Two Weeks in Georgia

On March 15, 2021 we moved form Florida to Georgia which became our 17th state to visit in an RV. We are following the spring weather north as well as the pollen. Boy can tall pine trees put off clouds of pollen when the wind blows! Our first of two stops was Wanee Lake Golf and RV Park in Ashburn Georgia. Never stayed on a golf course before. Unfortunately neither of us play golf but we do love the spring colors spread out over the wonderful landscape. The neighbor was catching bass out of the parks large pond (no fishing license required) but we never had the time to try our luck as we had other places to tour. Management is low key and fun to be around at this park. There was no problem walking the dog anywhere along the nine hole golf course.

View of the first tee about 35 yards behind our parking spot. Green fees with a cart seemed to me to be reasonable. The park is remodeling their common areas to include the bar. Pool was open but the water was cold and in need of cleaning.

We were close to Plains Georgia but decided not to make the day trip to town and see if President Jimmy Carter was handy for a visit. Along with just enjoying the weather outside the RV we made the trip to explore a couple Civil War areas. Number one on our list would be the most deadliest ground in the Civil War. The ground was not Gettysburg with its combined death total of 7,863 nor Spotsylvania with its 4,192 solders killed in battle. The deadly ground we walked had been home to 45,000 union soldiers of which more than 13,000 lost their lives within an area 1,620 feet long and 779 feet wide, or about 26.5 acres in total ground. This is the prisoner of war camp known as Andersonville.

Andersonville Georgia National Historic Site is also the home of the National POW Museum. The visitors center, designed to look like guard towers, was closed inside due to the virus thing but a ranger came out to greet us.

The most famous execution following the Civil War was the hanging of Confederate Major Henry Wirz, Commander at the prison in Andersonville (a.k.a Camp Sumter). Sentenced to death for inhuman treatment to include intentionally withholding food from the prisoners. Although reportedly 15% of confederate prisoners died in union camps while up to 20% of union solders passed away from various things such as disease, Andersonville was the worst of the worst during its 13 months of operation. You can do the math – that’s about 1,000 prisoners dieing every month.

I have two other stops to report regarding our time in Georgia but believe it worth most of this blog post in an attempt to describe the emotional experience at Andersonville. As a visual aid I will include current photos of the prison grounds against historic photos.

A walk behind the current POW Museum reveals the grounds of the old prison. Scattered in a small area are monuments buildt by individual states and associations memorializing soldiers from their states that died. This includes loyal union soldiers from the once confederate State of Tennessee. Of special note, please notice how the ground slopes down into a creek valley and then back up the other side.
Here is one monument that shows 104 union soldiers from my home state of Missouri are buried at Andersonville. More about one of those soldiers later in this post.
This is a view down and up the hill towards the monuments behind the museum building. I have drawn a red line around what was once the outline of the 15′ wood stockade walls. The white posts outline the wall. In clear view is a ditch or marshy area which consisted of creek water trickling though the camp from which prisoners were expected to drink, wash and defecate nearby. Also shown in the photo is a small building just below the recreated stockade wall. This building is the Providence Spring memorial.
Historic photo of prisoners living uphill from the creek that ran through the center of the camp.
One day a miracle occurred at the camp. Water shot up from the ground in the form of a fresh water spring. Before, prisoners were having to wait for rain in order to trap drinking water as the small creek that ran through the camp was contaminated. Years later surviving prisoners met at the spot of the spring.

Just inside the main walls of the camp was a no-mans area marked by a small wood fence known as the kill line. Confederate guards manned towers overlooking the prison from what they called a pigeon-roost. Some of those towers were manned by young boys who were given time off for every prisoner they shot who happened to hang a body part past the line.

In red ink is the kill line. Drift here and be instantly shot.
I make a habit of asking park rangers or museum guides what is the most unique thing to see. In this case the ranger said most miss the single white marker near the center of the camp. This is where the ‘raiders’ where hung. The raiders where a group of union soldiers that took advantage of new arrivals to the prison. Watch the movie Andersonville which I found to be accurate based on what I learned.

Early during the Civil War it was common to have a prisoner exchange after a battle. Later, the exchange policy ended to include all negotiations whereby Andersonville prisoners expected to be traded for confederate prisoners. Towards the end of the war union troops were in the area, to include Atlanta to the northeast. Andersonville was vacated but later prisoners were moved back in once the union army did not show up to take the camp. The prison had been constructed in February of 1864 and would have been empty after General Lee surrendered in May of 1865.

On the worst days over 100 prisoners died within the camp. If you follow a narrow road away from camp it leads to a cemetery. Fortunately a list of names for those that died was kept. Can you imagine what it would have been like to see those 100 plus dead removed from the camp each day. At first they buried them somewhat spread apart but later they were placed shoulder to shoulder in a trench. Here is what that looked like in the next historic photo.

Here are a few of the graves. I have marked 100 graves in my photo with a yellow dot to signify one days worth of burials.

As Karen and I walked among the dead there was no way of not recognizing that beneath every single step we took, buried shoulder to shoulder were the victims of this prison. I thought how dare anyone in this nation today think a state should secede from the union. These soldiers had names and a family.

Above is death #4169. I stopped and returned to the truck at grave 12,000 something, having just walked down a single row. All I knew about death #4169 was a name JNO. Nelson of Missouri. I put on my detectives hat, having decided to spend no more than two hours finding out about JNO. This is Private John Nelson of Company A, 29th Infantry Regiment of Missouri. He died from “diarrhea” on 7-28-64 in Andersonville. His company originally formed in or near St. Louis Missouri (maybe in Cape Girardeau MO August 9, or September 5 1862). By December 1863 his company would have been fighting under General Sherman’s army around Atlanta Georgia located 150 miles to the north of the prison. John was 19 years of age when he died. I have called my sister Deanna to see if she can help find more information as she has a Acensistry.com account. I’d like to know about John’s family.

Just a sample of the Andersonville graves that line both sides of the road. Located in another section of the area is a modern national grave yard.

Our next day trip was to the Jefferson Davis Historic Site which is run by the Georgia State Parks. The visitors center was open. Davis was the president of the Confederate States and fled Richmond later to be captured at this location. He was held for two years and released. The park grounds were in full spring bloom.

I asked the museum director what was the most unique artifact to which he pointed to a uniform jacket saying there were only 10 of them in existence. This is a small site with a walking trail and marker of where Jefferson was captured.

From Wanee Lake Golf and RV Park we moved 180 miles north to the area of West Point Georgia, located south of Lagrange. We camped for a week backed up to a Corp. of Engineer Lake at R. Shaefer Heard Campground. We booked a wonderful spot where we were able to get the kayak out and our dog Wyatt took his first lesson learning to ride without jumping overboard. A friend asked how we were able to find spots in Corp of Engineer parks as they had trouble finding any with empty spaces. We are willing to divert off our original route for miles if necessary, especially if the park is not close to any large metropolitan areas or within access off a nearby US highway. I suppose that often our route planning has a lot to do with driving between parks rather than just sticking to whatever highway is shortest between our ultimate destinations. Spring moves about 100 miles a week. So yet again we find ourselves experiencing the changing colors and climate.

Getting close to the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains
R. Shaefer Heard COE Spot 113

We were in northwest Alabama during the start of the pandemic last year where we met a guy we called Slim. He was constructing a solar energy site at the time and Karen watched his dog during the day. What a small world this trip became. As we were approaching the Lagrange Georgia area Karen’s phone rang. We had not talked to Slim for a long, long time. He asked how we were doing and what part of the country we were in. Little did we know we were now 30 miles from his house. We enjoyed the day at Slim’s where he offered a full hookup RV spot on his property for the next time we are in the area.

Unfortunately the multi-million dollar US Infantry Museum outside Columbus Georgia was closed. It’s federally operated and yet again we found a federal site not open due to the virus thing. We also passed on a visit to the Tuskegee Airfield (home of WW2 Tuskegee Airmen) as the main museum was closed because of the virus. Yep, the airfield museum is run by the National Park Service.

We have made our way to a wonderful national forest in Alabama and will be moving to Tennessee on April 14. You can follow us on RVillage.com

P.S. – I have scheduled my Covid vaccine through Walgreens in Alabama. Nothing on theirs or state website says I can’t get it in Alabama if I live in Texas. Last week I could find no place close with the one shot version. Checking again this week I found a next day appointment.

2 thoughts on “Two Weeks in Georgia

  1. Thank you for a very informative and moving post. I was not aware of the Andersonville Georgia National Historic Site, but I will definitely keep this site in mind on our travels. I like your idea to ask what is the most unique feature at a museum, and I plan to steal this idea. Our library (St. Charles City-County) currently offers remote access to ancestry.com (the library version.) I also like your idea to personalize the historical events. Even just knowing this man was 19 years old when he died humanizes the events beyond headstones and numbers. We also camp at Corps of Engineer campgrounds whenever we can. We enjoy staying in an area for awhile and taking in all the points of interests and/or just enjoying the beautiful scenery where we are. Thank you again for this moving post. We all have an obligation, in my mind anyway, to learn about these events and honor the sacrifices made.

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    • Thanks for the idea, I’ll check with my local library. Asking that question of staff at museums has paid off more than once. I figure that usually the staff give the same information over and over during a day, this is a chance for them to change it up and often leads into conversation on various topics of interest.

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