Charles F. Sweetland's POW Experience at Andersonville

C. F. Sweetland's Experience at Andersonville

Published in Kendall County Record, October 2, 1912

C. F. Sweetland was living on a farm in LaSalle County just across the Kendall County line when he enlisted in Company F, 36th Illinois Infantry. He was captured during the battle of Little Kenesaw (Mountain in Georgia.) and held in Andersonville three days less than a year. He told of his experience at Andersonville at the annual reunion of the 36th Illinois Infantry Regiment held in October 1912.

"The days in Andersonville were awful," said Mr. Sweetland. "Prisoners died by the hundreds every day. In August 129 died in one day. That was the record, but it is on record that one man passed away every 22 minutes during the hot, dry month. No wonder! The only water available was from a sluggish stream that passed under the prison wall into which the rebels threw the refuse of their camp up the creek.

I'll never forget the cloudburst, which broke over the prison one afternoon and tore away part of the wall. The men set up a mighty yell but were hushed by cannon fired across the opening in the wall, which prevented any from escaping.

The day following the storm, after thousands of our comrades had died of thirst, during the previous spell of dry weather, a spring of sparkling water burst forth just inside the "dead line," which was a line 16 feet from the wall over which no one dared to pass for fear of being shot by a guard on the stockade.

It was a wonderful sight to see a thousand men in line taking their turn to get a drink. The spring was named "Providence Spring." The men had their own policemen to see each man waited his turn.

There were 53,000 Union soldiers packed in the prison walls at one time. The area of the grounds was about 22 acres, which included the strip between the "dead line" and the stockade and a small filthy swamp.

There was no chance for a poor fellow to escape; though at one time 32 tunnels were found under the wall where the men had attempted to get away.

Every morning a man on horseback with twenty bloodhounds circled around the walls to find the scent of anyone who might have escaped during the night. The baying of the dogs told us the hounds were on the trail of someone and he would be returned to suffer punishment."

Last Modified on 2012-12-29 14:46:11-0600 CST by Elmer Dickson