Birds Eye View of Andersonville Prison Ga.

Birds Eye View of Andersonville Prison Ga.

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The largest Confederate prisoner of war camp constructed to house captured Union troops, Andersonville held 45,000 troops over the course of its 14 month existence. Conditions within the camp were horrific and 13,000 Union prisoners died from disease, exposure, and food shortages. This print shows the 26.5-acre Camp Sumter, with dozens of tents contained within a rectangular stockade. Fortifications armed with cannon guard the camp’s corners. Although many men can be seen in the camp, the print does not truly represent the overcrowded conditions that existed inside. The facility was built to house a maximum of 10,000 prisoners but at times held more than 32,000.
This birds-eye view of Andersonville was based on a sketch done by William D. Broom, a soldier in the 20th Pennsylvania Cavalry, who entered service in January of 1864. He must have been taken prisoner sometime shortly after enlisting, as his drawing includes hospital wards in the foreground, inside of the prison walls. These wards were moved outside of the camp later in the year. Broom accurately depicteded details of the camp, including its makeshift tents and sheds used for housing, the polluted creek that ran through the compound, used by soldiers to bathe and wash their clothes, and the infamous “dead line” that ran along the perimeter of the camp, past which anyone nearing the camp walls would be shot. Other brutal realities of prison life pictured in the print include a chain gang, bodies being hauled away on a cart, and dogs viciously attacking a man attempting to escape.
Images of Andersonville remained popular in the North after the war, exhibited in homes as both remembrances of the war’s horrors and alleged examples of widespread Southern cruelty. These prints, by safeguarding the memories of the prison, helped to secure the camp’s designation as a National Historic Site, but also amplified sectional hostilities throughout the years of Reconstruction.
The lithographer of the work, William Boell, first began producing city views in New York City in 1854. In New York, he was involved in partnerships with George W. Lewis (1855) and Francis Michelin (1856-1858). He then moved to Philadelphia, where he worked as a lithographer for the next 22 years. Besides his print of Andersonville Prison, Boell also produced illustrations of the Volunteer Refreshment Saloon in Philadelphia during the war.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Object Type
Date made
Boell, William
Broom, William D.
place made
United States: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
image: 17 1/2 in x 22 1/2 in; 44.45 cm x 57.15 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Harry T. Peters "America on Stone" Lithography Collection
Chronology: 1860-1869
Civil War
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Domestic Life
Domestic Furnishings
American Civil War Prints
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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