After we visited the Andersonville Prison, we drove over to the other side of the Andersonville National Historic Site property, which is home to Andersonville National Cemetery. The cemetery was born in February 1864 with the first graves of 12,920 Union soldiers who would eventually die at Andersonville Prison, and it continues to accept new burials of service members today.
In the cemetery, the graves of the Andersonville prisoners are much more tightly packed together than in a typical cemetery. The deaths were occurring with such frequency (close to 100 prisoners per day during the summer of 1864) that they buried the dead in trenches, shoulder to shoulder, instead of in individual graves. Each grave was marked with a simple wooden marker and a number. Dorance Atwater, a Union POW at Andersonville, was responsible for keeping the list for the prison matching the grave numbers with the names of the dead. He sat next to the camp commander, Henry Wirz. He took a risk and kept a separate list of the dead and their grave numbers, because he was concerned that the official list he kept for the Confederates would not be turned over at the end of the war. As it turned out, his concern had some merit.
After the war, Dorance Atwater smuggled his list out of the prison and took it to the U.S. Government, which shockingly, didn’t pay much attention. So, he went to the press and his list was published by Horace Greeley, who had founded the New York Tribune. The attention the story received put Atwater in touch with Clara Barton, who ran the Office of Missing Soldiers in Washington, D.C., and later founded the Red Cross.
Clara Barton organized a detail to match the grave numbers with the names of soldiers who had died, and Dorance Atwater went back to Andersonville in the summer of 1865 to help. Thanks to his list, only about 400 of the Andersonville prisoner graves are unidentified soldiers. The detail that summer marked all of the graves that they could with a wooden marker containing the names and states of the soldiers who occupied them, and marked ‘Unknown Soldier’ on those few that they could not identify.
All of the graves are now simple marble, carved to replace the original wooden markers and placed in 1898 and 1899. All of the markers are the same, except one. The grave of Lewis Tuttle, a Sergeant from Maine, is adorned with a stone dove. Nobody knows who placed it there, or when. It is one of the enduring mysteries of the cemetery. But clearly, Sergeant Tuttle was loved by someone.
The cemetery today is peaceful, like the prison site, and has many beautiful shade trees and low brick walls. The day we were there, there was a service, but the cemetery is large enough to walk around and not feel like you are disturbing the service. The audio tour we got back at the Visitor’s Center offers a great history of the cemetery and who is buried there, with stories of brothers and heroes, both during and after the Civil War.
Andersonville was our one activity for the day, and you can read about our visit to the Andersonville Prison site here. After our visit, we headed out on the way to our stop for the night, Macon, Georgia. We stayed at the LaQuinta there, which had a pool! And a million high school baseball players. We got there at about 3:30, so we had some time to lounge by the pool for awhile before we needed to go find dinner. For dinner, we went downtown and stumbled upon a café, La Dolce Vita, which had a great tomato and red pepper bisque and a decent Calzone. Jon had a turkey wrap and an Avocado Salad topped with crab. Delicious!
While in downtown Macon, we saw signs everywhere saying that “businesses are still open during filming.” And there were a lot of parked cars downtown – way more than seemed right for a business district in the evening. We asked our waitress and found out why – they were filming the movie 42, starring Harrison Ford. It is a movie about the life story of Jackie Robinson – sounds kind of interesting, even though I’m not that into sports movies. Unfortunately, we didn’t see Harrison Ford or anybody else that looked remotely famous. But I can at least say, “I was there when they were filming that!”
After dinner, we headed back to the pool for a bit more pool time on our last night in the South.