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November 06, 2004

The Armorer had another good day yesterday.

Which results in this challenge.

Identify this tank.

I have high expectations, Captain H. All the contextual clues are there!

No comments. Email. I don't want John spoiling it with an instant-answer!

by John on Nov 06, 2004 | Tanks and AFVs
» The Politburo Diktat links with: Show Trial #22

To borrow from Blackfive...

...who may have already linked to this, I don't know. Here is Someone You Should Know.

Aside from the visitors to the Castle who come in from Google searches for Gun Pr0n, most are military, or military-related, like family members, friends, etc. This post is for you 'normals' who lead a regular life, but who surf blogs like this trying to get a sense of the who, what, and why-the-hell? of soldiering.

I'm going to link to a post by "The Questing Cat," a soldier of the 1st Infantry Division. In this post, you'll get a view into "A day in the life of an Infantryman, 'Interesting version.'" That's as opposed to "A day in the life of an Infantryman, 'Routine Version.'"

Several things to note.

1. People like to put a bash on military training. Fox Yankee Mike Fox (you who know, know). Military training has evolved over thousands of years, people. We really do know what we're doing. We understand all the levels of learning and all that cool stuff you learned in college while pursuing your Adult Education, Early Childhood Education, Fill-in-the-blank Education classes and majors. And a lot of that stuff is applied - first - in the military school systems. At the advanced levels. Well, mebbe not that Early Childhood stuff, except in the Marine Corps schools. At the basic level - we try to teach it to sub-atomic levels. So that when you are under stress, you don't think - you act. Because your Orient Observe Decide Act (OODA) loop already has the pattern recognition algorithms ingrained at a molecular level. You don't have to spend a whole lot of time in the Observe-Decide portion - because you have the template stored in the Orient section that short-circuits you to Act. That is how you stay inside the other guy's 'decision loop' (hat tip to Instapilot's hero, Boyd).
I'd note that people also put a bash on military planning. Well, for all you education majors out there who think that the planning for the War and it's aftermath were all bollixed up... those plans were drawn up by officers who attended the Advanced schooling where we apply all those fancy educational concepts. Draw what conclusions you will...

That is evident in this post.

2. Why we fight. Mom, Apple Pie, Chevrolet Ford, and the GI Bill get you into uniform and into theater. Once in combat, you fight pretty much for one thing. Each other. Yes, all the rest of it is there - but when the bees are buzzing, it's the Team, and nothing else. If you are thinking about something else, you and we have failed, and we're all at risk.

That is evident in this post.

3. That wondrous word, which will get me in trouble with net-nanny software... F*ck. It's a word born for combat. For soldiering. For combat soldiering. I had a buddy who, when under fire, if he wasn't giving orders or talking on the radio was just saying "f*ck f*ck f*ckety-f*ck" over and over again. He had no clue he did it. If he was shooting, "f*ck f*ck f*ckety-f*ck," if he was maneuvering, "f*ck f*ck f*ckety-f*ck," if he was motioning over the RTO, "f*ck f*ck f*ckety-f*ck," if he was looking at his map, "f*ck f*ck f*ckety-f*ck." Now, if things were exploding nearby, it changed. To "f*ck f*ck F*CKETY-F*CK!" If there were bullets coming close enough you sensed they might not have the normal addressing of "To Whom It May Concern," but rather "I'm Looking For YOU, Motherf*cker," it changed.


That too, is evident in this post.

Read about a day in the life of an Infantryman. And pay attention to the last line in the post.

Proud to be a veteran of the Big Red One. If you're going to be one, be a Big Red One!

Tip o' the hat to SWWBO for pointing me to the post!

November 05, 2004

Hey! Ow! Hey!!!...

The French even stick it up their friends' arses...

A Palestinian spokeswoman denied Lapid's assertion. "He is in a coma. We don't know the type but it's a reversible coma," Leila Shahid, the Palestinian envoy to France, told French RTL radio. Shahid suggested the coma occurred after Arafat was put under anesthesia for medical tests including an endoscopy, colonoscopy and a biopsy of the spinal cord. She said doctors do not yet have a diagnosis.

My guess is the diagnosis was, "Mon Dieu, hee reeely eees full of sheet!"

Cheese-eating, Palestinian poop-chute peeping surrender monkeys...are they such goobs on purpose???


We may be about to bring another lost warrior home...

Remains found in Iraq might be those of LCDR Scott Speicher, shot down the first night of Desert Storm.

If this is the best answer, we can only hope for resolution for his family.

Leave no man behind.

Lest ye think, however, that all is darkness here...

We still have some of us with a Sense of Humor®.

Hat tip to Sean.

Let's take a little look around the world today...

First, CAPT H has been stuffing my mailbox. So, as a counterweight to MP Carolyn Parrish, who I noted yesterday, let's see what he has to offer...

First, there's his new line of playground equipment he's pushing.

Then, there's this relocation guide to Canada for liberals disheartened by the US election results (hint - Calgary is probably not a Good Idea).

Finally, there's this story of dedication and service. Truly a Canadian of Notable Dedication. After 52 years(!) of service, Canadian Ranger Peter Kuniliusie has decided to retire. Well, mostly, but not quite. I do like the rather cavalier approach Canada used to take to such things...

"He was recruited in the summer of 1949 when a ship showed up conducting TB testing. Peter and six other hunters were given .303 rifles and were told that they were now Rangers."

The enrolment forms weren't filled in for another three years.

Can you imagine Ottawa doing something like that now? Hee hee hee.


GEORGE Bush yesterday offered an olive branch to hostile European leaders — but was snubbed by the French President.

Heh. Gee, Monsieur Chirac was saying yesterday that those bridges needed to mending... guess not. He's got time to visit a brain-dead terrorist, but hasn't the time for PM Allawi of Iraq, a fellow trying to drag the Arabs into the late 20th Century (let's not rush things).

Ah well. No doubt Mr. Chirac takes comfort in today's anniversary of another French politico/military triumph... 1942 Madagascar: Vichy French surrender to the British at Fort Dauphin. (HT, Strategy Page)

In another interesting tidbit from history today... annoyed Catholics in Britain attempted something probably dreamed of by innumerable Kings and Prime Ministers - blowing up Parliament. Yep, today is the 399th anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot. Guy Fawkes Day! Fireworks all 'round!

Stuck in my cocoon, I almost missed this...

Wow! Bush in, Daschle out, and then this... hell of a week!

Sgt Hook, one of whom's birds in Afghanistan is in the picture, has been selected (a surprise only to him) for promotion to Sergeant Major. I suspect further elevation to Command Sergeant Major is not long to follow.

And perhaps, just perhaps, the Hook will be the first Aviator to make Sergeant Major of the Army. In which case, Top, I wanna coin! But there went your early retirement plans!

For anyone who doesn't know, Sergeant Major is the top enlisted rank in the Army - not someone to be trifled with (like a First Sergeant is, eh?). A Command Sergeant Major is a Sergeant Major who has been further tabbed to be the senior Non-Commissioned Officer in units battalion sized (circa 500 soldiers and up) and higher. The Sergeant Major of the Army is the right arm of the Army Chief of Staff, and is the senior enlisted soldier, period.

This is good for the Army. Now if I could just finagle a 90-day recall to bump up the old retired pay...

November 04, 2004

Coupla things, before I head off to watch some TV...

1. Mrs. Edwards - Ma'am, I know it's been a tough year already, and I wish you a million more times more success (and true success, no multplying by zero here) in your new fight. No more, no less. May absolute and total victory be yours. Not just you - you and anyone suffering from or recovered from, that particular affliction.

2. I'm gonna do a Red Ensign post tomorrow. Today - I'm going to point out why I proudly support the Flea's Own. I simply know Canada is better than Carolyn Parrish. Heck, we've got Cynthia McKinney back in Congress, I can't fault the Canadians for their own moonbat.

3. Peggy Noonan. In the Wall Street Journal today.

Who was the biggest loser of the 2004 election? It is easy to say Mr. Kerry: he was a poor candidate with a poor campaign. But I do think the biggest loser was the mainstream media, the famous MSM, the initials that became popular in this election cycle. Every time the big networks and big broadsheet national newspapers tried to pull off a bit of pro-liberal mischief--CBS and the fabricated Bush National Guard documents, the New York Times and bombgate, CBS's "60 Minutes" attempting to coordinate the breaking of bombgate on the Sunday before the election--the yeomen of the blogosphere and AM radio and the Internet took them down. It was to me a great historical development in the history of politics in America. It was Agincourt. It was the yeomen of King Harry taking down the French aristocracy with new technology and rough guts. God bless the pajama-clad yeomen of America. Some day, when America is hit again, and lines go down, and media are hard to get, these bloggers and site runners and independent Internetters of all sorts will find a way to file, and get their word out, and it will be part of the saving of our country.

If you're reading this - you were a part of that, however small our individual parts may have been. Walk proud. You lefties, too.

5. Last, but not least. For any offended by Michael Moore's montage of the dead of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom - Headmistress SondraK, a femme formidable', offers this in retaliation!

Hat tip to GEBIV!

by John on Nov 04, 2004 | General Commentary | Politics
» Evil pundit of doom! links with: Artistic justice
» Evil pundit of doom! links with: Artistic justice

On the vagaries of experimentation.

As regular readers know, I'm at Fort Benning working on an Army experiment. We're taking concepts, existing technology, and nascent technology, melding them together, trying to get an idea of ways to dramatically enhance the light/medium infantry platoon's effectiveness. Just like a business, the Army wants higher productivity out of our soldiers, and we are trying to leverage technology to do that.

We're also trying to do it faster than we did historically.

So, we've got a platoon here, comprised of about 2/3's recent combat vets, under the command of a 2nd Lieutenant.

We've got them instrumented with data-capture devices that attempt (boy is that being nice sometimes!) to track them around our battlefield, track hits and kills, capture screen shots of their computers, logs of their chat sessions, captures of their sensor imagery, etc.

But most of this stuff is developmental, and balky, so it can be a frustrating experience for the soldiers. Which is good - because we're also capturing the ways they adapt.

So, for example, if they are using their command and control device to pull sensor imagery around - and they lose the primary data path, we're observing how they adapt to that - and whether or not they find the data useful enough to develop a work-around for, or if they just blow it off as not worth the effort.

There's a lot of useful stuff in that.

But, for someone who grew up in the Operations and Training world, it's also a little bemusing to come up to the start point and see this:

A closer view, here.

A bit bemusing indeed to see this stuff we're hanging on the troops. It's not ruggedized to milspec yet (and may never, if it proves rugged enough, or is dropped from consideration). The whole intent of this series of experiments is to get the ideas out there, in the hands of the troops, and test 'em early. Yes, we're noting all the different battery requirements, so that people can start looking at rationalizing and standardizing on batteries... but the solution may well not be to re-engineer the devices, but to develop a standard battery pack that items can plug into.

Of course, that means cords. And plugs... and maybe the value-added ain't worth the pain. That's what we're here to try and determine.

What works - and more importantly, what works well enough to make further devlopment warranted... and what should get consigned to the trash. We don't make the decisions, we just capture the data, organize it, analyze it, and make recommendations. The decisions are at several echelons above where I work!

But this process forces us to make many compromises, as we develop simulations or simulated devices that roughly mirror a future capability. Like the proposed robotic scout vehicle. We don't have any here, they are a part of a different development spiral and none are available.

So we make do. How? We mount roughly equivalent sensors on an ATV (hat tip to Sean for the pic). And radio control the ATV, so the 'Robotics NCO' in the Weapons Squad can control the ATV and use it as if it was the objective vehicle. Of course, the troops don't mind - because someone gets to drive it from the LZ (landing zone) to the LD (line of departure, where you go tactical on the way to the objective), before it goes under remote control. As related below - we've learned the hard way that it ain't worth the trouble right now to try to drive it remotely to the LD!

By doing that we can start already to develop the TTP (tactics, techniques, and procedures) for the employment of the asset, even before any of the systems really exist. And not just in electronic simulation, but in the real world, with real soldiers, fresh from the Sandboxes. And what we learn from that can be incorporated over into the development spiral of the objective system, hopefully before a we-now-know-it's-worthless functionality is fully embedded and hard to remove.

Of course, there are *problems* with that... like the use of the ATV which mounts a sensor useful in urban combat. The Sergeant was maneuvering it into position pretty well, really - but like any kludged-up system, it has it's quirks. And one of those is a very sensitive throttle. Very little pressure on the stick - and the thing is popping wheelies, screaming down the avenue. Not terribly stealthy, perhaps.

However, we discovered that when employed that way, it makes a useful IED (improvised explosive device) sensor. By running over the IED and going 'boom' maybe, but hey, better than losing a soldier, right?

So, it's frustrating - but it's fun, nonetheless. Not the least of which because ya get to hang out with the upcoming Greatest Generation.

Of course, that's why I do what I do. I may not be able to walk the walk anymore, but I can help them do it better, hit harder, and come home more often.

by John on Nov 04, 2004 | Observations on things Military
» The Jawa Report links with: Blog Barfage....

November 03, 2004

The end of a sad little sidebar in history.

From Strategy Page (and other places):

November 3, 2004: U.S. Army Sergeant Charles Jenkins, who deserted to North Korea in 1965, and was finally allowed to leave earlier this year, has been court-martialed by the U.S. Army. He admitted his guilt and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, reduction in rank to private, forfeiture of all back pay and a dishonorable discharge. Jenkins is 64 years old, in poor health, and will go to live with his Japanese wife (who was kidnapped by the North Koreans 25 years ago) and two daughters in Japan.

Justice was served - though I think we could skip the jail time at this point. Having sat on Courts-Martial panels, I know why they did it. Let Mr. Jenkins fade back into obscurity. He can always petition President Bush to get the same treatment Jimmy Carter gave the Vietnam-era deserters.

On this day in 1783, the Continental Army was disbanded, except for a Lieutenant and some soldiers to "guard the stores at West Point," then just a fort and arsenal, the Academy being a few years in the future. That Lieutenant and his men were the soldiers of Alexander Hamilton's company (yes, company, not battery) of artillery, the New York Provincial Artillery Company, which survives to this day, as Delta Battery, 1st Battalion, 5th Field Artillery, 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Infantry Division. This unit is the oldest continuously serving unit in the United States Army. As distinct from numerous units with longer lineages in the Army of the United States (the legal distinction between the Regulars and the National Guard and Reserve) who can trace their lineages back to the founding of their colonies. They are the only company-level unit to have their own color (flag) as opposed to a guidon.

In 1862, Dr. Richard Gatling patented his famous gun. Still available, too.

In 1957, the Russians murder the dog Laika, launching her into space on Sputnik 2, knowing she wasn't going to survive the trip. Bastards. She deserved better.

In 1979, the Iranians take 63 Americans hostage, effectively setting up Jimmy Carter for failure as a President. Gotta give 'em credit, though. We didn't get them back in pieces, unlike certain Islamic fundamentalists we know.

I'll close for the day with this picture of soldierly life. Y'all who know, know.

November 02, 2004

Another Good Day.

If you can't be at home, you should at least be able to immerse yourself in cool stuff!

The Armorer





Heck, how can't they be good - with the crackle of musketry as new soldiers learn to shoot just across the street... young soldiers all around you, doing soldierly things.

Airborne trainees dropping off the 250 foot towers...

Slamming into the berm of the 34 foot towers.

Learning to do proper PLFs (Parachute Landing Fall) in the sheds.

What's not to like?

And you know - you know! You always wanted to know what a "Stand of Arms" was. There is a technical definition, having to do with numbers and stuff - but here's a visual that will make it all clear.

Some more Andersonville...

Andersonville is, appropriately, also the home of the National POW Museum.

Save the Holocaust museums I have visited, this is possibly the most depressing... especially the initial entryway (past the atrium, in the museum proper) showing the footage of POWs and the treatment they received at the hands of their captors - with voiceovers from actual POWs, telling their stories.

Not surprisingly, most of that, though certainly not all, is from Vietnam vets, with sprinklings from Korea and World War II.

When you vote today, if you are undecided yet, consider who gave aid and comfort to the North Vietnamese, and measureably made the lives of the POWs worse. I can forgive Jane Fonda quicker than I can John Kerry. He betrayed his brothers-in-arms, Jimmy Carter's likely rehab of Kerry's discharge notwithstanding. The government has forgiven John Kerry. We'll find out today whether or not the Nation has (or cares about 30 years ago). Even should he sit in the Oval Office, I will not forgive. Doesn't mean I won't continue to well and faithfully serve, as my oath demands - but I will not forgive.


Senator McCain may have chosen to forgive, that is his right.

I do not.

November 01, 2004

Take It Down! Chaff! Flare!...

Wuff. Oi. Ouch.

The post below is what is known, in fighter squadrons, as a "F**k-S**t-Hate Debrief." You have been a buffoon and everyone in the flight knows it. No one died but you could have killed them. The recipient could be Blue 4, one of the element leads, the flight lead, or even the IP (but that's usually rare). In short, idiots deserve to be called same on occasion...nothing personal, just part of the culture.

In this case, someone has defecated in the Armorer's mess kit.

Remind me not to do that.


This may lose a few readers...

...but the Armorer doesn't care. All ya'all ain't payin' a dime for this place.

The Andersonville post touched a few nerves. Some comments and emails just flat stomped on the Armorers remaining nerve. Lucky for the posters/mailers, the Armorer isn't suffering from gout at the moment, or he'd really tear some new assholes.

Let's get something out in the open about the Armorer.

1. He's eligible for membership in the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Hell, he's eligible for membership in the Sons of the Revolution, too. The Armorer is named after a member of the Orphan Brigade. He honors his great-grandfather's service, he does not honor the Lost Cause - even though he is a Federalist at heart, he is, after all a retired Federal.

2. He's not a member. Of either organization. There are reasons for that.

3. He thinks the correct side won the war. He is aware that by the United State's own posturings in the last 100 years, that the Federal Government, to be totally consistent, would have to condemn it's armed resistance to secession. He also notes that Jimmy Carter also feels that way about the Republic in general, given his recent comments on the Revolution. He just throws that in there because, well, because.

4. He understands the 'State's Rights' arguments about the causes of the war. Tough noogies. The war's over, you lost. Be careful what you wish for. If you demand a return to the Status Quo Ante Bellum, because you think the war was un-Constitutional, let us read your blogposts regarding the return of the Southwest to Mexico. Regardless of how you personally feel about how war aims evolved, for whatever reasons they evolved so - on 1 January 1863, the war became about slavery, and as far as the Armorer is concerned, that trumps. Yes, the Armorer *is* aware that the Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to Northern states. Really. The Armorer does have some background in the reading of history. Honest. No, he's not really interested in re-hashing the war here, this ain't a Civil War roundtable, which tend to be more war, less civil, unless everyone supports one side.

5. The Armorer is not interested in listening to diatribes about how Abe Lincoln botched the war, made mistakes, caused evil things to happen, etc - coming from the same mouths that mount defenses against the same charges laid against President Bush. Think that through, people. Some internal consistency helps produce regular bowel movements.

6. The Armorer also doesn't care for waking up in the morning while TDY away from Wife, Critters, Hearth, and Guns to read email just breathlessly scoring points for the South, directly or indirectly chiding the Armorer regarding the Eeeevils of the North. The Armorer is perplexed. And a little annoyed. And no, the comments you see on that post are the ones that survived the Armorer's wrath, either for not offending, or as an instructive lesson.

a. The post was about Andersonville. Not "Civil War Prison Camps I Have Known, With Peculiar Emphasis on Southern Atrocity at the Expense of a Balancing Look At Northern Atrocity. Nope. It said Andersonville.

b. The Armorer is wordy enough, without turning into DenBeste. Since the Armorer can't produce the quality of DenBeste, the Armorer does not attempt to be DenBeste. Or Wretchard at Belmont Club.

7. The Armorer also wishes people would Read before hitting Post. This includes their own writing. The shade of Stonewall opined thusly:

Unfortunately the South couldn't support its own armies and its treatment of POWs while poor cannot be compared to the North's deliberate mistreatment of the POWs it held. The North deliberately starved its POWs for which there is no defense. A comparison of mortality rates between both sides prisoners rasies numerous questions. A point you fail to bring out in the article is the kangaroo trial held against Wirtz for his supposed crimes.

The Armorer responds thusly. Gee, Genr'l, the opening paragraph said:

Andersonville sucked. In 1864 the war was not going well for the Confederacy. Grant and Sherman were starting the long grind that would end the war a year later, and the pressure on Confederate resources was high. To relieve some of the pressure on the Army of Northern Virginia, both in terms of security and food supplies, the Confederate government moved the Union prisoners of war from the Richmond area to other camps in the south, establishing a new one, that would be the largest of them, at Camp Sumter, near Andersonville, Georgia. The intent was also to get Union prisoners nearer to food supplies as well, though in the event... that didn't happen.
Emphasis added.

That answers the General's first sentence. The second sentence... the post said Andersonville. People come here to read, but not read books. I chose to stick to my subject. I don't mind the commentary that attempts to 'balance' the story - but I do object to commentary that ignores what I said to make points. If the North did, indeed, deliberately starve prisoners, that is Bad. Whether on the initiative of local commanders, or, worse, as Policy. However, the Armorer wasn't talking about Northern prison camps, and didn't feel the need to expand the post to make Everybody Happy. Though, ironically, he finds himself doing so here, to make a point about whingeing moonbats. (Who don't provide contact info, either.)

Regarding mortality rates, the Armorer spake thusly:

To be fair, Northern POW camps weren't always a lot better, having mortality rates comparable to most southern camps, in the mid-teens.

General Jackson may not care for the "weren't always" qualifier, but the Armorer made note that Union Camps were not much better than Southern. The camps for which the Armorer has data, from which he based his commentary, are:

In the South:

Andersonville: 45,000 prisoners, 12,920 deaths. 29%
Florence, SC: 18,000 prisoners, 2,802 deaths. 16%
Salisbury, NC: 15,000 prisoners, 3,649 deaths. 24%

Total: 78,000 prisoners, 19,371 deaths, 24.8%

In the North:

Camp Douglas, Ill: 30,000 prisoners, 4,454 deaths 15%
Rock Island, Ill: 12,409 prisoners, 1,960 deaths. 16%
Elmira, NY: 12,123 prisoners, 2,963 deaths. 24%
Camp Morton, IN: 12,082 prisoners, 1763 deaths. 15%
Johnson's Island (a comparative paradise, apparently) 12,000 prisoners, 221 deaths. 2%

Total: 78,614 prisoners, 11,361 deaths. 14.4%

Since Johnson's Island is such a rarity (and I'm not taking the time to research it this morning - for all I know it was only open a month) let's strip it out.

Total: 66, 614 prisoners, 11140 deaths. 16.7%

The Armorer is still thinking, on average, he would rather have been a prisoner of the North, than of the South.

The Armorer also covered that here, in a way:

Andersonville also shows the downside of being a prisoner from a winning Army... many times your own side's military success weighs heavily against you.

As for the Ghost of Lee's Right Arm's last virtual calumny - he either didn't read or chose to ignore the following:

The commander of the inner camp, Captain Henry Wirz, was arrested and tried for "conspiring with high Confederate officials to impair and injure the health and destroy the lives...of Federal prisoners" and "murder, in violation of the laws of war." The conspiracy never existed, but in the anger and indignation over the conditions of Andersonville, a military tribunal found Wirz guilty, and he was hanged on November 10, 1865. This was, in all probablilty, a miscarriage of justice.

The Armorer begins to see, General, how, at least in this avatar, you stumbled into your own troops and got shot. (With apologies to the real General Jackson).

Ya wanna piss on the Armorer's boots - you should at least read what the Armorer writes, and not just go into a howling moonbat frenzy. The Armorer wakes up grumpy and under-appreciative of your nuanced parsings of his musings when you are a whingeing drum-beater who does not read what is said, but just angles off on a rant. The good General's response was the best of the rest - so you shouldn't ascribe my vitiriol entirely to his post.

The Armorer was writing about Andersonville - and was as sympathetic to the Southern government as the facts at his command, and his personal experiences of command and war allowed. Offering up illuminating commentary is fine. Just try to pay attention to what's said, not what your predjudices in the matter scream in your ear.


October 31, 2004

I suggest this answer...

Osama bin Laden:

"Your security is in your own hands, and any U.S. state that does not toy with our security automatically guarantees its own security."

Recommended answer, from each Governor of the fifty United States.

"To the Islamofascist Commander, on behalf of the residents of [state].


The Governor of [state]."

The fact that half the country probably wouldn't get it agonizes me.




"Theirs was not the glory of death on the firing line. Penned in by the Dead Line, wasted by disease, far from home and loved ones, they were mercifully mustered out, leaving as a heritage to the nation the memory of a devotion as limitless as eternity itself."

Address by Governor A.T. Bliss, at the dedication of the Michigan Monument, Andersonville, May 30, 1904.

Andersonville sucked. In 1864 the war was not going well for the Confederacy. Grant and Sherman were starting the long grind that would end the war a year later, and the pressure on Confederate resources was high. To relieve some of the pressure on the Army of Northern Virginia, both in terms of security and food supplies, the Confederate government moved the Union prisoners of war from the Richmond area to other camps in the south, establishing a new one, that would be the largest of them, at Camp Sumter, near Andersonville, Georgia. The intent was also to get Union prisoners nearer to food supplies as well, though in the event... that didn't happen.

The site chosen was to eventually encompass 26.5 acres (in the photo, you'll see two lines of white posts that mark the deadline and stockade - photo taken from the 'star fort' at the souther end, which was Camp Sumter Headquarters). Essentially a rectangle, it was anchored at the ends on hilltops, with a valley and stream in center. The intent was for the prisoners to get their drinking and cooking water at the inlet side, bathe in the middle, and latrines at the outlet. A good enough plan on paper, a horror in implementation.

The stream was sluggish, due to little drop in it's course. When the log stockade was erected, pilings were driven into the streambed as well, essentially damming the stream, causing backflow to create a marsh - a mosquito breeding ground. Not to mention the backflow served to contaminate the water upstream, laying the groundwork for rampant dysentery.

Add to this the fact that the confederates never built (nor allowed the prisoners to) permanent structures in the camp to house the prisoners. They had to make whatever shelter they could, with whatever they had. (Lest you think the replica structures in the photo represent neglect on the part of park staff - look again. The pine boughs are fresh. This is what the Union POW's had for shelter) New prisoners coming in might have decent clothing and equipment, like the black oilcloth cape in the last picture - older prisoners were without - using either old clothing, or pine boughs if they were on outside work details and able to bring 'em in. This is what the prisoners had - fall, winter, spring, summer. This led to real problems among the prisoners, in an environment where the Confederate forces chose to exercise little control.

What control they did exercise was in terms of the Dead Line. A fence, 19 feet from the wall, that touching or crossing into the area beyond was automatic permission for the Confederate guards in the 'pigeon roosts' to shoot to kill.

A not insignificant number of Union prisoners deliberately crossed that line for the express purpose of getting shot.

The Confederates built earthworks around the enclosure - to both protect against the increasing risk of Union cavalry raids as Sherman neared Atlanta, and to guard against revolt in the enclosure. Half the guns pointed out, loaded with roundshot and shell, half pointed in - loaded with canister, the better to cut huge swaths through the prisoners. As most of the prisoners were combat veterans, they knew what those guns could do.

45,000 prisoners were held in Andersonville during its 14-month existence, with a peak population of 32,000 - held in an area intended to hold 10,000. 13,000 prisoners died of disease, exposure, malnutrition and poor sanitation. The Confederate authorities were unable to provide adequate anything, except burial space. 29% of the population died.

The conditions were so awful that an organized group of prisoners started preying on the others. Called the Raiders, their depredations grew so bad that the remaining prisoners petitioned the camp commandant to allow them to organize a counter-group, called the Regulators. The Regulators were able to capture the Raiders, and demanded from the camp commandant the right to try the offenders. This was granted, and a jury of 23 Sergeants (that's a hard jury!) sentenced the ringleaders to death by hanging, and the remaining Raiders to 'run the gauntlet.' The camp commander pleaded with the Union prisoners to not carry out the executions, however they demanded to, and accordingly the six raiders were hung inside the enclosure. This was a decision the camp commandant would come to regret later, as he was charged with murder for allowing it to happen, as, under military law at the time, the Sergeants had no standing to hold a trial. So bitter was the feeling in the encampment, the prisoners refused to allow the Raiders to be buried with the other dead - and separate they remain today.

The commander of the inner camp, Captain Henry Wirz, was arrested and tried for "conspiring with high Confederate officials to impair and injure thehealt and destroy the lives...of Federal prisoners" and "murder, in violation of the laws of war." The conspiracy never existed, but in the anger and indignation over the conditions of Andersonville, a military tribunal found Wirz guilty, and he was hanged on November 10, 1865. This was, in all probablilty, a miscarriage of justice.

Clara Barton came to the prison in July of 1865 to help in identifying the dead so their families could be properly notified. In this activity she was helped enormously by Dorance Atwater, of the 2nd New York Cavalry, who kept the books on the prisoners, living and dead, and kept a copy of his books, fearing the Confederate authorities would destroy the official copies. Thanks to their combined efforts, only 460 of the graves are unknowns. If you've visited other Civil War cemeterys, you know there is no small achievement there.

The Andersonville Cemetery is now a National Cemetery, and contains the graves of veterans of all eras who have died since the Civil War. You can easily find the prison graves, however. With a death rate approaching 100 a day, the gravediggers dug trenches and interred the bodies shoulder to shoulder - and the headstones from that era are shoulder-to-shoulder.

Andersonville also shows the downside of being a prisoner from a winning Army... many times your own side's military success weighs heavily against you. To be fair, Northern POW camps weren't always a lot better, having mortality rates comparable to most southern camps, in the mid-teens.

I'll close this part out with a quote from Sgt David Kennedy, of the 9th Ohio Cavalry:

"Wuld that I was an artist & had the material to paint this camp & all its horors or the tongue of some eloquent Statesman and had the privleage of expressing my mind to our hon. rulers at Washington. I should gloery to decribe this hell on Earth where it takes 7 of its ocupiants to make a Shadow."

For those with an interest, here are the State monuments at Andersonville, in no particular order. Some of these images are pretty large, best to right click and 'save as' or open in another window.

Rhode Island.
New Jersey.
New York.
Omnibus Memorial for states otherwise not represented: Delaware, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, Vermont and West Virginia.

Finally (!) this:

Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work—
I am the grass; I cover all.

And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now?

I am the grass.
Let me work.

Carl Sandburg.

My whole Andersonville Album is available here.

by John on Oct 31, 2004 | Observations on things Military
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