“Andersonville National Historic Site” is located in the idyllic southern city of Andersonville, Georgia. Andersonville is within the picturesque borders of Sumter County.
Learning about the history of “Andersonville National Historic Site” has been both a poignant and personal experience for me.
I first became aware of the “Andersonville National Historic Site” back in the late 1980’s while doing genealogical research on my family.
It was then that I learned that my great great uncle, Jacob William Henion, was imprisoned there from 1864 until 1865 while the prison was under the governance of the notoriously cruel and brutal Captain Henry Wiz.
While imprisoned in Andersonville great, great Uncle Jacob kept a journal detailing the atrocities that he suffered at the hands of Captain Henry Wiz. Jacob went into the prison with 64 men and was only one of four that came out of there alive.
It was this discovery that was to lead me down a path that would bring me face to face with not only the story of a nation but with the story of one of ancestors.
Brief History of Jacob William Henion
Jacob William Henion was a striking man that stood five feet 8 inches tall with deep brown eyes, straight brown hair and a warm olive complexion. He was one of four children born to Peter and Susan Henion.
Both Jacob and his younger brother William mustered into the Union Army at the tender ages of 23 and 24, respectively. Jacob was a Private in the 6th NY Calvary Regiment 6 Company E. His brother William was assigned to Company C
After serving three years he was captured by Confederate soldiers at the “Louisa Courthouse” in Virginia on June 11, 1864.
From there he found himself transferred via the Erie Canal to Libby Prison and from Libby Prison to Belle Island. Though both the Libby and Belle Island prisons were overcrowded and the conditions deplorable, they would pale in comparison to what awaited him at Andersonville.
On a sweltering day In July of 1864 Jacob and 64 of his cohorts, including one William Padgett of Pennsylvania, were transferred to Andersonville.
The heinous treatment the men received was enough to kill all of them but four. Two of which were Jacob and his friend William Padgett. Both men were sent on from Andersonville to the prison in Salisbury, North Carolina.
Jacob was eventually honorably discharged from the 2nd NY Calvary Company E on August 12, 1865. He and his younger brother William went on to marry two sisters from the Waverly, Pennsylvania area by the names of Cinderella and Mary Olive Hinckley.
Jacob wed Cinderella on October 17th, 1866 and William married Mary on January 9th, 1868. Between the two couples they bore 16 children. One of which was my great grandmother, Bertha Elizabeth Henion.
Jacob died in Sparrowbush, New York on January 27th, 1905. His obituary at the time detailed just some of the atrocities that he and his comrades suffered. To my knowledge his journal, which contained great details of his ordeal, remains in the hands of the descendents of his two children, Wesley and Minor.
Brief History of Andersonville
“Andersonville”, also known as “Camp Sumter” by some, was one of the larger, more brutal and notorious of Confederate Civil War prisons. The prison opened in February 1864 and was abandoned in April 1865.
Though it was only in operation for 14 months over 45,000 Union soldiers were incarcerated there and of those precious few survived the ordeal.
Military records indicate that an estimated 13,000 Union souls perished there during that time from malnutrition, starvation, lack of sanitation, disease and exposure to the elements. Many of them were sadistically housed in the stockade.
Within the 26 ½ acre stockade an estimated 32,000 soldiers at any one given time were forced to live in sweltering heat and wallow in feces, mud and the decaying, unburied bodies of their fallen friends.
Jacob William Henion and William Padgett were just two of the men who were subjected to the deplorable living conditions of the Andersonville stockade.
Those that perished were eventually buried in the on-site “Andersonville National Cemetery.” Notable Red Cross founder, Clara Barton was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the “Andersonville National Cemetery” which occurred circa August 1865.
As for Confederate Captain Henry Wiz, he was arrested in May 1865. His trail went on from August 23rd, 1865 until October 18th, 1865. He was sentenced to die at the end of a hangman’s noose.
He did so on November 10th, 1865 in Washington, D.C to the “Remember Andersonville” chants of an angry mob who had come to watch him pay for his war crimes.
The prison later became a national historic site and memorial for all prisoners of war.
Hours of Operation and Admission Fees
The “Andersonville National Historic Site” is open daily, year round from 8:00 am until 5:00 pm. On site is the prison area, “Andersonville National Cemetery” and the “National Prisoners of War Museum.”
All areas of the site are open daily except for the “Andersonville National Prisoners of War Museum” which is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Years Day.
As of 2010 there are no admission fees to visit the prison, cemetery or the museum. It is entirely free.
Today visitors to the “Andersonville National Historic Site” can tour the area either by car or on foot. There is a free 1 hour self-guided audio tour available that begins at the museum information desk.
The audio tour comes on both CD and cassette. It is available to visitors on a daily basis from 8:30 am until 3:45 pm.
The driving tour consists of a road that encircles the entire site. Visitors opting for the driving tour will find easy access pull-off areas at the northeast corner of the stockade, the North Gate, Wisconsin monument, Star Fort and Providence Spring.
Andersonville National Historic Site
496 Cemetery Road
Andersonville, GA 31711
Those who wish to learn more about the “Andersonville National Historic Site” should log onto the National Park Service’s website.
While in Andersonville visitors would also do well to also visit the “Drummer Boy Civil War Museum” and take a drive along the 90 mile “Andersonville Trail.”