A Poignant reminder: National Historic Site offers view of Civil War era

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- As one of the most infamous Civil War prison camps, Andersonville National Historic Site is worth the 50-mile trip from Robins.

Travel southeast from the base, through farmland and small towns to find a historical setting that's an important lesson in U.S. history.

More than 150 years ago, the first soldiers were buried at what is now Andersonville National Cemetery. 

"It's not a pretty story, but it has to be told," said Linda Van Bloem, a park volunteer.

The pictures that depict the story are even harder to look at. Civil War soldiers numbering 12,920, died in the 14 months the prison was operational. 

What was supposed to be a prison for 10,000 soldiers, the 26.5-acre Camp Sumter, known as Andersonville, housed almost 45,000 at its peak.

The cemetery, with its rows and rows of white headstones, has about 21,000 graves from every American conflict except the War of 1812, said Jody Mays, chief of interpretation and resources management at Andersonville.

While the cemetery and a tour of the prison site are quite somber experiences, the National Prisoner of War Museum is gut-wrenching in its portrayal of life as a POW.

The atmosphere in the museum is muted, with dimly lit rooms filled with memories and stories from those who had been POWs.

A short video is played of survivors recounting the horrors they faced, while 33 rifles, muskets and pistols are pointed outward like a firing squad.

On the brochure for the site, the words say "Where We Held Each Other Prisoner" speak to the important message Andersonville tells.

Established as a national park in 1970, Andersonville is a reminder of the sacrifices soldiers make to this nation.

"Andersonville now offers a place for remembrance and reflection. Here we remember POWs and honor their courage, service and sacrifice," the Andersonville brochure stated.

What to Know: 760 POW Road Andersonville, Ga. 31711  For more information, visit www.nps.gov/ande or call 229-924-0343.