New Study Reveals Threats to Historic POW Camp

Date:   May 26, 2004
Contact:   Andrea Keller, NPCA, 202-454-3332
Mark Peterson, NPCA, 970-493-2545

New Study Reveals Threats to Historic POW Camp

Washington, D.C. - A new report released today by the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) reveals that the historic Civil War prison camp in Andersonville, Georgia, which once housed Union POWs and is now dedicated to telling the story of American prisoners of war, is compromised by insufficient funding and development from a nearby mining operation.

“Recent events in the news should remind us of the offenses we once inflicted on our own countrymen,” said NPCA State of the Parks Director Mark Peterson. “Our history at Andersonville is relevant today and must be preserved and shared so that current and future generations can learn from our past mistakes.”

According to NPCA’s new State of the Parks® report, the Andersonville National Historic Site is threatened by insufficient funding and staffing to adequately protect its priceless collection of nearly 50,000 objects, including memorabilia from prisoners. Despite the best efforts of the National Park Service, additional funding is needed to support ongoing restoration of the historic, 19th-century brick wall that surrounds the national cemetery, acquisition of POW oral history interviews, and to complete historic archaeological research. Funding constraints have also resulted in the park staff having full responsibilities for managing the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site nearby, as well. The NPCA report recommends that each park should have its own staff to ensure the best protection of historic resources.

Additionally, structures from a nearby mining company mar the historic landscape. NPCA’s report suggests that the Park Service complete a study of the pollution impacts on gravestones and structures, and acquire lands surrounding the park that could be developed by the mining company, Mulcoa, which already operates on 16,000 acres. Additional development could further impair the historic landscape and the experiences of park visitors with the noise of trucks and machinery.

“As we commemorate Memorial Day, we need to remind Congress and the administration to support places such as Andersonville that are working to preserve an important story of American sacrifice,” Peterson said. “Andersonville has much to teach us about ourselves, and the horrors of war.”

Officially known as Camp Sumter during the American Civil War, Andersonville held captive more than 45,000 prisoners of war and was one of the largest and most notorious Confederate military prisons. Beginning in 1864, and throughout the camp’s 14-month existence, 12,912 Union soldiers died within Andersonville’s walls as a result of poor sanitation, disease, malnutrition, exposure, and overcrowding. Many of these people are now buried in a cemetery on the grounds.

Congress established Andersonville National Historic Site in 1970 to “provide an understanding of the Civil War prisoner of war (POW) story, to interpret the role of prisoner of war camps in history, and to commemorate the sacrifice of Americans who lost their lives in such camps …” (Public Law 91-465).

NPCA launched the landmark State of the Parks program in 2000 to assess the health of national parks across the country. The product of a yearlong analysis, Andersonville National Historic Site: A Resource Assessment, is the 13th NPCA State of the Parks report.


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