Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A time to reflect

Oct. 30—It always amazes me how inhumane we can be. I was reminded of this face this morning when we visited the Andersonville POW Memorial.

Andersonville was the site of a Confederate POW camp housing 45,000 Union troops. Those troops were confined to only 26 acres within a stockade. According to what we were told, the prison was in operation only 14 months. However, almost 13,000 men died of malnutrition, poor medical treatment, and terrible living conditions.

The POWs had to find and build their own shelters. Some were lucky and were able to put together makeshift tents. Others used branches or whatever they could find to build some shelter from the weather. (It gets cold in Georgia; it even snows sometimes.)

Water came from a small stream, which was quickly polluted from human waste. Water, of course, was essential for life; the prisoners took to digging wells throughout the site to find water. Some did; many did not. Although the Confederates were supposed to provide food, they did not complete a kitchen in time for the first inmates. Food that was given to them was often uncooked and ridden with vermin.

The stink from the camp was so bad that the people in Americus, Ga., 10 miles down the road, complained about the stench.

It was no wonder that so many died.

I read the book Andersonville many years ago; I intend to reread it soon. I remember feeling the atrocities of the war in the pages of the book. What I did not know until today was that these atrocities were not confined to this southern prison camp. The Union prison camps up north were just as bad. The one in Chicago, for instance, was so bad, that when it was emptied of prisoners, it could not be salvaged for any other use. It was burned to the ground.

The Andersonville Memorial is dedicated to the memories of all POWs, in all wars. It features exhibits about U.S. prisoners who suffered in camps in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf Wars. The sad thing is that essentially nothing has changed. History repeated itself, time and again. Only the methods of conflicting inhumanity have changed.

I’m glad we went to Andersonville. It was worth the trip.

Oh, yes…I forgot to mention. There was no admission charge.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

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