Union City Prisoners of War in Andersonville During the Civil War
The bright April 1861 April sunshine turned thoughts of Pennsylvania farm boys to plowing and Pennsylvania farm girls until the Rebels fired on Fort Sumter and the Stars and Bars instead of the Stars and Stripes waved in the April breeze. Then Pennsylvania Yankees rushed to enlist in the infantry, navy, cavalry, artillery, wherever they could fight to save the Union. Not many of them thought about being a prisoner of war. After all, the war had just begun and they were going to lick the Rebels in a few weeks – a month at the most!
Like any other soldiers, Pennsylvania recruits reacted individually to capture and imprisonment. The stories of just a few of them reveal the individual soldier’s capacity to act with courage, dignity, and even humor in the most trying circumstances. Three cavalry soldiers from Northwestern Pennsylvania, Joseph C. Green, Benjamin Watson James, and Charles S. Sanford, were all captured at White Sulphur Springs, Virginia on October 12, 1863. Benjamin Watson James had enlisted as a private in Company K of the Fourth Pennsylvania Cavalry on September 23 1861 at Venango County. Born in 1840 in Wales, he was a miner by occupation and he was 21 years old when he enlisted. He had blue yes, black hair and stood about 5 feet 7 ½ inches tall.
Charles E. Sanford was a private in Company H of the Fourth Cavalry. When he enlisted in October 1861 in Franklin, Pennsylvania, he was 21 years old, had light hair, a florid complexion, blue eyes, and stood five foot six and one half inches tall.
Joseph C. Green was one of the four Green brothers from Union City, Pennsylvania, who had joined different cavalry regiments in the Pennsylvania volunteers. Joseph enlisted as a private in Company D of the Thirteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry and finished a second enlistment.
Cattle were responsible for landing these three men and many other soldiers to Andersonville. Captain H.H. Gregg, with 150 men who had been detached from the cavalry regiments were assigned to duty at the headquarters of the Commissary of Subsistence. The men were in charge of the cattle herd numbering between two and three thousand head. A powerful body of rebel cavalry came upon Captain Gregg and his men near Coggins Point. The Yankee soldiers resisted, but the Rebels overpowered and captured them.
The Rebels hurried the Yankees and the cattle away. The cattle were to replenish the lean Confederate commissaries and the Yankee soldiers were to languish in Andersonville and other prisons. Joseph C. Green died in Andersonville on August 26, 1864 and his grave number is 6.667. Benjamin Watson James was held in Andersonville from March until November of 1864, when he was exchanged in Savannah, Georgia. Charles S. Sanford remained in Andersonville from October 1863 until he was exchanged in November 1865.
Vivid eyewitness testimony about Andersonville came from Thomas F. Roberts, a first lieutenant in the Fifth Pennsylvania Cavalry, Company D. He led his men in the Battle of Stony Creek Station on June 29, 1864, and was taken prisoner with twenty two of them. They were sent immediately to Andersonville where they remained for about three months. Lt. Roberts said that he and the men suffered dreadfully from the hot sun, since they didn’t have any shelter except an old horse blanket that the Rebels didn’t think worthy of taking away from them. He said that there must have been about 30,000 men in the prison and that the average deaths per day from starvation ad neglect was at least 50 in the prison and likely as many more in the hospital outside. Lt. Roberts said, “Our Sergeant Major John Griffith died here, and I do not think there ever was a man who died in so much misery, as he was perfectly alive with vermin.”
Privates Granville Hoskins and Stacy Baxter of Lt. Robert’s company also died miserably. When the lieutenant was released at Wilmington, North Carolina after spending time in the prison in Florence, South Carolina, he weighted 94 pounds, but he still considered himself fortunate. He said, “But I thanked God for the deliverance and was happy.”
John L. Burrows, a private in Company G of the Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Union City, Pennsylvania. He was mustered into the cavalry in August of 1861 and was captured October 17, 1864. He died at Andersonville, Georgia on January 9, 1860.
William Boarts enlisted in Company F of the 103rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry and he was mustered in on December 7, 1861. He was taken prisoner at Plymouth, North Carolina, on April 20, 1864, and imprisoned in Andersonville from april 1864 to March 1865. After the Civil War ended, he returned to his hometown of Union City, Pennsylvania. He is buried in Evergreen Cemetery.
The Battle of the Wilderness marked the imprisonment of private Abizah R. Fross of the 83rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. He was captured on May 5, 1864, at Wilderness and sent to a prison that already had a whispered reputation in the Union lines. Private Fross found h imself on the way to Andersonville, Georgia. A few days later the thing happened to two of Private Fross's fellow Pennsylvanians from the 83rd Regiment. Theophiles C. Chambers had enlisted as a private in Company I in the 83rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry at Waterford, Pennsylvania, on August 29, 1863. Two months later, Nathan D. McKinney joined the Union Army as a private in Co. H of the 83rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.
They both fought at Laurel Hill, Virginia as part of the meeting of the armies of Lee and Grant at Spotsylvania Court House. By the time the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House and its attendant skirmish along the lines at laurel Hill was over, about 900 Confederates and 1,500 Yankees were casualties. General Grant had not been able to defeat or destroy the Army of Northern Virginia, but neither had General lee been able to keep the Army of the Potomac out of central Virginia.
Both armies left Spotsylvania on May 2o and 21, 1864. General Lee rode south, planning how to avoid a siege of Richmond that would doom the Confederacy. General Grant declared that he would continue to fight on the Virginia line.
The two Pennsylvania privates were taken prisoner at laurel Hill. T.C. Chambers was wounded and taken prisoner on May 8, 1864, and Nathan McKinney was taken prisoner on the same day. They both were sent to Andersonville and continuing the togetherness tradition long after the war ended, both answered the final bugle call and were buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Union City.
Lucius Markham , a solider in the 18th Pennsylvania Cavalry, was captured at Cold Harbor on June 1, 1864 and sent to Andersonville. His road to Andersonville was a long and winding one. Born in Columbus, Pennsylvania, on March 6, 1843, Lucius was reared and educated in the public schools of Clymer, new York.
Leaving school when he was still a boy, he enlisted in Co. D, 112th new York Volunteer Infantry on August 7, 1862. His regiment went directly to Suffolk, Virginia and on November 18, 1862 he fought in the Battle of Ludlow and Lawrence Plantations, On December 12, 1862, Lucius participated in the Battle of Joiner's Ford, Virginia.
A new year brought new battles for Markam's regiment.he saw action at Deserted House on January 30, 1863, and in the siege of Suffolk on April 11, 1863.
In June 1864, he fought at Cold Harbor where he was taken prisoner. After spending five months in Andersonville, Lucius was exchanged and spent the remainder of the war at the Navy School Hospital in Maryland. He was mustered out in 1863 and returned home to Clymer, New York, a 23 year old weathered veteran. Lucius farmed until 1892, when he began preaching and served churches in Bear Lake and Wayne County, Pennsylvania.
In 1874, Lucius Markham moved to Union city to take the pastorate of the United Brethren Church where he served until the close of his career. He married Mary E. Wright of Freehold, Pennsylvania, on November 12, 1865, and they eventually had five children. He managed to live a normal life, but his health was badly undermined by his stay in Andersonville.
The siege of Petersburg in the summer of 1864 proved to be an extra long one for several soldiers of the 145th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Charles S. Steadman enlisted in 145th on August 31, 1862, and served until May 1865. He was taken prisoner at Petersburg in June of 1864 and imprisoned at Andersonville and Florence until he was exchanged in February 1865. He was promoted to second lieutenant before he was mustered out with his company on May 3, 1865.
While imprisoned in Andersonville, Charles contracted an illness and nearly died from exposure and starvation. On his return North to his home in Union City, he grew much better and for a number of years was able to move freely and do considerable work. Eventually, his illness forced Charles to give up his active life, but his illness didn't curb his high spirits and he put life into any gathering, especially the Grand Army of the Republic meetings that he faithfully attended. he was buried in Evergreen Cemetery when he died in September of 1886.
In April 1880, the Union City Times printed a story from the Adrian Georgia Times describing what Andersonville looked like 15 years after the war that had created it ended. B.C. Adams, the Adrian Times correspondent, spent three days in Andersonville. He visited its cemetery, prison pen, and the surrounding area. During his stay there he was the guest of Professor A.J. Clark who was in charge of the schools of the place and was an ex-Confederate soldier.
Professor Clark showed him over the prison and pointed out places of interest. Some of the walls that had formed the stockade still stood. They were made of pine logs from 12 to 20 feet long that were stuck in the ground for three or four feet. The logs were slowly decaying.
The holes where the prisoners had burrowed and built dirt houses to shelter themselves from the sun and rain were plainly visible and numerous wells that had been dug by the prisoners with spoons and cups were still there. The wells were from 20 to 40 feet deep and three or four feet in diameter.
The forts where the batteries were planted overlooking the prison pen stood out in stark relief and looked like they had just been built. Nearly through the center of the prison ran a brook of clear, cool spring water. As it rippled along its red clay banks, it was hard for Mr. Adams to imagine the scenes of misery that had taken place along the banks of the stream.
The undergrowth had grown up quite thickly around the prison. There were blackjack oak, chinaberry, persimmons, pine, hickory, and numerous other kinds of trees, frequently from four to ten inches thick. In the ditch where one of the forts was dug stood a pine three about two feet in diameter.
The cemetery consisted of 25 acres with a brick wall four feet high around it. The main entrance was in the center of the west side. From the entrance an avenue 30 feet wide extended to the center of the opposite side. A similar avenue crossed this one at right angles. At the center of the lot and at the intersections wa a diamond shaped plot on which stood the flag staff. The avenues were lined with brick gutters.
The dead were buried in trenches varying in length from 50 to 200 yards, and so close were they buried without coffins, or the ordinary clothing to cover their nakedness that not more than 12 inches were allowed to each man. Indeed, the little white marble tablets marking their resting places measured hardly ten inches in width and almost touched each other.
But from the flag staff in the center, the Stars and Stripes waved triumphantly.