Friday, August 25, 2017

A Civil War POW

Originally known as Camp Sumter, Andersonville was a Civil War POW camp located in southwest Georgia from February 1864 to the end of the war in April 1865. Of the nearly 45,000 captives - soldiers and civilians, 30,000 died of starvation, scurvy, diarrhea, dysentery, and exposure to the elements – more than 30 a day during the time Andersonville was operational.1 William Chatfield was one of those unfortunate beings.
William was born 1842 in Quebec, Canada. In 1851, the Canadian census has him living in Dunham, Missisquoi County, Quebec, which is just north of the Vermont-Quebec border. In 1861, William ventured south to Vermont and volunteered for the Vermont Infantry. He was a corporal in Company F, Regiment 10. Whether it was for a sense of adventure, political ideology, having relatives in the “North,” or something else, it was not uncommon for young Canadian men to venture to the United States and volunteer to fight in the Civil War. 

William was captured in Virginia on October 11, 1863, by the Confederate Army. The Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia, commanded by Generals Meade and Lee respectively, were involved in the “Bristoe Campaign” - a series of battles in Virginia. William was probably captured at Brandy Station, Virginia, as that is the location of Meade’s troops on October 11, 1963. Since Andersonville did not begin operation until February 1864, William obviously was kept elsewhere before ending up at Andersonville. 

Upon his arrival at Andersonville, he would have observed the scene as described by Robert H.
Kellogg, sergeant major, with the Connecticut Infantry:

"As we entered the place, a spectacle met our eyes that almost froze our blood with horror, and made our hearts fail within us. Before us were forms that had once been active and erect . . . now nothing but mere walking skeletons, covered with filth and vermin. . . . In the center of the whole was a swamp. . . and a part of this marsh. . .had been used by the prisoners as a sink and excrement covered the ground, the scent arising from which was suffocating."2

As soldiers and civilians died, they were buried in trenches without formality. On September 14, 2015, a funeral was held for 13,000 soldiers. Today, Andersonville is a National Cemetery. Andersonville has also become home to the National Prisoner of War Museum.

Corporal William Chatfield died on May 20, 1864. The official cause of death was diarrhea. He is buried in grave 1228. William Chatfield is my adoptive father's (Frank Newhouse) 4th cousin two times removed.

1 - Gast, P. (2015, September 18). Funeral for 13,000; Andersonville prison dead brings closure. Retrieved August 22, 2017, from
2 - Kellogg, Robert H. Life and Death in Rebel Prisons. Hartford, CT: L. Stebbins, 1865.

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