Thursday, February 11, 2016

HGB Podcast, Ep. 104 - Andersonville Prison


Moment in Oddity - Cliff Burials of the Igorot People
Suggested by: Laurette Vinson

Photo by: Laurette Vinson
The Igorot People live in six different provinces in the Philipine Islands and form twenty separate tribal groups, each with their own language, rituals and beliefs. The term Igorot means "People of the Mountains."The Igorot People of the mountain province in the north near Sagada practice a unique burial tradition. This tradition is a way of honoring their tribal elders and spans 2000 years. They are buried in wooden coffins that are then hung from cliffs. The elderly person carves their own wooden coffin and if they are unable to complete this task, a family member helps them. Once they die, they are wrapped in blankets that are tied with rattan ropes and carried through the village in a procession usually atop a wooden chair. Mourners line the path and attempt to touch the body because many of them believe that if they get the blood of the deceased on them, that it will pass on the talents of the deceased to them. The body is positioned in the fetal position before being placed in the coffin, so that they leave the world in the same way that they came into the world. The coffin is then nailed or tied to the side of the cliff. Theories as to why the Igorot practice this form of burial range from the idea that it places the person's spirit closer to heaven to protecting the body from scavenging animals that could unbury bodies placed in the ground to protecting the deceased from headhunters. The last burial at the location that Laurette shared was in 1984. The location of these cemeteries along cliffs, certainly is odd!

Photo by: Laurette Vinson

Photo by: Laurette Vinson

Photo by: Laurette Vinson

Photo by: Laurette Vinson

Also found a wonderful article with pictures by Jacob Maentz ,which you can find here:

This Day in History - The Visions of Bernadette Soubirous
by: Jessica Bell

On February 11th, in 1858, Bernadette Soubirous saw the first of her 18 "visions" in Lourdes, France. As a young 14-year old girl, Bernadette Soubirous had 18 visions of the Blessed Lady in a grotto in the outskirts of Lourdes from February 11 to July 16, 1858. During a mission to collect firewood, Bernadette stumbled across a grotto that at the time was filled with rubbish washed up from the river. She told her companions that she saw a Lady dressed in white, wearing a white dress, a blue girdle and a yellow rose on each foot, the same color as the chain of her rosary and the beads of the rosary were white. During the ninth apparition, a spring is reported to have miraculously appeared when Bernadette scraped the ground at the instructions of the Blessed Lady.  Though many townspeople believed she had indeed been seeing the Holy Virgin, Bernadette's story created a division in her town. Many believed she was telling the truth, while others believed she had a mental illness and demanded she be put in a mental asylum. Some believed Bernadette's visions meant she needed to pray for penance. Bernadette asked the local priest to build a chapel at the site of her visions and the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes is now one of the major Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world.  A few years after her reported visions, Bernadette became a nun and took the name Sister Marie Bernarde. She was later canonized by the Catholic Church. 

Andersonville Prison (Research Assistants Jessie Harms and Ann Student, suggested by listener John Beaverhausen)

During February 1864, Camp Sumter was opened in Macon County, Georgia. Camp Sumter came to be known as Andersonville, and that is what it is still referred to as of today. Of all the prisons we have featured on the podcast, Andersonville Prison seems to be the worst thus far. This prison was opened to house Union prisoners during the Civil War and to say that it was overcrowded would be an understatement. The amount of prisoners who lost their lives at this prison reaches into the several thousands. And the prison was not open for very long. These kinds of conditions and numbers of death usually lead to paranormal activity and there seems to be quite a bit of it going on here. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Andersonville Prison.

From the beginning of the Civil War until 1862, prisoners were exchanged on the battlefield– a private for a private, a sergeant for a sergeant, and a captain for a captain. Problems arose with this system in 1862, resulting in the creation of large holding pens for prisoners on both sides. Union Army Major General John A. Dix and Confederate Major General Daniel H. Hill met on July 18, 1862 and drafted a cartel providing for the parole and exchange of prisoners. The draft was submitted to and approved by their superiors. The Dix-Hill Cartel, as it became known, was signed and ratified four days later. The cartel failed before the end of the year for various reasons, including the Confederate Government’s refusal to exchange or parole black prisoners. They threatened to treat black prisoners like slaves and execute their white officers. Prisoners were returned to the battlefield too soon, creating another problem. Confederate prisoners from Vicksburg’s surrender on July 4, were paroled and back on the battlefield within weeks.

On October 23, 1862, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton directed that all commanders of prison camps be informed that exchanges of prisoners would cease, greatly affecting the large number of prisoners held in northern and southern prison camps. Northern prisoner-of-war camps were: Camp Douglas in Chicago and Johnson’s Island, and Camp Chase in Ohio. Southern prisoner-of war camps were: Libby Prison and Belle Isle in Richmond, and Camp Florence in South Carolina. The two prisons in Richmond were overcrowded by mid-1863. The overcrowding and severe food shortages caused Confederate officials to look for a suitable location far south of Richmond. They selected Captain W. Sidney Winder to find a suitable location in Southwest Georgia. In Milledgeville, Georgia’s capital, Governor Joseph E. Brown introduced him to legislators from southwestern counties in Georgia. Winder traveled to Albany, but property owners discouraged him, he then traveled to Americus, where Uriah Harrold, a Commissary Department purchasing agent, told him about Andersonville, which he claimed had a large supply of good, clear water. Andersonville was five miles west of the Flint River and 1,600 feet east of the Southwestern Railroad’s Andersonville Depot in Sumter County, now part of Macon County. Winder evaluated the area and selected it in mid-December 1863. Construction of the prison was the responsibility of the Quartermaster Department, who chose Richard B. Winder of Maryland to oversee the project.

In January 1864, slaves started digging a ditch and felling trees to construct the prison, that would house 10,000 prisoners. Pine trees were cut 22 feet in length, with five feet set in the ground and seventeen feet above ground. Broad axes were used to make all sides were flat so prisoners could not see outside of the prison. The stockade had two gates, one on the South and one on the North, and 80 sentry boxes at 40 yard intervals. The prison’s interior had a deadline about 19 feet from the stockade wall. Guards were given orders to shoot prisoners who crossed the deadline. The prison was completed in the third week of March.

The first 500 prisoners arrived at Andersonville Prison Camp, also referred to as Camp Sumter, February 25 and put into the unfinished stockade, which had a shortage of equipment and food. Before authorities could get the prison put in order, they were swamped by the unceasing arrival of prisoners, which numbered about 400 every day. There was short supply of food and containers to hold rations, such as plates and cups. Prisoners resorted to using hats or sleeves torn from clothing and tied with string to hold their rations. During March, rations consisted of cornmeal, beans, and occasionally meat. As prisoners continued arriving, food rations diminished.

Prisoners were divided into detachments of 270 men and then subdivided into three companies of 90 men each with a sergeant in charge. The sergeants received the rations and divided them as equally as possible amongst the men. By the end of March, there was only cornmeal and a little salt.

On March 27, 1864, Captain Henry Wirz was placed in charge of the prison. Wirz, who was born in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1823, received some medical training, before his father insisted he enter the mercantile field. Wirz came to America in 1849. He joined the 4th Louisiana Infantry at the beginning of the Civil War and was wounded in the battle of Seven Pines.

By April 1, 1864, the stockade, designed to hold 10,000 prisoners, held 7,160. By May 8, 5,787 more prisoners arrived, 728 prisoners died, 13 escaped, and 7 were recaptured, for a total of 12,213 prisoners in the stockade. Richard Winder made the terrible mistake in locating the prison’s bakery and cookhouse upstream from the prison, which polluted the stream used by the prisoners for drinking and bathing.

Death was caused by contagious diseases, polluted drinking water inside the stockade, inadequate hospital accommodations, lack of prisoner’s quarters, exposure to the elements, bad sanitary practices, short and defective rations, and overcrowding. In order to protect themselves from the elements, prisoners constructed what they called “shebangs.” The huts and lean-tos from logs, limbs shrubs, and brush left in the stockade, as well as blankets, tent flies, overcoats, and clothing from the dead. The Confederates and prisoners made no effort to properly design or lay out streets in the stockade’s interior, so the shebangs went in all directions. The disorganization and lack of proper camp administration probably caused a higher death rate. Prisoner’s letters, diaries, and manuscripts all contained the same subjects: the loneliness, dejection, hopelessness, helplessness, and complete despair.

Lumber and tools ordered to erect barracks and other facilities for the prisoners, was used for buildings outside the prison. Not receiving the lumber not only prevented shelters from being erected it also affected sanitation in the prison. Captain Wirz came up with a good idea to solve the sewage and toilet problem. He planned to build two dams across the stream running through the stockade and flush out the bottom end of the stream daily by opening the dams. If lumber and tools had been available, his idea could have worked. Two squads of 25 prisoners each were supplied with shovels every day and charged with removing all offal from the prison. The combustible part was burned and the rest thrown into the stream.

In May 1864, 708 prisoners died. The prison contained 12,000 prisoners, with at least 500 arriving each day. The stream was a quagmire – one prisoner wrote, “All of the filth from the prison ran into the creek and we had to strain the water through our teeth to keep the maggots out.”

The excessive heat enhanced many types of diseases. There was little chance of escape with 1,200 guards, four pieces of artillery, and a cavalry company.

Men lacking shelter from the weather, developed sores, which in time often turned into gangrene. Disease and sores were spread through lice and thousands of flies swarmed throughout the prison. Killing lice became a game that helped pass the time. The excessive summer heat caused many types of diseases, such as typhus, smallpox, dysentery and diarrhea, to spread through the prison. That summer, more than 100 prisoners died each day. During the winter, many prisoners died from the cold. Authorities were advised to move the hospital outside the prison and supply enough tents for 1,000 patients. When a new hospital was located outside the prison stockade, it only had tents for 800 and by June 1864, there were 1,035 in the hospital and 3,000 sick inside the stockade. Many prisoners were insane, helpless, and entirely naked. One prisoner later wrote, “The sight of all the misery, the starved, dying and half-naked humans all around, those with scurvy misshaped limbs, swollen limbs, swollen joints, and festering sores infected with gangrene, all contributed to make the newcomer so unnerved that he would soon get into a mental condition of despair out of which the ghost beacon of death seemed welcome.” By the end of summer, the crowding was worse and spread of disease increased.

When a prisoner became helpless, gang members, called “Raiders,” would rob him. Over time, the Raiders boldness grew and the robbery victim was sometimes murdered. At the end of June 1864, with the help of Captain Witz, the “Raiders” were identified and removed from the prison for trial. From the opening of the prison up until they were caught, the “Raiders” had robbed, murdered, and in every way made life even more horrible for the prisoners. A trial was held at the end of June 1864. Some of the guilty Raiders were ordered to wear a ball and chain, some were strung up by their thumbs or set in stocks. Six of the leaders were found guilty of murder and were hung on July 11, 1864. A police force, called “The Regulators,” was organized within the prison and headed by “Limber Jim.”

Each day prisoners received a quarter of a loaf of bread, weighing about 6 ounces, and four or five ounces of pork. After rations were disbursed, prisoners tried to trade for something more palatable or for things they needed, such as trading salt for wood or trading wood for beans. Food was constantly on the minds of all the prisoners. They thought about it while awake and dreamt about it at night. Before the end of Summer, prisoners were being served mush for breakfast, mush for dinner, and mush with no salt for supper. As rations decreased, many days prisoners received only a pint of boiled rice with no meat, bread or meal to go with it.

Prisoners took up professions, such as bakers, bucket makers, launderer, and kettle makers to kill time, as well as make money for their needs. Most raw materials were smuggled in since the Confederate guards liked receiving Yankee greenbacks.  Prisoners were allowed to receive boxes of food from outside after being carefully inspected and they were allowed to send and receive mail subject to the post commander’s approval. If a box arrived for a prisoner, who had died, it was given to the hospital authorities for distribution.

Prisoners constantly talked of escaping and many attempts were made, such as attempts to tunnel out and running away while outside the stockade on detail. One prisoner pretended to be dead and had two friends carry him out to the dead house. After dark, he got up and ran away. Captain Wirz, suspecting the trick, had a surgeon inspect all dead bodies before releasing them for burial. By the end of summer, many tunnels had been dug and some prisoners were able to escape.Tunnels were found 14 feet deep and from 90 to 100 feet long. Prisoners hoping for a morsel of food would report escape plans to authorities, leading to the capture of men.

Prison life took on a routine, except for tricks played on guards. When a prisoner died, fellow prisoners in his detachment tried to hide the fact he was dead as long as possible, so they could receive his ration. To hide the death from the guards, the sergeant would count many live prisoners two or three times. Also, when a prisoner died, his friend would tie one end of strong piece of cord around the corpse and the other end around himself, to prevent the body from being stolen during the night. Carrying his dead friend to the dead house enabled him to pick up a piece of wood the next day for cooking his food.

On May 21, 1864, the Sumter Republican reported, “The Andersonville prisoners nearly escaped. The commander discovered the plans. At this time, there are 17,000 prisoners there and 500 are being added every day. They cannot be turned loose upon the people. 3,000 to 5,000 men are needed to keep them but there are only 500 men there. Col. Persons is aware of the problem. West Georgia is the Egypt of the Confederacy and the crops must not be destroyed.” By June 17, there were 21,539 prisoners at Andersonville. By the end of June, there were 25,000 prisoners and 7,968 men had been admitted into the hospital.

Many of the prisoners who arrived at Andersonville in April and May, had an abundance of money. The Union armies were reclothed and paid off in Spring 1864 for the spring campaigns. Many of the new recruits and reenlisted veterans had bounty money with them when captured. Prisoners concealed money on their person in many ways. Greenbacks could be pressed inside a brass button, pressed into the sole of a shoe or put into the bowls of large Dutch pipes with a little tobacco sprinkled. Some prisoners swallowed their rings. Gambling was rampant – faro, dice, and $10 stakes were commonly played for. Trade was carried on with guards outside of the wall by talking through cracks and throwing articles over the fence. Captain Wirz allowed sutlers inside the prison walls to sell items to the prisoners. Prisoners with money could buy the necessities of life, such as peas, pones, wheat, flour, and salt, which were very expensive and rapidly ate up the prisoners money. Luxury items such as tobacco, onions, eggs, soda, red pepper, gingerbread, soap, taffy, sour beer, apples, and peaches were also available to those with money. Besides money, various items like gold and silver watches and rings, pocket knives, and mugs and laurel pipe bowls carved from wood, were also exchanged for food.

On July 1, 1864, an addition to the prison was completed, adding another 10 acres to the stockade, which was now 26½ acres. There were 26,367 prisoners in the compound. As prisoners were moved into the newly completed addition, there was a stampede and many prisoners were hurt pressing through the 12-foot opening. The sick, falling down in the press, were trampled and killed; strong men became wedged between the moving mass and standing timbers. A large number of strong and weak prisoners were severely injured and never recovered and an unknown number of prisoners died. By July 21, there were 29,201 prisoners in the stockade and 1,735 in the hospital. On August 4, prisoners took a petition, circulated throughout the stockade, requesting the speedy release of all prisoners from the horrible conditions they were living in, to the proper authorities in Washington, D.C., but nothing was done.

There were many church meetings among the prisoners, with various clergy, two priests, and other Christian prisoner doing the ministering.

During July, Andersonville officials became very concerned. General William T. Sherman’s army was near Atlanta and prison officials were worried that prisoners, fueled by reports from new prisoners, would start a mass uprising. Slaves from surrounding farms were brought in to fell trees and dig additional earthworks in anticipation of a cavalry attack. General Sherman did order two cavalry units to ride south and cut the Macon railroad. He also gave General George Stoneman, who commanded on the units, to advance on Macon itself. General Stoneman planned to free Union officers at Camp Oglethorpe in Macon and then head south to free the 29,000 prisoners at Andersonville. He had 2,500 men and a two-gun battery. He left Atlanta on July 27 at 3:00 a.m. and headed south, followed by 4,000 Confederate cavalrymen. When Stoneman reached Clinton, he was attached by the Georgia militia and in a number of skirmishes his cavalry was defeated. Union soldiers were either killed or taken prisoner, resulting in 500 more prisoners in Andersonville. In August, 2,933 prisoners died, 1,305 were sick in the hospital, and 5,100 were sick in the stockade. During August, the number of prisoners in the stockade was 32,899. Prison conditions were horrendous. Prisoners were dying at a rate of 100 per day. By August 4, there were 33,000 prisoners in the stockade, including 2,208 in the hospital. Holes were dug not only for escape attempts but also to collect water and for warmth from the northern cold. Many holes caved in and suffocated prisoners. The water holes dried up from heat during July and August. So many prisoners died in August, gravediggers were kept busy and the listing of the names of the dead became a 24-hour job.

Six months after opening Andersonville, the authorities finally showed some organization by instituting the “Rules of Andersonville Prison.” In September, the framework for four barracks, housing 270 prisoners each, was completed. As the men started moving into the barracks, two more barracks neared completion. During September, 2,677 prisoners died or 23.3 percent of those confined in Andersonville. Between February, when the prison opened and September 21, 9,479 prisoners had died. Diarrhea had killed 3,530 and dysentery killed 999 for a total of 58.7 percent of the deaths during the first six months of Andersonville’s existence.

Starting in September, some of the healthier prisoners were moved in detachments from Andersonville to Campt Lawton at Millen, Georgia, and to Florence, South Carolina, to help relieve the overcrowded conditions and due to the movement of General Sherman’s army near Atlanta. By September 8, 5,000 prisoners had been moved. By the end of September, the stockade that had held over 30,000 prisoners a few weeks earlier, was nearly empty. The only prisoners remaining were those who could not walk and those who had to work on the outside of the prison to keep it operating. By October, Andersonville no longer received prisoners and only those unable to travel remained. It became a prison hospital housing a high proportion of sick prisoners. Besides the 8,218 prisoners there on October 1, another 444 were added during the month. Of those 8,662 men, 3,913 received treatment in the hospital and 1,560 of those died, 28 escaped, and 2,811 were transferred to other prisons. At the beginning of December, 2,000 prisoners arrived from Salisbury, North Carolina. On December 22, 1864, General Cooper, inspector general of the Confederacy wrote General John Winder that Savannah had been evacuated and suggested that prisoners from Columbia, Salisbury, and Florence be moved immediately to Andersonville, because there was only one road open from Branchville to Augusta. Prisoners once again started arriving daily at Andersonville. At the beginning of January, 197 prisoners died. During January, 4,000-5,000 prisoners arrived daily from other prison camps. Winter 1864-65, was the coldest winter in 25 years in southwest Georgia. One night the temperature was 18 degrees above zero. The prisoners had little clothing and wood they attempted to burn for warmth was too wet. More prisoners arrived at the end of January. February was more pleasant and the prisoners knew that if Sherman had been defeated there would have a larger influx of prisoners, but the only prisoners arriving were from other prisons. As the weather warmed, the prisoners started exercising and began singing patriotic songs. For the first time in 12 months the prisoners were optimistic. Rumors were good rumors – exchange, the end of the war, going home. In March 180 prisoners in Andersonville hospital died. From the guards, prisoners learned the Yankees captured Selma, Alabama, and would arrive soon. The few prisoners that arrived brought good news. On March 25, 800 prisoners left and there was talk that a train would leave every day full of prisoners. On March 28, new prisoners brought word that General Wilson’s Cavalry was on the way. In April the war ended. During the last full month of Andersonville’s existence 28 prisoners died. Most of the prisoners were sent to Vicksburg for exchange. Slowly the prisoners left Andersonville. When Union forces arrived at Andersonville in May, about three weeks after the war ended, only a small number of prisoners remained. Before arrangements could be made to transport the sick and frail soldiers home, one more prisoner died. During Andersonville’s 14 month existance, 12,914 prisoners died at Andersonville.

Hundreds of the prisoners that left Andersonville perished on the way home, when the Sultana, the steamboat they were on, exploded and sank near Memphis, Tennessee. Hundreds more died in northern hospitals or in hometowns from diseases they incurred while prisoners at Andersonville. The human misery reached its zenith at Andersonville and the tombstones in Andersonville National Cemetery and prisoners written words tell a tragic story.

Dorance Atwater and Clara Barton worked together after the closure of the prison to locate and identify prisoners who had died at Andersonville and inform their families. For prisoners who died at Camp Sumter, record keeping was shabby at best. There was great concern that after the war relatives would not be able to locate and identify the bodies of their loved ones. Into this situation stepped one prisoner, Dorence Atwater, of the 2nd New York Cavalry. Sent to Andersonville, Atwater was detailed as a clerk to the surgeon who recorded all the daily deaths. Secretly, Atwater compiled a duplicate list of names and regiments of the deceased, keying them to numbers that were inscribed on the hastily erected posts or boards that were placed over the graves. With the war over, Atwater eventually saw this list of 12,912 names published, thereby enabling proper identification of the graves. He received no reward for his efforts, but Dorence Atwater was a true hero of the Civil War.

After the war, Clara Barton, the “Angel of the Battlefield,” who was famous as a nurse during the war, started receiving letters from family members trying to locate loved ones who did not return home. In an effort to help the families, she started the painstaking research of trying to find the missing soldiers and respond to the family’s inquiries. Dorence Atwater contacted Barton in June 1865, requesting copies of her lists of missing soldiers. Elated, Barton contacted Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, requesting permission to accompany the U.S. Army’s expedition to identify graves at Andersonville. While at Andersonville in July and August 1865, Atwater and Barton read the letters she had received from relatives of missing soldiers and searched through the Andersonville Death Register and captured hospital records looking for the missing soldiers. Laborers placed headboards over the dead soldier’s graves in the cemetery. Barton wrote dozens of letters letting family members know their loved ones had died at Andersonville. When the expedition was finished, Barton was given the honor of raising an American flag, for the first time, over the newly established Andersonville National Cemetery.

After leaving Andersonville in 1865, Barton set up the Missing Soldier’s Office in Washington, D.C. She hired numerous clerks, including Dorence Atwater, to answer the more than 60,000 letters she received. By 1867, when the Missing Soldiers Office closed, Barton and her staff had identified more than 20,000 missing soldiers, including the prisoners who died at Andersonville Prison.

Due to her fame as a nurse, Barton received the majority of the credit for the work of the Andersonville expedition and Missing Soldiers Office. While touring the nation, lecturing on the suffering of Andersonville’s prisoners and displaying artifacts she had collected at the prison, Barton was hailed as “Heroine of Andersonville.” The Andersonville Survivor’s Association inducted her as an honorary member and the Andersonville expedition to identify graves became known as Barton’s expedition. She only accompanied the already planned expedition and mainly wrote letters while at Andersonville, but never identify any graves as often claimed.

 Her work in the Missing Soldiers Office and support of Dorence Atwater are her greatest contributions to Andersonville’s story. In Fall 1865, Atwater was court-martialed and jailed because of a dispute over ownership of the Andersonville Death Register. Through Barton’s efforts, he was finally released. She also supported his publication of the Death Register. Although, she is often mistakenly given credit for identifying prisoners graves at Andersonville, she deserves a great amount of credit for her efforts to account for missing soldiers at Andersonville and countless battlefields.

With all of this pain and death, it is not surprising that Andersonville Prison has stories about supernatural experiences there. Many of the experiences are sensory, both audible and olfactory. One can image that the scent of several foul things is detected here. The stench comes from inside the prison. Sounds range from gunshots to loud cries, whimpers and whispers from the formerly alive prisoners. Marching has also been heard. EVPs have been collected over the years featuring these cries and distant gun shots.

People claim to feel the sadness and extreme fear that clings to the area as if whomever is still here in the afterlife is continuing to feel torment and despair. Apparitions have been seen walking in the fog that sometimes coats the grounds. They appear as shadows moving in the mist that never seem to truly emerge. Many believe that the Raiders who were hung here for their crimes against their fellows are angry and still walk about the camp as though they still wield some kind of power here. There is also the spirit of Father Whelan who seems to still be here taking care of and comforting the disembodied just as he did when they were all still living.

Many men lost their lives here during a war that split this country and left so many devastated. Emotions of all kinds were high at this time and so it is no wonder that something seems to be carrying over to the afterlife. Are these former prisoners still at the prison? Is Andersonville Prison haunted? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes:
National Park Civil War Series: The Prison Camp at Andersonville, William G. Burnett, Published by Eastern National, 1995
The hauntings at the prison:

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