Prisoners were not the first to experience a loss of freedom at Andersonville.
After the location of the prison was selected, the site was buzzing with hundreds of enslaved men, impressed from the surrounding area, working to clear thousands of trees to build the stockade and outbuildings that would eventually hold a total of 45,000 captives.
As prisoners arrived at the always evolving construction site, African American soldiers were pulled aside and forced to work alongside the enslaved people that built the walls penning them in. Digging ditches, pulling up tree stumps, and performing other hard labor tasks filled the hours for these men of color.
New faces emerged in the beginning of August 1864. After a failed liberation attempt of Andersonville, an ad ran in several local newspapers asking for more slave labor to be sent to the prison. The ad was a desperate plea to send help in order to fortify the prison. From inside the stockade prisoners could see these men, a mixture of prisoners and enslaved men of color, feverishly working to build earthwork fortifications. The sight filled prisoners with hope. Fortifications meant the Union was near.
After the war, the United State Colored Troops and freedmen were instrumental in the success of the Reburial Program and the establishment of several national cemeteries across the United States, including Andersonville National Cemetery. The work of these men can still be seen here at Andersonville, throughout the historic prison site and cemetery, in the form of historic earthworks and hundreds of neat rows of headstones. (JH)(NPS Photo)