Take a step back in time as Andersonville National Historic Site turns itself back into Camp Sumter during its annual Living History Weekend March on Saturday and Sunday.
Historical re-enactors will demonstrate daily life for both Union prisoners and Confederate soldiers during the site’s time as the military prison called Camp Sumter.
“It is designed to give people a small glimpse of what it would have been like,” said Daniel Koch, lead park ranger, volunteer coordinator and historic weapons supervisor at Andersonville.
During the 14 months the POW camp was active, more than 45,000 Union soldiers were kept there in its height in 1864. Originally 16 ½ acres, the site grew by 10 acres once the original space could no longer hold all of the prisoners. About five acres was unusable swamp land.
“There were 32,000 there at one time. It was just massive sea of humanity,” said Koch.
The Living History Weekend has been going on at Andersonville since the 1980s and the site tries to change what they offer each year, Koch said.
Programs such as artillery demonstrations, dividing of rations for prisoners and special speakers will be on hand during both days.
A group from Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield will do a cannon demonstration. Several different re-enactment groups will be on hand to help the site come to life. About 40-50 volunteers will be present during the weekend to show visitors how guards, prisoners and civilians lived and worked during Andersonville’s peak.
“Prisoners would arrive by train and the soldiers would march them over,” Koch said.
The re-enactors will march into the camp just like they would have in spring 1864. A reproduction log book will be used to sign in the prisoners this weekend as it would have been done in the 14 months of the camp’s existence.
The Confederate soldiers sent to guard the Union prisoners were usually the men too old or too young to fight.
“There were boys as young as 12 and 13 years old and as old as late 50s,” Koch said.
Volunteers will portray the lives of both prisoner and guards as well as the civilians who lived around and in the area during the camps last months of the Civil War. Tours of the prisoner site will be available as well as Junior Ranger Programs.
At 3 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, David Bush is scheduled to give a talk about Johnson Island in Sandusky, Ohio, where Confederate officers were kept prisoner. Bush was formerly the archeologist at Johnson Island for 30 years. He will discuss how that POW camp in the north changed its policies based on what it saw at Camp Sumter, Koch said.
Andersonville is home to the National Prisoner of War Museum, the Andersonville National Cemetery and the site of Camp Sumter.
Living History Weekend
Where: Andersonville National Historic Site, 760 POW Road, Andersonville
When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday
More information: www.nps.gov/ande/planyourvisit.livinghistoryweekend.htm or 229-924-0343