February 25

First POWs at Andersonville Prison

February 25, 1864 - Andersonville

One of the most notorious sites in American history, Andersonville Prison in southwest Georgia, accepted the first U.S. prisoners of war on this day in 1864.

Andersonville — built to hold 10,000 prisoners — ended up holding three times that thanks to the halt of prisoner exchanges during Grant’s campaign in Virginia.

Conditions were bad at all Civil War prisons, North and South, but Andersonville was especially horrific–massive overcrowding, food shortages, exposure, and unsanitary conditions. Of the 45,000 men imprisoned there over 14 months, nearly 13,000 died — the highest mortality rate of any Civil War prison.

Henry Wirz, the Swiss-born doctor who commanded the prison, bore the brunt of post-war anger over Andersonville and was tried and hanged, the only man executed for war crimes during the Civil War.

In 1998, the National Prisoner of War Museum opened there, commemorating the experience of American POWs in all our wars, including those who first arrived at Andersonville on February 25, 1864, Today in Georgia History.