Thursday, July 11, 2013

Their Graves Are Left Undecorated

The Andersonville Raiders, a band of Union soldiers held at the prisoner of war camp known as Andersonville were hung July 11th 1864 for crimes against their brother prisoners.

The Confederate prison of war camp; Camp Sumter opened February 1864 near the town of Andersonville, Georgia.  It was built on 16 acres, but would expand to 26 acres.  The land surrounded by a wooden stockade fence with a dead line located 15 feet inside of this fence.  The prisoners lived in self-made shelters and numbered over 30,000.

Among these men were some who preyed on their fellow inmates and become known as The Raiders.  These men would find new prisoners, promise them help finding sleeping room and other help, but instead would beat the men and rob them.  They also used a team of spies to locate any prisoner who had anything of value, they would then raid that prisoner’s tent and threaten them with death should they resist.  The Raiders were well organized and numbered anywhere from 50 to around 100 men, but the six leaders were William Collins, Charles Curtis, Patrick Delaney, A Munn, W R Riekson, and  John Sarsfield.  These men enjoyed a much better living condition, with weapons, nice tents, and good food because of their thievery.  Do to the lack of basic supplies available in the camp, the thefts of The Raiders could mean death for their victims.  For the most part there was so much disease, exposure and starvation in the camp that the men The Raiders attacked couldn’t fight back or even protect themselves.  By June of 1864 the prisoners decided enough was enough, and brought complaint about The Raiders to Confederate authorities.  They also formed and policing unit called The Regulators to defend themselves and capture The Raiders.

A prisoner named Dowd was beaten and robbed on June 29th 1864.  He complained of the attack to the Confederate guards and got the attention of Confederate Captain Henry Wirz the commander of Andersonville.  Wirz announced that all rations would be stopped until The Raiders were turned in.  The Regulators rounded up men, and with Wirz’s permission held Courts-martial trials and handed down punishments.  Between June 29th and July 10th 1864 around 100 men who were part of The Raiders were rounded up and placed on trial.  Most of the men who were convicted received punishments like running a gauntlet, setting in stock, whippings, etc.  But the six men who were the leaders of The Raider were sentenced to death by hanging.

Collins, Curtis, Delaney, Munn, Riekson and Sullivan were led to the gallows on July 11th 1864.  Curtis slipped his ropes and tried to run, but was quickly returned.  Each man was aloud a few last words. Collins, Munn, and Sarsfield asked for mercy and claimed to be innocent.  Curtis, Delaney and Riekson showed no remorse; Delaney said he would “rather be hanged than live here”.  The six men were buried in an area of camp away from all others who died there.  When the graves of Andersonville are decorated on Memorial Day with flags, the graves belonging to The Raiders are left undecorated.

If you are interested in reading more about this, check out Bernard McKnight - Andersonville Prison

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