15. The Confederates offered to release their prisoners in the late summer of 1864
Faced with the impossible task of feeding their prisoners, and the approaching armies of Grant in the East and Sherman in Georgia, the Confederates offered to free the prisoners they held. The offer included the release of all prisoners, without any exchange. A contingency of the offer was the Union picking up the prisoners with ships, at ports to be designated. Camp Sumter was located far from any port then in Confederate hands, accessible only by road or rail. Moving the prisoners presented logistical difficulties which delayed the move. When Sherman approached Atlanta, the possibility of cavalry raids led General Winder to address the response of the guards should the facility come under attack. Winder ordered the artillery pits to fire upon the stockade. Fortunately for the prisoners, the attack never came.
After Sherman outflanked Hood to take Atlanta, the Confederates began moving prisoners out of Andersonville. In the fall, 1864, prisoners from Camp Sumter, at least those well enough to be moved, were transferred to Florence, South Carolina and Millen, Georgia. From Millen, some prisoners were sent by rail to Savannah, Georgia. When Sherman’s troops threatened Millen, the remaining prisoners there were returned to Camp Sumter. General Winder moved his headquarters to Florence, South Carolina, and conditions in Camp Sumter improved dramatically. The camp remained overcrowded and disease remained rampant. There was still insufficient food, and a total lack of fresh food. In January, 1865, rules of the camp were officially promulgated for the first time. By then, Sherman’s armies threatened the Carolinas.