It would be bad enough to face the enemy on a battlefield, but being a prisoner of war (POW) could be far worse. During the Civil War, both sides had terrible prison camps, but one particular Georgia camp has become synonymous with inhumane treatment. Fort Sumter outside the town of Andersonville housed 30,000 prisoners in a facility designed for 10,000. Overcrowding and filthy conditions resulted in death by starvation, disease, exposure, or at the hands of other prisoners for nearly half of the POWs at Andersonville. Union reenactor Mark Stivitz describes conditions found by occupation forces and shows replicas of makeshift shelters built by prisoners. Bob Windham, a former POW in World War II and volunteer at Andersonville National Historic Site, has the highest regard for POWs. He wonders how people, who were fellow Americans, could possibly treat one another like that. Windham points to the many POW graves and reminds viewers that every person who was killed had a family waiting for his return.
Teacher tip: The National POW Museum described in the video was completed and opened for visitors in 1998. Ask students who have visited the museum to share information about it as well as their reaction to the exhibits they saw. Alternately, take students on a virtual tour of the museum and discuss the visit.