John Urschel has a Bachelor’s Degree in History and a Master’s Degree in Public History, from Wright State University in Fairborn, Ohio.
He is the retired Records Manager and Archivist for South Bend and St. Joseph County, Indiana and Records and Information Manager for Kalamazoo, Michigan.
While working as a contract archivist for the Buchanan, Michigan District Library in 2011, he embarked upon a project to research the Civil War veterans from the Buchanan area. The project turned into three presentations and a sourcebook. While investigating interest in Buchanan Boys in Blue at other local libraries, Toni Benson, rest her soul, in Decatur insisted that he do the same for the Decatur area Civil War Veterans. Buchanan Boys in Blue became Michigan Boys in Blue Volume One and Decatur was titled Michigan Boys in Blue Volume Two. Other areas expressed interest and the one time presentation has become a series of volumes on Michigan’s Civil War soldiers.
Also in the series is a major investigatory work on the Michigan dead at Andersonville National Cemetery. With the help of Chris Czopek of Lansing, Steve Soper of Grand Rapids, and the staff of the Andersonville National Historic Site, “Michigan at Andersonville”, is the most accurate listing of Michigan burials at the infamous prison. “Indiana at Andersonville” has been completed as has a volume on Michigan soldiers buried at Gettysburg National Cemetery.
INDIANA BURIALS AT ANDERSONVILLE NATIONAL CEMETERY
This volume is not about the conditions at Andersonville, the horror of Andersonville, the hopelessness of Andersonville or about finding fault or placing blame for the horrific national disgrace and catastrophe that was Andersonville. Suffice it to say that Andersonville was the deadliest place on earth during the Civil War. This research effort is only concerned with identifying those Indiana soldiers whose remains lie in the Andersonville National Cemetery and those Indiana boys who lived through it.
While researching my first volume of Michigan Boys in Blue, I ran across a series of prisoner of war deaths at Camp Oglethorpe in Macon, Georgia. This long-forgotten prison was a makeshift affair consisting of a fairground with a stockade fence. Three buildings dotted the enclosure and none of them sheltered the rank and file.
Union prisoners began arriving in Macon in April 1862 after the warehouses in Montgomery, Alabama were overflowing with the captives from the Battle of Shiloh. Macon’s Mayor received a telegram from the Mayor of Montgomery stating that 900 prisoners were already on a train headed his way. The citizens of Macon volunteered blankets and other necessities for the hastily constructed stockade.
As days of confinement turned into months, deceased prisoners were taken to Oak Ridge Cemetery where Macon’s city slaves were buried. Oak Ridge was adjacent to and is now part of Rose Hill Cemetery. Eventually, a prisoners’ cemetery was created immediately to the West of the camp and it appears on post-war maps of the city. Late in the war, Union soldiers were also interred in the old Seventh Street City Cemetery, two blocks from the fairgrounds-turned-prison camp. In 1868 the Federal Government began collecting Union soldiers’ remains throughout the South and created the National Cemeteries to honor them. Andersonville, Georgia, where over twelve thousand dead Federals already lay buried in Camp Sumter’s cemetery, became one of those National Cemeteries.
It was to Andersonville that the soldiers’ remains from Macon’s cemeteries were taken. Investigating those graves at Andersonville revealed that the disinterred Macon remains were re-buried consecutively upon arrival at Andersonville, and while we don’t know whom many of them are individually, they remain collectively intact.
One cannot visit Andersonville without reflecting on the suffering and deprivation that the wartime burials, the men who now lie in covered trenches, represent. Each body received approximately ten inches of width in the burial trenches. Wandering the headstones and snapping photos of Michigan men, led to the realization that there were relatively few unknowns that are so prevalent in the other National Cemeteries.
Camp Sumter, or Sumpter, near Anderson Station in Sumter County, Georgia, operated from late February 1864 until May 1865. It was largely evacuated in October/November 1864 in response to General Sherman’s March through Georgia which CSA authorities presumed would involve freeing the prisoners at Macon and Andersonville. Most prisoners were taken by rail to Camp Lawton near Millen, Georgia or to Florence, South Carolina. When Camp Lawton was
threatened by Sherman’s actual advance, some of the POWs were sent back to Andersonville on Christmas Eve, 1864. Realistically, General Sherman could never have dealt with a released POW population that nearly equaled the size of his army, which was already living off the land. He later said the best he could do for the POWs was to end the war, and secure their release.
One of the most intriguing facts of the prison’s operation was that while over 12,900 POWs died in Camp Sumter, only 64 died of smallpox. Such was the magnificent work of the doctors in removing suspected infectious cases to the smallpox hospital (a pest or pestilence house in the parlance of the day), isolated one mile south of the camp. This is also where the smallpox victims were originally buried. These figures indicate a highly successful quarantine as well as an innovative vaccination campaign.
Accounting for the Dead
Only about 460 unknown soldiers remain in Andersonville. This lack of unknowns is the work of Private Dorence Atwater of New York, who created the detailed lists of the dead at Andersonville. Private Atwater was a paroled prisoner who worked as a clerk for Chief Surgeon Isaiah H. White beginning in mid June 1864. (About 2,000 burials had taken place before he assumed this role.) He had been in the hospital in May suffering from diarrhea. Apparently he made two copies of his lists. One was for the commandant and another he kept hidden. It is his list that enables us to find an individual in over 12,000 wartime burials. Atwater returned to Andersonville in the summer of 1865 to help Clara Barton in her efforts to identify the dead.
Private Atwater obviously worked at a severe disadvantage. Although he did have access to POWs in the hospital before they expired, he had no access to official records or rosters. The best source of potentially accurate information was obviously dead or gravely ill at best. The deceased may have expired in the prison hospital but many chose to expire in the stockade.
A prisoner’s mess mates would have known only what he had wanted them to know and men, in prison, have good reason to fabricate identities and facts. This was especially true when resources were so scarce that violence, starvation and disease were rampant. Fake identities were absolutely necessary if, to escape continued confinement and possible death, the POW signed up with Colonel O’Neil and joined the Confederate Army. I believe these “turncoats” inspired the quotes on nearly every monument at Andersonville, “Death before Dishonor.”
Even with accurate verbal information, Private Atwater, then had the daunting task of spelling what he had heard. He did a remarkable job and is a true hero of the Civil War. The corrections and suggestions herein are merely a continuation of his work and only a small fraction of it. I stand entirely upon his shoulders, along with the chief surgeon’s clerks who preceded him and those who worked alongside him. It is with great deference and admiration that I hope to reduce some confusion and explain why I believe a grave is occupied by a specific person. Some are obvious, most are not. Even when the name on the list is inaccurate, supplemental information is usually helpful. The death date, company, regiment, arm of service, and state, for examples, can be correct and the corresponding soldier found in the official records and regimental histories. Since the dead were hurriedly buried in pre-dug trenches, a death date is relatively certain just from the numerical order of the graves. It is also apparent that some of the regimental histories, used Atwater’s list and a New York Tribune reprint as gospel and included those with no previous records of service. I refer to these records as “back-entries” when the only record found is Atwater’s.
Since Andersonville operated relatively late in the war, the work of identifying the POWs at Andersonville had major advantages over attempts to identify those who died earlier in the conflict. In 1864, to instill some esprit d’corps, Army Corps, especially in the Army of the Potomac, began designing and issuing corps badges for the soldiers. In addition, Union soldiers at Cold Harbor (June, 1864) began writing their names on strips of paper and pinning them to their clothing. Thus the modern dog tag was born, as they had seen way too many hastily-dug unmarked graves.
Most, but by no means all, Indiana POWs were captured as a group with companions who could accurately identify the recently deceased for Atwater. Moreover, many more prisoners survived the camp than perished there.
Indiana’s POW dead share a good chance of having been recorded correctly, even though some ensuing recompilations and handwriting interpretations failed to retain that accuracy. Approximately 2025 Indiana soldiers suffered at Camp Sumter resulting in over 700 deaths. Large groups of troopers from Indiana’s Cavalry regiments were captured “en masse”, thanks largely to General George Stoneman, who surrendered the entire 5th and 6th regiments on his poorly-executed raid to free the prisoners at Macon and Andersonville. The 5th and 6th had 302 individuals imprisoned at Andersonville.
The fight at Brice’s Crossroads, Mississippi left the majority of 110 soldiers of the 93rd Indiana Infantry imprisoned at Andersonville and of the 69 Camp Sumter POWs of the 7th Cavalry, most were captured at Brice’s Crossroads or Guntown, Mississippi. Most of the 80 soldiers of the 7th Indiana Infantry who arrived at Andersonville’s gates were taken prisoner in the Battle of the Wilderness, near Chancellorsville, Virginia on May 5th, 1864.
The Nashville Campaign of trailing John Bell Hood’s CSA Army of Tennessee from Georgia to Tennessee in the autumn of 1864 involved three engagements at Spring Hill, Franklin and Nashville. The first at Spring Hill snared all of the 31 men of Company C of the 124th Indiana Infantry. Thirty-nine from the 124th saw the insides of Andersonville. The Battle of Franklin claimed a heavy toll of the 10th Cavalry regiment as well and 79 of them ended up confined at Camp Sumter.
Major General William Tecumseh Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign sent 119 of the 2nd Cavalry and 53rd Infantry to southern Georgia from places like Peach Tree Creek on the outskirts of Atlanta and Varnell’s Station. Major General James Wilson’s raid through Alabama and Georgia tolled heavily on the 2nd Cavalry as well at Scottville, Alabama and Newnan, Georgia.
The Battle of Chickamauga, at a creek in Northern Georgia in September 1863 cost many Indiana boys from the 42nd and 25th Infantries their freedom. The regiments combined for 80 Andersonville detainees.
Parole and Exchange
Indiana’s deaths in prisoner of war camps could have been far worse had it not been for paroling and exchanging in the first years of the war. Before black soldiers were mustered into the Union army in the summer of 1863, the two belligerent sides exchanged and paroled prisoners regularly. Nearly all of the Indiana soldiers captured prior to the Battle of Gettysburg and the Siege of Vicksburg in early July 1863 were given battlefield paroles. A paroled Union prisoner was usually sent to a parole camp, such as Camp Chase in Columbus, Ohio or Camp
Parole, in Annapolis, Maryland, to await exchange for Union-held Confederate prisoners. Some wounded parolees were even sent home.
But later in the war, the South refused to exchange black Union POWs, regarding them as runaway slaves, although most were free men. Conversely, the North refused to exchange at all unless blacks were included. (This may have been the first official act of the Federal Government assigning equality to a black man.) General Grant also realized he was re-capturing non-exchanged parolees later in the war that had been captured at Vicksburg where Pemberton’s entire army had surrendered in July 1863. Wholesale exchanges and paroling also ceased in accordance with Grant and President Lincoln’s realization that to win the war, the Confederate armies had to be destroyed and exchanges were actually counterproductive to this goal of winning by attrition. Even with this policy, many local prisoner exchanges took place. General
W.T. Sherman authorized exchanges after the fall of Atlanta as the Andersonville records clearly show POWs being sent there for exchange. And some, found to have prevaricated about being Sherman’s men, were heartlessly returned. Overall, the lack of exchanges led to severe overcrowding in already ill-equipped prison camps. Add to this that Andersonville was seen as the solution to the severe overcrowding of Richmond’s prisons and disaster awaited.
My unofficial death toll for Indiana at Andersonville is 716.
The resources used to identify the Andersonville burials start with Atwater’s list. Two hand-written re-compilations of Atwater’s original list were the primary source materials as well as one type-written compilation. Scans of these lists were pored over (all of these resources are online if you would like to do your own research) as preference was given to the earliest documents, even if deciphering 19th century hand writing made the task daunting at times.
The New York Herald published its own list of Union dead at Andersonville in 1866 and unfortunately it was used to update the original lists. For the most part these “corrections” proved to be misleading. Another invaluable resource was the Andersonville prison hospital ledger which was created while the POW still lived, if only barely. The lists of the deceased were then compared with the rosters in the Indiana Regimental Histories series.
Civil War pension records present a completely different set of problems. So many Congressional Acts amended the pension application process that it is practically impossible to know what the rules for granting a pension were at any specific time. It is obvious that fraud was rampant as the second Civil War pension act of Congress dealt primarily with cheaters, defrauders, unscrupulous pension enablers and double-dippers.
Early in the process soldiers could be discharged due to a disability, apply and receive a pension, and recover sufficiently to re-enlist. The pensioner could then receive a disability pension while being active military and drawing a full salary. This behavior was specifically prohibited in the second pension act. And the rates charged by some attorneys to file pension applications must have been exorbitant as the allowable fees were capped by an Act of Congress!
For purposes of this research, however, the pension records can clarify or confuse the death and burial records. The application process often included sworn statements of fellow prisoners attesting to the capture, imprisonment and/or death of the soldier and the Adjutant General and/or Surgeon General investigated the soldier’s disposition. It is logical to assume that an application for a disability (invalid) pension by a soldier after the war would eliminate him as a possible burial, However, there was so much fraud that this does not necessarily preclude the soldier having been buried at Andersonville, especially if the application was rejected.
Conversely, denying a pension claim may have had nothing to do with the soldier’s record or death but may reflect upon the proof of the relationship of the claimant to the deceased or, more probably, the state of monetary affairs of the claimant. A survivor needed to be without other means of support to receive a pension. This is why elderly parents started receiving survivor’s benefits well into the early 1900s when they could no longer work. Survivors could be widows (pensions ceased if they remarried), minors up to age 16, parents who could prove their deceased soldier-son provided their support, even applications for orphaned brothers and sisters were included. To muddle the pension waters even more, an application for benefits could be approved if the soldier died of complications of disease or disability incurred during their Civil War service, even if the death occurred many decades after the war.
Reports of soldiers succumbing at Andersonville, and not listed in Andersonville records, were checked against Atwater’s list or failing to find them there, the Veteran Administration’s National Gravesite Locator (NGL) was consulted. The NGL is unfortunately the least accurate list encountered, but a confirmation there precluded further searches. Failing with the NGL, the Camp Sumter prison rosters were perused. If the POW was still not found, the search then included the national indices of Civil War Soldiers, Indiana card files, pension records, Captain Moore’s list of POW deaths, a hand-written compilation of all Andersonville prisoners and a compilation of all Union dead. Any lead was pursued, usually with a less than conclusive result.
Finally, the Andersonville National Historic Site’s database of POWs from Indiana was obtained, thanks to Cemetery Superintendent, Charles Barr. This list at once pleased and disappointed as 90% of the information corroborated what had already been ascertained. The other 10% however was totally new or contradictory information. To reconcile the Parks Service’s database with the data already collected became a crucial endeavor.
Very, very few burials at Andersonville are void of conflicting information due to the conditions and magnitude of the effort to record them. Up to and over 100 POWs died per day in August 1864 with 3 to 4,000 lined up daily for sick call. If the record for a grave revealed multiple names and various spellings, deciding which is correct could be tedious, frustrating and inconclusive. Initially, the name as spelled in the Indiana regimental histories was used because it was created directly from the enlistment records where the soldier’s name was recorded when that soldier was alive, well, and standing in front of the recruiter. It was then assumed that even if that enlistment name is incorrect, it has the best chance that further records for that soldier were recorded under that name. Secondly, the pension applications for widows, mothers and minors would seem to be a good source for the correct spelling. Additionally, the hospital admittance ledgers were recorded while the soldier still lived. If multiple names and spellings of significant variation are available, they are all included when more than a slight variation exists.
Each source encountered was a study in black and white. Either a soldier was buried at Andersonville or not. It was decided that this volume would embrace the conflicting information. As an acknowledgement to these contradictions, included with each soldier is a confidence rating comprised of three factors. 1) Is this soldier likely to be buried at Andersonville, 2) in the grave number assigned and 3) is this soldier from Indiana? An “AA” rating indicates that information is plentiful and identical. An “A” includes very slight variations among multiple sources. “B, C
& D” indicate lessening degrees of corroboration. An “F” indicates that some source mentioned a death at Andersonville but is otherwise uncorroborated. Also attached are those reported to be but apparently are not from Indiana or are found to be Hoosiers buried elsewhere.
Finally, soldiers in this volume without grave numbers were included in histories and other sources as having died at Andersonville. There are unknowns at Andersonville and the death dates were compared with the unknowns. Nearly all of these reported Andersonville POWs received a “D” confidence rating. There are thousands of unknown soldiers in National Cemeteries and thousands who died in other Confederate prisons. Each reported Indiana death was researched. Included are soldiers from Indiana who served in other states’ regiments. Also included are soldiers from other states and Canada who served in Indiana units, as their sacrifice is worth noting for their contributions to the State of Indiana.
If you are not already terribly confused, there are also post-war burials at Andersonville from various original burial sites throughout Middle Georgia. The Adjutant General’s reports on the exhumations are nothing short of amazing with descriptions of uniform bits, insignia, missing limbs, eyeglasses, rings and pocket contents. They had been buried for up to six years.
I am indebted to the staff at Andersonville National Historic Site. Director Brad Bennett, Cultural Resources Interpreter Alan Marsh, Chief Interpreter Eric Leonard, Ranger and Tour Guide Christopher Barr, and Cemetery Superintendent Charles Barr, all of whom spent time with me and always greeted my Emailed questions with interest and promptness. By the time you read this, Brad, Eric and Chris will have all moved on to other National Park Sites and Alan will have retired. While I have done my best to ensure accuracy, the headstones will not be changed. They are historically significant in their own right, having marked the graves for over 100 years.
and their abbreviations
ANDERSONVILLE ORIGINAL RECORDS – NATIONAL ARCHIVES AND R E C O R D S ADMINISTRATION (NARA)
USMBR – U.S. Burial Registers, Military Posts and National Cemeteries 1862-1960 (hand written numeric list # 1)
U.S. Burial Registers, Military Posts and National Cemeteries 1862-1960 (hand written numeric list # 2)
U.S. Burial Registers, Military Posts and National Cemeteries 1862-1960 (type-written alphabetic list)
M – Captain James Moore’s burial list – he assisted Clara Barton in the summer of 1865
(type-written Alphabetic List – Letter “M” burials greater than 5000 missing) – NARA Hosp- 2 sets of Hospital Records of Andersonville (hand written & typed) – NARA
POW – compiled lists of all POWs incarcerated at Andersonville
NDL – National Death List, a combined list of various primary sources ANPS – ANDERSONVILLE NATIONAL PARKS SERVICE DATABASE
Burial Register of Andersonville National Cemetery c. 1908 Headstones of Andersonville National Cemetery, March 1990
List of Union Soldiers buried at Andersonville, Dorence Atwater, 1865 Andersonville Diary, John L. Ransom, 1881
Hell on Belle Isle, Journal of J. Osbunn Coburn, 1997
Union Dead of the Florence Stockade © South Carolina Genealogical Society
RH – Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Indiana Volume IV 1861-1865 (c) 1866 Pension – Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Widows and Other Dependents of
Civil War Veterans, ca. 1861 – ca. 1910. (NARA) – or – Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900.
NGL – National Gravesite Locator and Veterans Administration graves index
GWL – CSA General John Winder’s list of POWs who had money confiscated from them Key to Soldiers’ records:
Headstone photo, burial #, rank, first name, initial, surname (variations), [confidence rating], residence, company and regiment, enlistment date, capture location and date, death date, cause of death (NGL – confirmation or discrepancies)(other sources discrepancies) Pension records
A glossary of military terms, 19th century medical names and abbreviations used is included.