A dozen miles northeast of Americus via Hwy-49, the Andersonville National Historic Site (229/924-0343, daily, free) stands on the site of the largest and most notorious Confederate military prison. During the 14 months the prison existed, 45,000 Union soldiers were imprisoned here in overcrowded conditions, and 13,000 died as a result of disease, poor sanitation, and exposure. Once this was uncovered, public outrage was so great that the camp’s commandant, Captain Henry Wirz, the only Confederate officer tried for war crimes, was convicted of murder and hanged in Washington DC. Historians generally agree that there was little he could have done to alleviate the suffering. Thousands of closely packed gravestones fill the Andersonville National Cemetery, just north of the prison site.
Only a few parts of the prison have been reconstructed, but the prisoners’ harrowing stories are told in one part of the adjacent National Prisoner of War Museum, which was dedicated in 1998 and recounts the stories of American POWs during wars up through the present day. Perhaps surprisingly, the tone of the museum is neither vindictive nor especially patriotic, focusing instead on the instances of individual bravery in the face of impossible difficulties.