Saalman Family Website by todd saalman

Christian Saalmann in Union Army uniform - painting from photo

Reinhard Gottfried Christian Saalmann

25 Jan 1829 - Jul or Aug, 1864


He was taken to Richmond, Virginia, to a large and dingy brick warehouse building which, before the war, had been the home of "Libby & Son, Ship Chandlers and Grocers". The Confederate government had converted this building into the prisoner-of-war camp known as Libby Prison, removing all the window glazing and replacing the glass with iron bars. Locked in tiny cells, exposed to the night cold and inadequately fed, any prisoner who looked out of a window was shot by guards constantly stationed outside the building.

So many thousands of union prisoners accumulated in Libby Prison, and on a nearby island which contained another prisoner-of-war camp known as Belle Isle, that the Confederate authorities became concerned about a possible revolt, which they feared might take over the Confederate capital. They quickly had a new prisoner-of-war camp constructed far away from Richmond.


Probably in February, 1864, and probably by train in a locked box car or cattle car, Christian was sent to this new camp. The Confederates at the time called it Camp Sumter, but it has become infamous in American history under the name of the little town closest to the camp site, Andersonville, Georgia.

Some American historians now believe Andersonville was not built with the intention of killing prisoners. They say a combination of human blundering, fear, the bewildering problems facing the Confederate leadership, and their hasty and ill-considered actions, were what was responsible. There was no doubt at the time however, among many on both sides of the war, that Andersonville was an extermination center. The guards were untrained Georgia militia, poorly educated, most either physically or emotionally unfit for front line service. The helpless Yankee prisoners were the only hated enemies these men ever expected to see. Whether intentionally so or not, Andersonville was appallingly lethal.

It was the most inhumane of all the locations where Confederates housed Union prisoners of war. It was not much of a camp, just an open field of about 20 acres, worthless for growing crops, through which flowed a shallow stream called Sweetwater Creek, about 24 inches wide. Around that field Confederate laborers built a plank wall, anchored by upright tree trunks imbedded in the ground. Five feet inside the wall they stretched a rope. That rope was a "dead line", and any prisoner who crossed the dead line, for whatever reason, was shot to death.

War Crimes

Inside this enclosure tens of thousands of captured Union soldiers were kept. They were given virtually no food, perhaps an average of 200 calories a day. Their standard daily ration, when they were able to get it, was one teaspoon of salt, three tablespoons of beans, and a handful of corn meal. Their only water for drinking and washing came from the little stream. There were no sanitary facilities, and human wastes, which were never removed, accumulated and quickly fouled the stream. No competent medical treatment was provided and no measures were taken to protect the prisoners from disease-carrying insects, which swarmed all over the site.

No shelter was provided, no blankets, and no wood for fires. Some prisoners retained their blankets after being captured, and these fortunate few were able to fashion tent shelters, until their blankets wore away. Prisoners were exposed continually to the sun and heat in summer, cold in winter, and sometimes violent rainstorms, with only the remnants of their uniforms for protection.

Escape was prevented by aiming several cannons, each loaded with thousands of iron bails like giant shotguns, at the gates. Such measures were probably unnecessary, since prisoners quickly became so weak they were incapable of exertion.

Welfare packages of food, clothing, blankets and medicines were sent by Northern families to their family members who were prisoners, but these were confiscated and kept by the guards. Prisoners were supposed to receive the same rations as the guards, but the guards controlled this distribution. Every day large numbers of prisoners died, on some days more than a hundred. Some of them survived their experience, but many did not.

Opened in February, 1864, word of the conditions at Andersonville quickly reached the North. In August, 1864, during the Battle of Atlanta, General Sherman sent a strong cavalry force toward Andersonville, to try and save the prisoners there. The raid was unsuccessful and never reached the prison, but the Confederates, fearing another raid, began to remove the prisoners. They moved the survivors to other prisons further away from Federal forces. Although the prisoners weren't freed these new camps were run much more humanely, and as a result some prisoners survived and eventually recovered.

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