Yesterday, we drove down to Plains to be at Maranatha Baptist Church at 1:00 to get our seating tickets to go back down there today to be part of President Carter's Sunday School class. That whole amazing, incredible experience deserves its own blog post, though.
On our way back, we stopped in Andersonville. Larry had never been but since I grew up in Oglethorpe, I had been many times. Every October, my family and I went to the arts and crafts festival in the tiny Civil War village of Andersonville and enjoyed the pioneer farm with the old grist mill, ate good food, watched craftsmen and artists make, paint or create pretty much anything you could imagine, listened to the live bluegrass music, watched and (sometimes participated in!) the clogging and square dancing, talked to folks dressed in Civil War clothing who walked around the fair and around their very realistic camps and last but not least, we cheered and booed the mock Civil War battles that they reenacted, with the North winning one day and the South winning the next or vice versa, depending on who won first last year. It was a part of my life. A part of my life that I accepted, embraced and greatly enjoyed. Before the National Park system took over, we would run down the hills of the prison camp site area and splash in the little creek that ran through the camp. It was fun! It was wonderful! It was our heritage and we were damn proud of it.
As I grew older, though, I learned the truth about Andersonville from books, movies, television shows and I started doing my own research. Surely this was not MY Andersonville they're talking about. The monument I climbed on as a child dedicated to the memory of war hero Henry Wirz was actually a big fat lie. That man was not a hero. He was a monster. He allowed deplorable conditions to just take over Andersonville, or Camp Sumter, as it was officially called, and thousands of men died from drinking water polluted with their own waste, literally starving to death on bug-infested cornmeal and a few beans a day and succumbing to the harsh exposure to the weather because they were forbidden to build shelters. Yeah, war is hell. But Andersonville was worse. It was designed to hold 10,000 men. They sent four times that there. The majority of the men there died from diarrhea. Diarrhea. A condition that is easily taken care of now and could have been then with proper medical treatment and GENERAL HUMAN DECENCY. It pisses me off. I cried several times walking around with Larry, showing him this and that, sharing a part of my life that he hadn't gotten to see yet.
We were sad but we stayed and experienced the whole thing. The cemetery, the prison camp, Providence Spring, the POW Museum and movie, the gift shop, even the staff lowering the flag at the end of the day. I'm glad we went. I'm glad I went back. I can't remember the last time I was there but I'm guessing pretty close to 25 years ago. I saw it through different eyes this time and although I was sad and tearful and mad and embarrassed, I felt a very real calmness when we left.
Be forever at peace, all 12,912 of you.
Here are a few pictures from our time at Andersonville. They're a little grainy. Visiting Andersonville was a spur-of-the-moment thing and we only had our phones with us.
There were several character cutouts to pose with!
My shoulders are just a leeeetle bit wider than Scarlett's. Ha!
All I am saying...
Larry posing in a prison cell in the POW Museum. It was so tiny, it gave me the creeps.
Eleven Schneiders were at Andersonville. We picked one to visit. Augustus. He was at Andersonville eight months and died of diarrhea and dehydration. He was from Indiana, although his stone says Ohio. He was captured in Virginia.
Larry bought a Union Kepi hat at the gift shop and wore it for Augustus.
We bought a small glass bottle and I filled it with water from Providence Spring. The story of Providence is a sweet one. God sent it. He didn't choose sides in this war. Y'all know how hot our summers can be. Well, in the summer of 1864, those poor men were thirsting literally to death when a thunderstorm popped up one afternoon and lightning struck the ground where I'm kneeling in this picture. A fountain of pure spring water erupted right there, saving the lives of thousands of Union soldiers and it still flows to this day. It was very, very cold, too!
We bought matching Andersonville Prison t-shirts in the gift shop and we both were touched by the poem on the back. It was written by Robert Kellogg, an Andersonville survivor and it is called They Have Fallen.
They have fallen
Like autumn leaves at touch of frost
They have been swept to the earth
Where they lie in undistinguished piles
The hearts of the people shall be their tombs
But marble and granite should be lifted high
As the testimonial of grateful mankind
For the deeds they have done