Putting It All Together
Andersonville Prison was shut down when the war ended in 1865. Some former prisoners remained in federal service, but most returned to their prewar civilian occupations. Andersonville Prison would not be forgotten, either by those who experienced it or by later generations of Americans. It continues to symbolize the prisoner of war experience: physical and mental suffering and the need to cope with almost intolerable conditions. The following activities will provide students with an opportunity to better comprehend the prisoner of war experience and understand how the story of Andersonville is relevant today.
Activity 1: Family History
Have students with an ancestor who fought or lived during the Civil War research that person's life. Have other students find and read firsthand accounts of the war. (Most libraries have several volumes of such accounts.) Ask all students to write an essay describing what those persons did during the war and how the war affected their lives. Post these essays on a bulletin board.
Activity 2: Money in Prison
As students enter the classroom, assume the role of the "sutler" and issue them various amounts of "money." (Use play money or simply give them a slip of paper that states the amount of money they are allotted.) Stress to them that this money must last throughout their prison stay. As the class begins, tell students that no rations will be issued. If they are to eat, they must buy from the "sutler's" (your) supply. Have the students determine what they would buy based on the figures in Reading 2. Would they need to pay to have their hair cut or laundry washed? Would they try to save some of their money until they are released? Give students about 10 minutes to make their decisions, and then call on several students who were allotted different amounts of money. Have them report on their spending. Then ask other students to explain the guidelines they used to "budget" their funds.
Activity 3: The Raiders' Trial
Have students "reenact" the Raiders' trial (excluding carrying out the sentence!). Select six Raiders, a defense lawyer, a prosecution lawyer, and a number of prisoners to testify. Specific accusations must be made from the (imagined) personal experiences of the prisoners. The class can act as jury and decide the fate of the Raiders. (The same idea can be used with the trial of Captain Wirz.)
Activity 4: Prisoner of War Camps
Ask the students to research the existence of prisoner of war camps (from any war) in their local area, their state, or a nearby state. The state historical library can provide research materials if a camp was located in the state or in a nearby state. Where were the prisoners from? Compare this prison with Andersonville.
Activity 5: Interview a Former Prisoner of War
As a class, develop an outline for an interview or discussion questions to ask a former prisoner of war (POW). Students may arrange interviews on their own, or you may ask a former POW to speak to your class. (Organizations such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars are excellent sources for locating former prisoners of war who are willing to visit schools.) On the following day, have students compare their guest's experience with that of the prisoners at Andersonville. Visit the Veterans History Project website, a project created by the Library of Congress, and have students submit their interviews to the collection.