National Prisoner Of War MuseumThursday, April 11, 2013
On December 31 when we were still in the Southern part of Georgia, we went through Andersonville without too much planning. Seeing that it was a civil war village, we stopped in the town:
There was a large (bottom-right image) monument on the main street in honor of Captain Henry Wirz who was commander of Camp Sumter, the military prison for Union soldiers here. He was one of only two men tried, convicted, and executed for war crimes during the War -- and he was hanged in Washington where the Supreme Court building is now; details about testimony against him and his motives, his circumstances (lack of food/medical support from the CSA brought on especially difficult conditions for the soldiers) still abound. Even so, seeing such a grand monument to someone who oversaw such miserable conditions for people who suffered enormously felt odd.
Down the road was a National Park Service museum, and generally the NPS museums have made a good impression. That 32000 soldiers were imprisoned here at Camp Sumter makes it appropriate that this be the home of the National POW Museum:
A list of rules from Vietnamese captors to POWs:
These are images of Frances Clolin, who would dress as a man, and take the name Jack Williams, to serve in the Union Army with the Missouri artillery and cavalry.
This flag was hand-painted by POW Curtis G. Davis in Camp #10D in Tokyo; against rules, on New Year's Day 1945, he and his fellow POWs stood attention, saluted, and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. He later said, "I was a very, very proud American Army private that day I can assure you. Some time later the Japanese found the flag, confiscated it and threw it in the office trash. One of the prisoners, emptying the trash, found it and returned it to me."
I went in the museum without Av and the boys as we knew it would be a subject matter they were years from being ready to take in and absorb. They went for a little ride while I toured; I put on a nice face when I got back in the car later, but I was somewhat shaken by all that I had seen. The museum was excellent and presented its subject matter in a way that was very powerful.
Leaving the museum is the National Cemetery -- I was told that three funerals were taking place that day.
This monument is from the State of Illinois, and it is engraved with excerpts from Lincoln's inaugural speech and the Gettysburg Address:
Here, an overview of the size of the POW camp:
A replica of the stockade:
Campsites inside -- the conditions here would surely have been unimaginable:
One bright spot was that although there was a lack of potable water, this spring that appeared in the summer of 1864 brought much relief to the prisoners, and people would visit it later on Memorial Day:
BTW, the man who is credited with killing John Wilkes Booth, Boston Corbett, had been a prisoner at Andersonville.