Preserving Our Heritage for Future Generations
During the month of November in 1864, some 5,000 Union Soldiers began arriving by rail along the Atlantic & Gulf Railroad into the small community of Blackshear, Georgia. At the outbreak of the war the town contained just 333 households. Most of the men had gone off to fight in the war, serving in the 50th Georgia Infantry Regiment, 26th Georgia Infantry Regiment, and 4th Georgia Cavalry Regiment, leaving the women and children to manage as best they could.
When these prisoners of war began arriving the citizens were not prepared to handle such overwhelming numbers of starving human beings. Nevertheless, they shared what little they had.
By the beginning of January, 1865, the Union prisoners and their guards had moved on either northward into South Carolina or westward to the prison camp in Thomasville.
Personal accounts of Union soldiers are beginning to surface which help us in determining the scope of Blackshear at the time of the war.
John McElroy, 16th Illinois Cavalry, Company L, stated, " Pierce County as I have learned by the census report, is one of the poorest counties of a poor section of a very poor state." He added, "After leaving the cars we were marched off into the pine woods, by the side of a considerable stream, and told that this would be our camp. A heavy guard was placed around us, and a number of pieces of artillery mounted where they would command the camp. We started in to make ourselves comfortable, as at Millen, by building shanties."
Quartermaster Sergeant John Ransom, 9th Michigan Cavalry wrote, "Dec. 4, 1864, Fresh meat again today. Rebels go out to neighboring plantations and take cattle, drive them here, and butcher for us to eat. Rice is also given us to eat. Have plenty of wood to cook with."
Ralph Bates, 9th Ohio Cavalry Regiment, Company H, claimed in his diary, "The Blackshear prison was completely commanded by earthworks with mounted cannon, and was guarded by several hundred Confederate soldiers."
See also: PCHGS: Historical: WBTS Prison Camp
Military Records:Civil War Prisons
Andersonville Civil War Prison
(Confederate Guards from Georgia who died while serving at Andersonville Prison)
Andersonville Prisoner Lookup
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Military History Section created October 1999
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