 1/2 acres in the hot Georgia sun from June 1864 to May 1865. No shelter. Polluted stream. Very little rations. Disease and infection rampant. True anarchy within the stockade. The story is that in August of 1864 prisoners were dying at a rate of 100/day. The over crowding and lack of sanitation had so polluted the stream that clean drinking water was unavailable. No doubt many men were deep in prayer for relief. After a large rainfall a pool of water formed at the bottom of the hill. As the water began to dry up a natural spring emerged. It was/is considered by many a wonderful miracle that saved many of the men's lives. The spring is still there along with a plaque that states: God smote the side hill and gave them drink.

In addition to the spring there are is a section recreating the shelters that the men made to live in (pictured above). They were made by sewing together their blankets and purchasing wooden poles for $1.50 a piece - can you imagine how much $1.50 was in 1864?

There are also monuments around the field to honor the men who fought from different states. The men would live together in "mini-camps" to provide security against the "Raiders" who would terrorize the other prisoners. Later the state erected a monument to mark the location that their soldiers served their time. We located the Ohio monument amongst them.

The museum does a wonderful job of telling the POW story. The museum is appropriate for families. The movie though I'm told is too intense for children. We took their word for it and opted out. The ranger at the front door told my children a story about POWs who would always find bones in their soup. They collected the bones and crafted a miniature ship. He then challenged them to find the it in the museum. This was a wonderful way to keep them a bit more interested as most of the subject matter was a bit over their heads.

We ran out of time as we had a late start today. Had we a bit more time we would have continued down the road another 22 miles and fit in the Jimmy Carter National Historical Site as well.

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