Andersonville, or Camp Sumter as it was officially known, was one of the largest of many established prison camps during the American Civil War. It was built early in 1864 after Confederate officials decided to move the large number of Federal prisoners kept in and around Richmond, Virginia, to a place of greater security and a more abundant food supply. During the 14 months the prison existed, more than 45,000 Union Solders were confined here. Of these, almost 13,000 died from disease, poor sanitation, malnutrition, overcrowding, or exposure to the elements.
My wife Amy’s 2nd great-grand uncle, Samuel Davidson, was one of the 13,000 who perished there in 1864. He was private in the Pennsylvania 184th Regiment (Company “A”) organized on May 14th, 1864. They were under the command of Major Charles Kleckner. On May29th after it had joined the Army of the Potomac it was led into battle at Tolopotomy Creek. It was engaged in skirmishing on the way to Cold Harbor, and on the second day of battle, led the brigade in two desperate assaults upon the enemy’s works, losing sixty-seven killed, and one hundred and thirteen wounded, and leaving some of it’s dead on the enemy’s entrenchments.
For its unflinching bravery, it was warmly commended by its brigade commander. For ten days it remained upon the front line, heavy skirmishing being constantly kept up. It then moved with the corps, and crossing the James, assaulted the enemy’s works on the 16th, repeating the assault on the two following days., and losing in each very heavily. On the 22nd the assault was renewed, and the brigade, after having charged and gained a position close upon the fortifications, was out-flanked, and a large number were taken prisoners. In this engagement, the regiment lost 52 in killed and wounded, and 115 taken prisoners.
Out of the 500 men who stood in the ranks on the banks of the Tolopotomy, on the 29th of May, 350, including 12 officers, had either been killed wounded or taken prisoners, in a period of twenty-five days — a loss unprecedented. Of the number taken prisoners on the 22nd, sixty-seven died at Andersonville.
Samuel Davidson was one of them. He died October 28, 1864 of “Scorbutus.” Also known as scurvy which is disorder caused by lack of vitamin C. Symptoms include anemia; soft, bleeding gums; and bumps under the skin near muscles.
Yesterday, Amy and I visited Andersonville National Historic Site.