When it comes to haunted places in the Deep South of United States, two cities often come to mind: Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia.
If you’ve ever been to either of these two cities you’ll understand why. And if not, just considering their history, how could they not be, given the bloodshed of the Civil War as well as the horrible Slave Trade?
Despite it is easy to understand why these two cities carry a reputation for harboring the souls of the dead, there is another haunted place in the South, that supposedly is brimming with wandering souls and restless spirits. Located in Sumter County Georgia, the former location of the Civil War prison camp, opened in 1863, was initially called Fort Sumter, but then renamed Andersonville because it was confused with South Carolina’s Fort Sumter, located in Charleston Harbor, where the first shots of the war had taken place.
The 26 acres are nestled deep in the heart of the Georgia countryside and the site was picked for it was near the Southwestern Railroad line, which meant moving prisoners and supplies would not be a problem.
The original camp was 16.5 acres and was designed to hold 10,000 Union prisoners. Henry Wirz, a Swiss-born southern captain, was made the commander of the prison.
It wasn’t long before the stockade held 20,000 then 30,000 prisoners, and it was expanded by a mere 10 acres.
The actual prison camp is gone now, but apparently most of the ghosts of its Union prisoners remain there, and they can often be seen wandering in the area.
Ghosts apart, living conditions were so bad at Andersonville that over 13,000 Union prisoners of war died there from 1861 to 1864.
There were no buildings, but only crude wooden huts and tents that provided little protection from the weather. In addition, a swamp ran through the middle of the prison and this contributed greatly to the squalid living conditions in the camp and scurvy, diarrhea and dysentery were rampant among the prisoners.
The south unable to feed its own, had no supplies to spare for this camp. There were no latrines or clean drinking water, and little food was supplied to the camp. A brief respite came in August of 1864, after a rainy period. A natural spring bubbled up within the stockade and supplied desperately needed water.
And if these horrible living conditions weren’t enough, prisoners also had to fear “the dead line”, an imaginary line that marked a boundary between the tents and the stockade wall. Any prisoner that crossed it, was shot immediately by the sentries in the guard towers.
When the war ended the North was horrified at the conditions of this prison. The Confederate officer that commanded Andersonville, Captain Henry Wirz, was tried for war crimes and convicted.
He was hanged on November 10, 1865.
In what some would say was a fitting end, the hanging did not break his neck and thus spectators were treated to the image of his body dancing on the end of the rope until he finally suffocated.
It seems that the ghost of Captain Henry Wirz can often be seen walking along the roads that lead to Andersonville, and his ghost is one of many Civil War ghosts that are seen around the stockade today.
Andersonville prison and the cemetery was opened as a National Historic site in 1970.
In any case, People who visit the location of the Andersonville Prison, now preserved as a national historic site, routinely report seeing Union soldiers walking in the woods and fields around the site. When the sun goes down or the weather darkens, cries of agony can often be heard wafting across the grassy fields and through the rows of tombstones that mark the final resting places of the thousands of former prisoners buried on the site.
Motorists that pass the stockade’s cemetery on Highway 49, also state they have seen a Catholic priest standing near a curve in the road on rainy days.
This ghost is believed to be Father Peter Whelan, a Confederate chaplain who was liked by all, including the prisoners.
Ghosts or not, It is a well-known fact that both sides treated their prisoners horribly during the Civil War and we can only hope that such grim times never visit us again.
The wandering souls of Andersonville should serve as a reminder of how dark the human spirit can become when calmer heads do not prevail….