Visit Blackshear Civil War Prison Camp - An open camp in an out-of-the-way place, surrounded by a guardline, including some heavy artillery pieces. Considered as a 'corral for human beings.' The prison guards were mainly from the 2nd Georgia Reserve Regiment.
During the month of November in 1864, some 5,000 Union Soldiers began arriving by rail along the Atlantic & Gulf Railroad into the small community of Blackshear Georgia.
Many prisoners were being evacuated from a number of P.O.W. camps and sent to Blackshear Prison. Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman was making his push toward the coast during his Savannah Campaign. Blackshear is deep in southeast Georgia, in Pierce County. At the outbreak of the war, the town contained just 333 households. Most of the men had gone off to fight in the war.
The first shipment of 600 prisoners from the Millen P.O.W. camp arrived at Blackshear Georgia Prison on November 16, from Savannah. The prisoners were brought to the prison by taking the Atlantic & Gulf Railroad. The trains kept bringing prisoners to the camp until the Union prison population reached just over 5,000.
There were a number of prisoner escapes at night despite heavy patrolling by the guards. Col. Forno was the first prison commandant.
When these prisoners of war began arriving, the citizens were not prepared to handle such large numbers of starving human beings. Nevertheless, they shared what little they had.
By the beginning of January, 1865, the Union prisoners and their guards had moved on either northward into South Carolina or westward to the prison camp in Thomasville.
Personal accounts of Union soldiers are beginning to surface which help us in determining the scope of Blackshear Georgia at the time of the war.
John McElroy, 16th Illinois Cavalry, Company L, stated, " Pierce County as I have learned by the census report, is one of the poorest counties of a poor section of a very poor state." He added, "After leaving the cars we were marched off into the pine woods, by the side of a considerable stream, and told that this would be our camp. A heavy guard was placed around us, and a number of pieces of artillery mounted where they would command the camp. We started in to make ourselves comfortable, as at Millen, by building shanties."
Quartermaster Sergeant John Ransom, 9th Michigan Cavalry wrote, "Dec. 4, 1864, Fresh meat again today. Rebels go out to neighboring plantations and take cattle, drive them here, and butcher for us to eat. Rice is also given us to eat. Have plenty of wood to cook with."
Ralph Bates, 9th Ohio Cavalry Regiment, Company H, claimed in his diary, "The Blackshear Georgia prison was completely commanded by earthworks with mounted cannon, and was guarded by several hundred Confederate soldiers."