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Andersonville: The Last Depot
     

Andersonville: The Last Depot

by William Marvel
 

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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 placed the blame for the tragedy squarely on the shoulders of the Confederates who administered the prison or on a conspiracy of higher-ranking officials. According to William Marvel,

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 placed the blame for the tragedy squarely on the shoulders of the Confederates who administered the prison or on a conspiracy of higher-ranking officials. According to William 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.

Editorial Reviews

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.
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 "

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780807866153
Publisher:
The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date:
01/01/1994
Series:
Civil War America Series
Edition description:
Large Print
Pages:
350
Product dimensions:
7.10(w) x 10.00(h) x 1.60(d)
Lexile:
1630L (what's this?)

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
A thorough, balanced account.--Journal of American History

This is a long-overdue, first-rate study. The author's approach is scholarly and even-handed.--James Robertson, Richmond Times-Dispatch

A fascinating account of this shadowy corner of Confederate history.--Civil War Regiments

Fine style: footnoted enough for the scholar, thoroughly readable for everyone else, and studded with lots of contemporary photos.--Kliatt

An authoritative history of the camp. . . . A masterful job of historical detective work.--History: Reviews of New Books

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

This well-written and readable monograph is more than a recitation of the facts. It is an analysis of the evolution and events of Andersonville, the most notorious prison of the war. Marvel's book is a valuable contribution to the historiography of Civil War prisons.--Historian

The best account of the tragedy of Andersonville that we have or are likely to have. Not afraid to address controversial issues, [Marvel] analyzes the reasons for the suffering and dying impartially and makes clear that Henry Wirz was a victim of passions that played a larger role than evidence in the postwar trial that convicted him of war crimes. This book is a model for studies of other Civil War prisons, which are much needed.--James M. McPherson, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Battle Cry of Freedom: The Era of the Civil War

Succeeds in addressing significant questions in Civil War historiography and interpretation through vivid presentation of the lives and experiences of ordinary soldiers--prisoners and their captors. . . . A remarkable scholarly and literary achievement, a genuinely pathbreaking book that provides definitive answers to more than a century's worth of questions and controversy.--Lincoln Prize Citation

William Marvel's Andersonville: The Last Depot appears to be the first history of the prison to take a genuinely objective approach to the question of how and to what ends Confederate authorities established and operated the prison. . . . He presents it in a fluid narrative. The pity is that . . . passions still run so high that in some quarters he will have no chance of a fair hearing.--Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post

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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