The picturesque tourist village of Andersonville is essentially a living museum, with over 75,000 visitors annually making the short drive from the park entrance across Georgia Highway 49 to further explore the story of the area. The locals are very friendly and welcoming, with antique shops, a cafe, and one of the best Civil War museums (despite its size; middle building pictured below) to be found in Georgia. Gerald Lamby’s Drummer Boy Civil War Museum has been praised by students and scholars of the war from far and wide. The village post office (pictured above) is still open, and one of just a handful in Georgia not located in modern facilities. It’s a throwback to a time when most post offices were located in general stores or similar frame structures.
Prior to the establishment of Camp Sumter, the surrounding area was focused on agriculture. Originally known as Anderson (for John Anderson, a director of the South Western Railroad), the village name was changed to Andersonville when a post office was established in 1855.
It became a supply center and grew during the war, but at the end of hostilities reverted to farming. In 1973 longtime mayor Lewis Easterlin led the effort to create and promote the tiny town as a Civil War village. Most of the prominent structures seen today were relocated here, saving them for posterity when they would have otherwise been lost.
Perhaps the most prominent feature of the village is the Henry Wirz Monument. Controversial from inception, the simple obelisk has drawn ire, and vandalism, over the years. Even its location at Andersonville was questioned throughout the state before its placement. Captain Heinrich Hartmann “Henry” Wirz was born in Zurich Switzerland in 1822 and served as the commanding officer at Camp Sumter. In 14 months, over 13,000 Union soldiers perished at the prison camp, which was particularly despised by the Union. Wirz was tried as a war criminal and hanged in Washington, D. C., on 10 November 1865. In response to the 16 Union monuments erected in the nearby National Cemetery between 1899 and 1916, the United Daughters of the Confederacy commissioned a memorial to Wirz as a countermeasure. During this era, the UDC was at the forefront of promoting what is known today as Lost Cause mythology. Language on the monument’s base confirms this: Discharging his duty with such humanity as the harsh circumstances of the times, and the policy of the foe permitted Capt. Wirz became at last the victim of a misdirected popular clamor. He was arrested in the time of peace, while under the protection of parole, tried by a military commission of a service to which he did not belong, and condemned to ignominious death on charges of excessive cruelty to Federal prisoners. He indignantly spurned a pardon proffered on condition that he would incriminate President Davis and thus exonerate himself from charges of which both were innocent. Also present are these words of General Grant from 18 August 1864: It is hard on our men held in southern prisons not to exchange them, but it is humanity to those left in the ranks to fight our battles. At this particular time to release all rebel prisoners would insure Sherman’s defeat and would compromise our safety here. The monument was dedicated by the Daughters on 12 May 1909. It has been referred to as the only U. S. monument to a war criminal.
The Atlanta Birmingham & Atlantic Railroad depot was relocated from Mauk, a settlement about 38 miles northwest of Andersonville in Taylor County.
This is one of several antique stores in the village which also sell Civil War-related memorabilia and folk art.
A town hall is painted blue and grey, keeping with the Civil War theme. I’m not sure its original use or location, but feel it was moved here like many of the other historical buildings.
There’s also a village hall, which was built in 1843 on nearby Lightwood Creek and moved to Andersonville in 1890. Wings were added at some point and it served for many years as Andersonville Baptist Church.
Beside the village hall is this gazebo, which I think was the bandstand from nearby Miona Springs.
Just beyond the Village Hall is the inspiring St. James Pennington Church, moved from the nearby hamlet of Pennington.