Andersonville: The Last Depot

Overview

Between February 1864 and April 1865, 41,000 Union prisoners of war were taken to the stockade at Anderson Station, Georgia, where nearly 13,000 of them died. Most contemporary accounts blame the tragedy on the Confederates who administered the prison or on a conspiracy of higher-ranking officials. According to Marvel, virulent disease and severe shortages of vegetables, medical supplies, and other necessities combined to create a crisis beyond the captors' control. He also argues that the tragedy was aggravated ...

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Overview

Between February 1864 and April 1865, 41,000 Union prisoners of war were taken to the stockade at Anderson Station, Georgia, where nearly 13,000 of them died. Most contemporary accounts blame the tragedy on the Confederates who administered the prison or on a conspiracy of higher-ranking officials. According to Marvel, virulent disease and severe shortages of vegetables, medical supplies, and other necessities combined to create a crisis beyond the captors' control. He also argues that the tragedy was aggravated by the Union decision to suspend prisoner exchanges, which meant that many men who might have returned home were instead left to sicken and die in captivity.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
This well-written and readable monograph . . . . is a valuable contribution to the historiography of Civil War prisons.

Historian

"A fluid narrative.

Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post "

"Readers will welcome this well-written, provocative narrative.

Choice "

An authoritative history of the camp. . . . A masterful job of historical detective work.

History: Reviews of New Books

"A remarkable scholarly and literary achievement, a genuinely pathbreaking book.

Lincoln Prize Citation "

KLIATT - Raymond Puffer
Back in 1955, MacKinlay Kantor made the prisoner-of-war camp at Andersonville, Georgia, a byword for all of the horrors of the Civil War. His novel, Andersonville, so vividly depicted the starvation, squalor and casual brutalities of the Confederate military prison that ever since it has symbolized man's needless inhumanity to man. In actual fact, he was not far off the mark: prisoners were allowed to starve to death in other POW camps, North as well as South, and in any case the medical and sanitary conditions of the day practically guaranteed a huge death toll no matter how humanely they functioned. No one expected anything much better. It has remained for author William Marvel, however, to acquaint the reading public with some of the "whys" behind Andersonville's horrors. The Confederate government had opened the new prison late in the war, as a temporary holding pen for newly captured Union troops until they could be exchanged. It was really an outdoor camp consisting of a few fenced-in pastures crossed by a brook, and guarded by an antiquated fort. Marvel blames the breakdown in the prisoner exchange system and a callous indifference of the North to the dismal fate of its captive soldiers. As the last winter of the war set in, the fields turned to muddy quagmires, gaunt soldiers scratched out shallow wells and shelters in their enclosure, and their almost-adequate rations dwindled to practically nothing. Nearly 13,000 of them died. In all fairness, at the end the prison guards were starving alongside their captives. There is no end to the literature about Andersonville, and author Marvel really is just retelling what most students of the Civil War already know. He does itin fine style, though: footnoted enough for the scholar, thoroughly readable for everyone else, and studded with lots of contemporary photos. As for Andersonville, Georgia itself: the surprisingly tiny "star" fort overlooks seemingly ordinary fields still being picked over by antiquarians. The hamlet of Andersonville drowses nearby, and a dusty yellow memorial bravely commemorates Henry Wirz, hanged after the war for what happened there.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807857816
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 8/7/2006
  • Series: Civil War America Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 350
  • Sales rank: 379,303
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

William Marvel's many books include A Place Called Appomattox, Lee's Last Retreat: The Flight to Appomattox, and The Alabama and the Kearsarge: The Sailor's Civil War (all from the University of North Carolina Press). He lives in South Conway, New Hampshire.

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