|Andersonville cemetery. Photo © by Debi Lander.|
History, military and Civil War buffs. Descendents in search of family, former POWs, their families and soldiers in search of validation. Just curious. Most of the 130,000 to 150,000 who come to Andersonville, this National Historic Site, POW Museum and active cemetery, have a purpose.
As Chief Interpretive Ranger Eric Leonard said, "This is a very, very reflective place. It's not where you come to picnic or play a game. Your experience depends on what brings you here in the first place."
As travel writers, we came to see what was here, to learn what had happened and to experience and share with readers what it's like. What we left wanting was more time to see, learn, experience and reflect.
That 13,000 people died here in 14 months, making it the deadliest place on American soil, is a tragedy but as Ranger Eric reminded us, the real tragedy is that it is not alone; there are more like it all over the world. There were 150 other prisons like it between the Union and Confederacy during the American Civil War.
|Outer courtyard sculpture. Photo © by Judy Wells.|
|Photo © by Debi Lander.|
|Looking across the expanse that was once Andersonville Prison. Photo © by Judy Wells.|
The stories of sorrow, cruelty, kindness, hope, achievement, infamy, bravery and cowardice are endless; we could have listened to our eloquent ranger recount them for hours.
The ironies are as numerous. After the war ended, the last of three hospital buildings where so many men had died was taken over by New England female missionaries who used it as a school for the former slaves those men had died to free.
|Clothes worn by a prisoner at Andersonville Prison. Photo © by Debi Lander.|
|Hanoi Hilton cell. Photo © by Judy Wells.|
Gone but not forgotten
|One small section of many at Andersonville Cemetery. Photo © by Debi Lander.|
Here you learn the story of the brave teenager Dorence Atwater who was responsible for keeping track of the burials as the war raged. He secretly copied the lists of numbered graves and the men buried in them and slipped it out. Clara Barton then used that list to find information for grieving families and to shame the military into erecting headstones identifying them.
|One of the few unknowns. Photo © by Debi Lander.|
AndersonvilleTo say we left subdued is an understatement. The village of Andersonville, directly across the highway, was the perfect antidote. We were afraid it would be the usual hokey, commercial rip-off attraction that surround so many of our notable sites, but there wasn't a phony thing about it.
|Five of many uniforms at Drummer Boy Museum. Photo © by Debi Lander.|
|Confederate Zouave Drummer Boy. Photo © by Debi Lander.|
|Andersonville Village.Photo © by Judy Wells.|
|1843 Andersonville Baptist Church. Photo © by Judy Wells.|
Filled with sadness for the past but hope for the future, like all travel writers we hit the road again to see some more.
Post by Judy Wells