A number of prisoners were being evacuated from a number of P.O.W. camps and sent to Blackshear Prison. Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman was making his push toward the coast during his Savannah Campaign. Blackshear is deep in southeast Georgia, in Pierce County. At the outbreak of the war, the town contained just 333 households. Most of the men had gone off to fight in the war.
The first shipment of 600 prisoners from the Millen P.O.W. camp arrived at Blackshear Prison on November 16, from Savannah. The prisoners were brought to the prison by taking the Atlantic & Gulf Railroad. The trains kept bringing prisoners to the camp until the prison population reached just over 5,000.
The prison was nothing more than an open camp in an out-of-the-way place, surrounded by a guardline, including some heavy artillery pieces. It was considered as a "corral for human beings." The prison guards were mainly from the 2nd Georgia Reserve Regiment and 3 companies of the 4th Georgia Reserves. There were a number of prisoner escapes at night despite heavy patrolling by the guards. Col. Forno was the first prison commandant.
LIFE & OVERVIEW:
From the start, there were supply problems getting to the prison. The prisoner's rationsconsisited of whatever was available and just handed out one time a day. Each day usually consisted of something different each day. For example, one day would be rice, the next day would be sweet potatoes, and the next day would be a small ration some kind of meat. The beef came from animals caught around the camp/town and guards taking cattle from nearby farms and plantations.
Within a week, the prisoners who came to the prison first was told that they were going to be sent back to Savannah for exchange. Before leaving, they were each given a 2-day ration of cornmeal and fresh beef, and then sent away. When they reached Savannah, they discovered that they weren't going to be exchanged, but instead was going to be transferred to Charleston, South Carolina for confinement. At the same time, Forno had transferred additional prisoners to other P.O.W. camps. This left only 2,500 prisoners left at Blackshear. By mid-to-late December, the prisoners were being sent away to different camps and then sent back. The Confederates were never certain where the prisoners were at any one time. They were terribly confused as to what to do with the prisoners and the threat of Sherman's approach continued to worsen.
On December 10 and 11, the remaining prisoners healthy enough to be moved, left Blackshear and headed to Charleston by train. Along the way, many prisoners escaped from the slow moving train while the guards weren't paying attention.
It is also recorded by the National Archives that some 27 Union soldiers were buried in Blackshear until the close of the war when they were reentered at Beaufort National Cemetery, Beaufort, SC. Their names are unknown.