2. The Confederates built Camp Sumter in early 1864
Prior to the erection of the stockade at Camp Sumter, the largest concentration of Union prisoners in Confederate hands was around Richmond, Virginia. In late 1863, Confederate authorities decided to move the bulk of the prisoners deeper into the Confederacy. Andersonville, in Georgia, was selected as the best site for the new prison. That winter the Confederates built a stockade of wood, averaging fifteen feet in height. The stockade enclosed roughly 16 acres, with parallel walls of in the shape of a rectangle. However, not all of the 16 acres could be used by the prisoners. Running parallel to the walls, inside the stockade and about 19 feet from the outer wall, ran a post and rail fence. Approximately every 90 feet on the outer wall a small tower stood. The prisoners dubbed them “pigeon roosts”.
In the roosts sentries stood guard, with orders to shoot any prisoner who crossed the post and rail fence. The fence became known as the deadline. Some guards fired at prisoners who merely came to close to the deadline. Nearby Sweetwater Creek provided a small branch which ran across the stockade, for which it earned the name Stockade Branch. Stockade Branch served as the source for the camp’s drinking water. It also served as the camp’s sewer system. At first it was barely sufficient for the purpose. Built to hold 10,000 prisoners, the breakdown of the exchange cartel led to severe overcrowding. Eventually 33,000 prisoners crowded the stockade, along with nearly 13,000 men who died and were buried at the camp. The first prisoners to arrive at the camp entered the stockade in February, 1864. By April, over 7,000 prisoners were in the camp.