Providence Spring

a Miracle at Andersonville


Cree Vicar Dave – SASS Life #49907 

While spending the winter in Georgia the Vicar’s Wife and I spent some of our free time taking in the sights.  When some friends of ours came to visit us from Michigan we went over to see the Andersonville Civil War Prison National Park at Andersonville in Sumter County, Georgia.

During the first part of the Civil War prisoners were exchanged from time to time, sometimes right on the battle field.  As the war progressed it is said that the North stopped this practice.  In January 1864 slaves were used to clear land and build the stockade officially named Camp Sumter, now called Andersonville.  Some nineteen feet inside the stockade walls there was placed a wood fence called the “Dead Line”.  It ran parallel to the wall.  Any Federal prisoner stepping between the dead line and the stockade wall was shot.  The prison was originally designed to hold 10,000 men on 16.5 acres but by August some 33,000 were incarcerated there on 26.5 acres.  Over 13,000 perished due to exposure, starvation, diseases, gangrene and dysentery.

Just a note to put things in perspective: 

War is sometimes necessary but never pleasant.  Both the North and the South held prisoners in deplorable conditions.  Camp Douglas set up in early 1862 by the North in Chicago, Illinois near Lake Michigan was dubbed “the Andersonville of the North”.  Of all the northern prisons it had the highest death rate.  During the cold winter of 1863 it is reported that 10% of the Confederate prisoners held there froze to death in February alone.  Anything of value was taken away from the prisoners and the guards would take pot shots at them at will.

Amongst this grievous backdrop of man’s atrocity toward one another a “Ray of Hope” burst forth.  On the Andersonville Compound there is a place called Providence Spring.  The stockade was built over a small stream that ran through it.  This stream supplied drinking water, a laundry and a latrine for the prisoners.  But upstream just outside the walls was a community of workers plus farm animals and such that polluted the stream.  As a result many prisoners become ill and died from the contaminated water.  In August of 1864 the death rate was approaching 100 per day.  A group of Christian prisoners gathered to pray asking the LORD for pure water to drink.  They vowed not to stop their petitions to God until He answered them.  After hours of praying, clouds formed right over the prison.  The thunderstorm that followed produced a lightning bolt that struck the ground near the praying men.  Miraculously no one was harmed.  When they looked at the place where the lightning hit there was a crystal clear spring flowing up out of the ground.  Later those who saw the event gave their eye-witness accounts.  It says in Ezra 8:23, “So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and He answered our prayer.”

The spring came up in the zone between the dead line and the stockade wall.  At first the prisoners had to tie a cup to a tent pole to gain access to the water but the guards soon let them go directly to the spring.  In the Book of Proverbs we are encouraged to give water to those who thirst, even if they are our enemies.  Compassion happens even in times of war.  This miracle of fresh water flow was called Providence Spring.  It provided good drinking water for the men.  After the war holding pools were installed and a building was constructed over the area.

Parts of the stockade and dead line have been rebuilt at Andersonville along with a few prisoner shelters.  The graves at the cemetery were marked with headstones using records found at the prison.  A few of the old cannons are on display around the park.  There are several stone monuments placed on site by women’s societies and states involved in the war paying tribute to the souls lost there.  Many markers point out spots of interest.  Grand old majestic trees now stand guard in the prison yard.  We spent most of a day surveying the grounds.

If you are ever in the area of Andersonville, Georgia I wholly recommend you stop in and spend some time with history.  It is said that a people that does not know their history are destined to repeat it.

Besides the stockade and cemetery there is a museum, theater and gift shop where a CD is provided to use in your car CD player that gives a point by point description as you drive around the area.  And to top it all off, the total cost is FREE.

Hope ta see ya on the trail

Cree Vicar Dave



Andersonville Civil War Prison National Park