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1864 A.D.: Miracle At Andersonville Prison

  It was not so easy to survive Sumnter Camp Prison, located near Andersonville, Georgia.  You suffered much there.  Some people suffered very much indeed as these pictures show.  It was a severe case of men being hard on men.  There was not always enough of the necessities like food and drinkable water. 


    Another Andersonville prisoner photo

Another Andersonville prisoner

  Yet God has sometimes provided His needy people with water in interesting ways over the course of time. And the same with food, for that matter.  Consider the Exodus of the Israelite slave from Egypt 3500 years ago or so.  Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and then they sojourned through the Sinai Desert region for 40 years. God was visibly with them as a leading cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night, and each day for six days a week a food called 'manna' fell from the sky to feed them.  It was like little white beads of a bread-like substance with a slight honey-like taste.  Each particle was about the size of a coriander seed, which are a about the size of the head of a house fly to choose a universally available basis for comparison.

  So the Israelites had very visible signs of God's presence and tender care for them. Yet, they seemed quick to lose hope when things were going rough out there in the desert.  It was a pretty tough desert.  The Sinai Peninsula has a rough rugged terrain with a harsh dry climate.

  Twice the Israelites began to rebel from being so hot and thirsty, but then they received water when it was very desperately needed by means of a new spring of water which poured from rock just as they prayed and cried out to God for help so that they would not die of thirst out there in the wilderness. On one of the occasions Moses struck  rock with only a wooden staff, and out it poured!  Another time they merely called out for the water with their voices.  And remember, this had to be enough water for about 2 million Israelites and their animals. No small trickle would have been sufficient!

  A couple of hundred years later, an exhausted Samson, a Judge of Israel from the Israelite tribe of Dan, was so dehydrated after killing many hundreds of the enemy Philistines single handedly (a thousand Philistines killed with the fresh jawbone of an ass) that he called out to God for water before he should die for lack of it, and God produced a fresh spring of water for him to drink.  He was a man given such physical strength as only God could give, but he too could tire.

  Some people, non-believers of Jesus and the Mighty Father, would probably classify these as quaint Bible fables. After all, who has seen such a thing? Well, there is an answer to that question, and it is not from long ago.  And it was witnessed by a very large group. 

  Tens of thousands of Union Army prisoners of war, and their Confederate Army gaurds saw such a thing in 1864, at the military prison camp near Andersonville, Georgia, USA.  It was officially called Sumnter Camp and it is located about 110 miles south of Atlanta, Georgia.

  In its time, someone rendered its appearance as you see it below.

Andersonville Prison Camp

  In the United States, during this Civil War, there was a great deal of very bitter fighting. War is horrible in nearly all respects, but civil wars seem to be the worst.

  The war prisons were only marginally habitable in some cases.  In fact many were horrible, and one of the worst of them all was this Sumnter Camp, sometimes referred to as Andersonville. It was a prison camp run by the soldiers of the southern states, who called themselves the 'Confederacy'. The prison held captured enlisted soldiers who had fought on the side of the North, which was generally called the 'Union'. 

 The camp was under the administration of a certain Confederate officer, a Capt. Henry Wirz.  How bad were things at his prison camp?  He was the one and only person, I have read, who when tried for war crimes by the Union after the war was actually sentenced to hang.  The only Confederate actual hung after the war for war crimes!  That's how bad the Andersonville prison was believed to be, I guess.

  Through out history, military prisons have often been terrible prisons. You can basically see how that comes about. Due to basic and fairly necessary supplies often being unobtainable for the active soldiers fighting the war, it follows that there have often been even more severe shortages for the enemy prisoners.

  Sometimes even life sustaining provisions are nearly unobtainable ....for everyone. If forced to choose between supporting their own active fighting troops and supporting enemy prisoners, seldom will the prisoners come out on top. And it can be all the worse if the side that's running the prison is losing the war. They could easily be led to take out their frustrations on the prisoners.  Losing a war is a very personal thing.

  But even given the typically bad conditions that can come to prevail in any military prison, in Andersonville Prison conditions became exceptionally bad - historically bad.

  It was a prison yard of approximately 25 acres. There was an outer perimeter fence of vertical stockade logs. A few feet inside of that was a marked 'Line of Death' zone. If a prisoner crossed that, the gaurds in the corner towers assumed he meant to escape and shot him dead.

  It was an open yard prison - open to the sky. Just a fenced in open area, really. The prisoners did not have much to shelter in.  Some did not have tents, some didn't even have blankets. Many came to have rags for clothing. Georgia winters can sometimes have snow, and cold rainy days are common, making a muddy mess of things. In the summer, it's an especially hot place. I've been to Georgia a lot of times in the summer, and it's a beautiful state, but I think it's awfully hot on it's hotter days. 

Milling Prisoners    

  Andersonville was placed in operation in February of 1864, and was only used about 14 months, until April of 1865.

  Though short lived, a surprising number of prisoners died there. About 45,000 men were imprisoned within its perimeters altogether. About 14,000 of those men died, mostly from the terrible living conditions there rather than from wounds they might have had when they arrived, though gangrene was also a problem due to the uncleanliness that prevailed there when men did happen to have open wounds.  The many thousands of dead prisoners were buried a short distance outside the prison in long shallow trenches - mass graves. 

  The prisoners starved down until they were skeletal. One of the boniest, skinniest living human bodies I have ever seen is from an old photo taken of a nearly naked Andersonville prisoner. I included it above.  Others from elsewhere may equal it, but you simply could not surpass it by much!  It actually looked worse than most photos I've seen from African famines, Jewish WWII concentration camps, and other places.  The man was probable ectomorphic to start with, I imagine.  But the prisoners who were there the longest truly suffered horribly from poor nutrition, the elements, and disease.

  There were said to be no captive officers among the prisoners to establish order. Gangs of thugs arose among the prisoners also, Union soldiers who went around in groups stealing food, clothing, blankets, and utensils from weaker Union prisoners, and new arrivals...stealing from their own fellow sufferers!

 Other groups formed and arose to stop those thugs. The other prisoners finally jumped them and captured them and received Confederate permission to 'legally' try them.  On July 12th, 1864, they tried and sentenced some of these hoodlums to hang at improvised courts, and sentenced others to be punished by other methods.  The Confederates kept their word and carried out the hangings. 

  New arrivals in the later months of Andersonville recorded seeing a vast horde of shrunken, bony, dirty, half naked prisoners crawling with various bugs, and talked of hearing the sound of moaning loud among them day and night. Their starved faces were filled with despair, thirst, and suffering.

  Their food was bad, (poorly cooked corn bread was apparently much of it, with little else of nutritional value added except the bugs that sometimes were crawling in it) and their water supply was unclean at most times. Disease was a big problem. Dysentary weakened and killed many. Typhoid, scurvey, and other sicknesses swept through unchecked among this weakened, crowded throng of malnourished and often dehydrated men.

  A marshy little creek called Stockade Creek crossed through the compound.  Before it entered the prisoner compound this creek had already crossed through the camp of the Confederate gaurds, who had used it for bathing, garbage disposal, or anything else they wished apparently.

  Once inside the prison compound, the little stream was what 45,000 prisoners (during Andersonville's existence as a prison camp.  32,000 was the highest number of occupants at any one time, according to one source that I looked at) drank from, bathed from, and used as their latrine area. They were allowed no tools for digging real latrines in the hard clay ground. The stench on the hotter days was said to be unspeakable. Flies were everywhere.

  That small stream provided so little water flow for the tens of thousands of men that drinking water was in short supply just as food was, for most prisoners at many times.

 Just outside their fenced area was a sweet clear stream of water that they could not get to, nor would the gaurds alter the fence line or alter the stream to allow for it.

 So that was basically the 'hell on Earth' that was Andersonville Prison. It offered over crowding, and exposure to the elements in winter, rain, or hot summer. There was very little food, and it was bad food anyway. They existed on a short supply of water which was filthy and diseased. The ground was covered with stinking excrement down by the only creek they had, and that was where they washed themselves also. And gangs of thieves ruled over their fellows during some of the months, stealing and terrorizing, to the Northerner's discredit. 

  As the first (and only, as it turned out) Andersonville Prison summer arrived, many of the men, who were most commonly from Christian families, began to meet in groups and pray together. Some who were able to preached to others. The prayer movement grew, and soon a great number were crying out regularly to God to save them from this agonizing hell of a place.  It became like a large revival meeting in some respects. 

  And you have a sense from these descriptions of what a horrible scene of despair and suffering that God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit looked down upon.

  As the burning hot days of July began to give way to August, a change occurred. The weather softened, and clouds moved in - dark clouds, full of water. The men felt hope. And then it happened; the rain broke forth, softly at first, ending the terrible heat. The men drank the healthy rainwater from their hats, their cupped hands, or just their open mouths, overcome with joy at this relief provided by the heavens.

  The rains became stronger, heavier, the thunder louder, the lightening more wild, and for the next few days it was rain, rain, rain. The nasty, overtasked creek that passed through their camp became a rushing torrent. Men said it rose 5 feet at times. It was almost becoming a danger to them. It's strong rushing flow swept away the garbage, the excrement, and the filth of these tens of thousands of men who had been cooped up like hated poultry for these hard long months. The oppressive stench was washed away in the torrent.

  Even part of the stockade fence was washed away by the flooding creek, and the gaurds feared an escape attempt. But the prisoners were too weak to even try. They just stayed on the high ground, enjoying the cool cleansing rain the Lord had sent them. Or was it just a natural rain? Was it really help sent from the Lord, or just a fortuitous natural rain storm that lasted a few days?

  By August 13th in the middle of the day, the off and on rain had lessened for a while, and the sky was only partly clouded. But then an amazing thing happened.  A cloud - a very distinctive cloud - moved into sight and came towards them from the far distant horizon. It was so unusual a cloud that the men began to remark upon it. It was a tall dark mountain of a cloud, massive and rising extremely high. Yet it advanced alone, looking unlike other clouds in the sky that day. It moved directly towards them, it seemed.  A light rain began.

 With so many men having little else to do, they began to watch it intently because it was so very strange in heigth, darkness, it's seemingly ominous appearance, and it's odd solitude. The Confederate gaurds began to watch it also.

  On it came, and something about it caused the moaning to stop, the talking to subside, and all eyes to watch as it came forward with a heaviness, a power, that those recounting the event mentioned.

  The records I read said it visibly stopped for a short time over the burial trenches.....visibly just stopped!  But then it came onward. 

  And when this giant gun-barrel blue mountain of a cloud was directly above the fenced in prison area, casting all below in shadow no doubt, it was reported by those watching that it again came to a stop, in awesome heaviness and power, right there above them.

  As the feeling of pent up potency engulfed them all, a thunderous crashing noise burst forth from the cloud, so mighty that some men were said to be literally knocked off their feet to the ground. A sound like 1,000 cannons, some apparently told people later.  And these men had heard cannons. 

 Then a giant bolt of lightening, a most exceptionally strong bolt of lightening, struck down to the ground in a blinding flash, and the spot where it struck the ground exploded upwards in a release of soil and steam.

  There where it had struck a stream gushed forth from the smoking hole and began to flow. The great lightening bolt had stabbed down through the earth, burning through to the top of some underground stream at a high point close to the surface, and the water bubbled up and ran across the ground, pure, cool, and drinkable, at what was soon a steady and reliable 10 gallon per minute flow (around 37 liters per minute).

  And then, as the startled crowd of watchers - Confederate and Union soldiers alike - looked on, the majestic cloud moved onwards and went away into the distance.

  Confederate gaurds, though no friends of the Union, and aware that this spring provided considerable comfort to their hated enemy, never the less made no move to stop up this spring.  Southerners in America are often deeply Christian.  There were doubtless many gaurds who had hated to watch the suffering anyway, but whatever the case, having seen how the spring was formed, they feared God and did not stop it up.

  Andersonville Prison lasted less than a year more, then the American Civil War ended. But from that day on, even until today, that stream flows. It gave many sick and suffering prisoners a refreshing and pure source of water during all of their days at Andersonville, which today is a park that you can visit. And you can look at the little spring of water that was Christened to the name Providence Spring.  

  In 1907 some Union Civil War veterans arranged to build a sort of memorial structure around the source of Providence Spring, such that now the water pours out of a carved ornamental relief inside of the structure.  It's pictured below.  Various retention ponds were designed for the water as well.  Why not?  It's the site of a very Holy occurrence.

Providence Spring memorial structure

Ponds for Providence Spring Water

  I found the photo above on the internet, with the caption.  Thank you to the poster of it.  

  I mean to visit Andersonville one day, but I have no doubt that I should believe that what is reported did really happen.  After all, it's obviously a well attested event.  Thousands saw it. 

  I suggest that you ask yourself, if you are not sure whether to be a Christian:  does the description you just read sound like accidental weather? It did not to gaurd or prisoner - those who saw it knew what they had seen.  They returned home with accounts of what God had done.  Thousands were deeply grateful for it.

  God allows Christians to carry their cross, so to speak. They undergo trials and hardships. Sometimes Jesus's Christians die, as do non-Christians. But God's arm is simply never ever too short to reach you, or too weak to save you if He deems it the better path to take in a particular case. God is the 'source' in 'resource'. A never ending source. And His eyes, like those of His Son Jesus, look down on all that He ever created.

  He neither slumbers nor sleeps, scripture tells us. He is completely aware of the happenings, the situations, and the conditions going on in the lives of those who fear Him. So let us all try to be on that list!: the list of those who fear Yahweh, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, Who act with great power and affect when They choose to. 

©2017 Daniel Curry & 'Deeds of God' Website