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Abraham Tower Leaves Andersonville Prison

In researching my Civil War ancestor, I became fascinated by all aspects of that war. If you're a Civil War buff, check out my topics.

Many Men Never Left Andersonville But My Ancestor Survived

Another Indiana soldiers grave in the National Cemetery at Andersonville. photo by Virginia Allain I took it in the cemetery at Andersonville Prison. Thank goodness, my great-great grandfather did not die there like many of the men from his regiment.

Another Indiana soldiers grave in the National Cemetery at Andersonville. photo by Virginia Allain I took it in the cemetery at Andersonville Prison. Thank goodness, my great-great grandfather did not die there like many of the men from his regiment.

My Civil War Ancestor Survived Andersonville

I knew that my great-great grandfather survived the notorious Andersonville Civil War prison, but I didn't have many details on that time in his life. In particular, I was curious about his leaving the prison.

The prisoner exchanges had broken down with the North and South unable to agree on the exchange of captured black soldiers. As more captured Union soldiers poured into the prison, with none leaving, the conditions became increasingly horrible. Over 12,000 of Andersonville's prisoners of war were buried in the cemetery near the prison.

My grandfather survived and was paroled from Andersonville in December 1864. How did this happen? Apparently, his release was just in time as he was suffering from the many illnesses that killed other prisoners. He weighed a mere 73 pounds at the time of release, so was just skin and bones after being six months in Andersonville.

Read on to see what I discovered about his release.


There was little shelter from broiling summer heat or fierce rain storms in Andersonville.

There was little shelter from broiling summer heat or fierce rain storms in Andersonville.

What Was Happening in the War That Affected Andersonville - Fall 1864

Sherman's troops occupied Atlanta in early September of that year. Those in charge of Andersonville feared that Union raids on the prison at Andersonville might free the huge number of prisoners, so they started transferring them to other prisons in South Carolina and Georgia.

Only about 1500 prisoners remained by mid-November. My ancestor was one of those still in the prison as far as I can tell. Some accounts by survivors tell of being transported by train to South Carolina but later being returned to Andersonville as troop movements and events of the war unfolded.

There were fewer guards to watch over the reduced prison population. One report that I saw said the sicker prisoners were the ones left behind in the prison. Since the more able prisoners were shipped out, the ones remaining suffered from lack of care that earlier they received from their companions.

Transfers to Andersonville in late December increased the numbers of prisoners once again but only to 5000. The prison was still a putrid hellhole but at least the crowding had been reduced.


I never felt so utterly depressed, cursed, and God-forsaken in all my life before. Pvt Walter Smith

Recommended Reading about Andersonville

William Marvel researched primary source material to compile a detailed account of events at the Andersonville Civil War Prison.

Review of Andersonville: The Last Depot

Nov. 14, 1864 New York Times Account of Prisoner Exchange

Abraham Bates Tower was not fortunate enough to be in this exchange. From what I've read, the more desperately ill prisoners remained behind.

  • It seems an exchange was arranged to trade sick prisoners from each side. Apparently. they used a lottery to determine which of the men would be among the 10,000 freed from the prisons. The Union sent steamships to deliver the rebel prisoners and collect the released Union soldiers. Read more about The Exchange of Prisoners.
  • This Civil War Harper's Weekly features a picture of Exchanged Civil War Prisoners on the "Eliza Hancock." Here's where to see that Sketch Showing Exchanged Prisoners November 18, 1864

December 10, 1864 - Exchange of Prisoners

It is possible that my great-great grandfather was on this steamship, shown below. His parole date was a few days before this newspaper issue came out.

In his pension file, it says he was exchanged at Florence, South Carolina.

Steamer New York

The steamship New York that took released prisoners north. The photo was taken in 1865 as it waited for an exchange of prisoners at Aiken's Landing, Virginia.

The steamship New York that took released prisoners north. The photo was taken in 1865 as it waited for an exchange of prisoners at Aiken's Landing, Virginia.

Take a look at the link below which takes you to a sketch of the ragged, emaciated prisoners receiving care on the steamship New York. It's a wrenching sight to see their skeletal appearance and the remnants of clothing that barely covered them.

In looking at the sketch, it helps me visualize the condition my ancestor was in at the time of his parole. Besides viewing the sketch in the Harper's Weekly of December 10, 1864, read the newspaper account of the care given the released prisoners on the steamship New York.

Harper's Weekly Issue - December 10, 1864

This Civil War Harper's Weekly features a sketch and story on Exchanged and Freed Prisoners aboard the steamship New York. The article says the freed prisoners were given baths and new clothing to replace their rags.


Earlier, I'd found the book The Horrors of Andersonville by John W. Urban (at that time, free online to read). It described the New York. In the case of Urban, he was so ill after his release from Andersonville that he remained in the hospital for seven months.

That book is no longer available on Google Books, but you can find some free online books about Andersonville to read and download on Project Gutenburg.

I Thought He Probably Went to Camp Parole in Maryland - near Annapolis

Civil War hospital mess hall in Washington D.C. Harewood Hospital 1865.

Civil War hospital mess hall in Washington D.C. Harewood Hospital 1865.

I imagine that Camp Parole had a similar place (see above photo) for the recuperating paroled prisoners to eat. I've searched quite a bit and there are very few photos of Camp Parole, Maryland from the Civil War era.

The family story goes that Abraham Tower traveled home to Crawford County, Indiana, only to find that his wife and children were no longer there. He reunited with them in Missouri where they had gone to live with his wife's sister. He was missing and presumed dead after the Battle of Brice's Crossroads.

It turns out (according to his pension file), that he was given a 30-day furlough. I can't imagine how he traveled across a country still at war to reach his family in Missouri.

Here's the description of him when he arrived there, "He was then suffering from a severe pain in his left side and breast and also with a severe cough and also suffered from the effects of scurvy. Physically he was a living skeleton and weak, totally unable to do any manual labor or whatever while home on the furlough. Only weighing about seventy-three lbs. while his average weight being one hundred and thirty-three lbs."

While home on furlough, he continued afflicted as aforesaid and returned to his regiment--sometime in January 1865 and was discharged in August 1865."

Camp Parole - Annapolis, Maryland - During the Civil War

abraham-tower-andersonville-prison

By Steamship to Camp Parole, Maryland

  • Camp Parole, Maryland
    Tells about prisoners being paroled and transferred by steamship New York to Camp Parole in Maryland.

Drawing of Released Prisoners on the Steamship New York

With their ragged uniforms some paroled prisoners celebrated their release with a dance on the deck. Weaker prisoners watch.

With their ragged uniforms some paroled prisoners celebrated their release with a dance on the deck. Weaker prisoners watch.

Found on the Civil War Forum

Private John Mason Labbree of Pennsylvania was paroled at Charleston, SC from Andersonville on December 6, 1864. He went to a Union Hospital, Camp Parole, on December 17, 1864. He spent six months there recovering, then was released from the hospital. Discharged June 18, 1865.

Video about Andersonville

Read the Diaries of Other Prisoners at Andersonville

  • Prisoners' Memories of Andersonville Prison
    Two years ago I visited Andersonville, Georgia. Standing on that ground where thousands died, I looked up at the stockade walls and the guard tower. Trying to visualize how my great-great grandfather might have felt being in that Civil War prison...

Abraham Bates Tower Finishes Out His Enlistment

I'm not sure if he was of any use to his regiment in the condition he was in.

His pension file says: "I had no medical treatment until I was paroled and sent to Columbus, Ohio about the 12 June 1865. There a surgen of the post attended on me after that at Mobile, the surgeon of the post 2nd Regt. attended on me. I do not know his name. Then in June 1865, the surgeon of the 26th Regt. of Indiana gave me treatment. The Civil War mostly ended with General Lee's surrender of his army on April 9, 1865. The last fighting of the war was in June of 1865, then Confederate General Stand Watie surrendered his troops on June 23, 1865."

Read more about Abraham Bates Tower's life after the Civil War.

He Suffered from Scorbutus and from Months of Starvation

  • What Is Scorbutus?
    It's an old-fashioned word that was used for scurvy. Read more about this health problem that caused the deaths of many in that Georgia prison.
  • Starvation at Andersonville Prison
    Andersonville Prison in Georgia was notorious for the starvation suffered by Union soldiers there during the Civil War. Why did it happen and how did the prisoners survive the brutal conditions there?

Places Relating to A.B. Tower

  • Andersonville Prison - Andersonville GA
  • Where the steamships picked up the paroled soldiers from the Confederates - Charleston SC
  • Camp Parole where the Andersonville survivors were held until their parole ended - Parole MD
  • Linn County, Missouri where Abraham Tower found his family - Laclede, Missouri

Abraham Bates Tower with His Wife Nancy Angeline after the Civil War

I don't have any photos of Abraham before the war to compare his appearance. This photo is undated so how soon was it after his release from Andersonville? The family story is that the child shown is a grandchild. For more about that, check below.

I don't have any photos of Abraham before the war to compare his appearance. This photo is undated so how soon was it after his release from Andersonville? The family story is that the child shown is a grandchild. For more about that, check below.

Clues to Date the Photo

The identity of Abraham Tower is not in question here. This photo is similar to later well-identified photos of him.

The family say the infant is a grandchild, but no one know which one. Here are some possibilities.

What if it isn't a grandchild, but their own child, daughter Mary Louisa Tower? She was born in 1866. The emaciated condition of Abraham in this photo would match with the description in his military records of a very sick man who suffered through 6 months at Andersonville.

The dress worn by Abraham's wife, Nancy Angeline, could be from that time or even into the 1880s which is when their first grandchildren were born. Below are some possible grandchildren but we can't know which one is actually in the photo.

1886 John Herman Newton

1887 Rhoda Taylor

1887 Martha A. Tower

1888 Minnie Mae Newton

1897 Sarah Angeline Fiscus

1893 Myrtle May Tower

1895 Clarence Oliver McGhee

We know the photo is before 1909 since that's Nancy Angeline's year of death.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Virginia Allain

Have You Researched a Civil War Ancestor?

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on March 04, 2018:

Carol Mae Marty - I suggest that you join a Facebook group called Descendants of Andersonville Prisoners. You might get some clues there.

Carol Mae Marty on February 25, 2018:

Searching for Marty (Marti), Stevens, McKissack, Nuss, thanks

carterpat52@gmail.com on February 21, 2018:

I haven't did any research on my civil war. They were in Covington Co., Ms.

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on February 19, 2018:

Try looking in Confederate records for these ancestors. Most likely they were serving in the South, though KY could be either.

Wadley and Baker and Maynard on February 17, 2018:

Looking for relatives with last names of Wadley, Baker or Maynard. All lived in Arkansas or Kentucky.

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on February 08, 2018:

You might want to join a Facebook group called Descendants of Andersonville Prisoners. There may be researchers there who could help you.

Lisa Duenne on February 06, 2018:

Looking for Beaver, Bagbey, Lillie last names

Georgene main on September 02, 2017:

Last name Gray in civil war

Nancy Bryan on July 19, 2017:

Great Great grandfather dies a prisoner in the Andersonville prison.

David Olinger

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on June 19, 2017:

I read an article somewhere that a period of starvation could actually lead to extending life. Maybe, it is just that if you are tough enough to get through that, you will survive other things for a long life.

lynn brownlee on June 18, 2017:

My Great Great Grandfather was a prisoner at Andersonville When he returned home, his own father did not immediately recognize him, due to his emaciated state. He survived into fairly old age, however.

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on September 08, 2012:

@anonymous: It seems logical that they traveled as a group and probably recuperated in the same hospital. Check out my page about Andersonville timeline where I gathered information from various diaries. It gives you some insight into the time your ancestor was there.

anonymous on September 08, 2012:

I just discovered that my Gr. (x3) Grandfather (1st VT Cavalry) was paroled from Andersonville the same day - Dec. 6, 1864. Thanks to your research, I think he, too, must have been part of the prisoner exchange. Thanks for sharing your work!

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on July 14, 2012:

@OhMe: I wonder if your Civil War ancestor was in the prison camp in Ohio. There's been quite a bit written about that one.

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on July 14, 2012:

I remember reading about Andersonville when I was in Elementary School and the thoughts of it gives me chills. My ancestors fought for the south. They were farmers and not slave owners and were conscripted into the confederate army. One of my ancestors was a prisoner of war and survived.

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on July 14, 2012:

@Terrie_Schultz: Thanks, Terrie, I have about 33 lenses related to my great-great grandfather. Still more research to do though.

Terrie_Schultz on July 14, 2012:

I've been working on my genealogy, and I think I have some relatives that were in the Civil War. Need to do more digging. Fascinating lens!

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on November 18, 2011:

@evelynsaenz1: Evelyn - give me the name and I'll check it in the Andersonville database for you. It's possible that our ancestors suffered in the same place.

Evelyn Saenz from Royalton on November 08, 2011:

Yes, My Great, great-grandfather was also a prisoner of war. They had a funereal for him here in Vermont but after the war, he came home and lived to be 94 years old. He too was quite emaciated when he left the prison. I am not sure what prison he was in.

Blessed by a SquidAngel!

WindyWintersHubs from Vancouver Island, BC on November 08, 2011:

I did extensive research on my paternal great-grandmother's family tree for nine long years before Squidoo. Her grandfather and great-grandfather (as well other ancestors) served in the Civil War. I have a genealogy cousin that completed the Civil War research on the two...and it was fascinating to read some of the records. I thought about making a few hubs years ago but it has been on the backburner since Squidoo. Thanks for sharing your info, Virginia. :)

Joan4 on November 07, 2011:

My sisters do more genealogy research than I do, but I do know that we have Civil War ancestors. Looking at your map, I can just imagine the hardships of all those long trips in that day.

AlleyCatLane on November 05, 2011:

Yes, I lived and breathed genealogy for about three straight years a number of years ago. It was fascinating. I may have to pull out my journals and do a few Squidoo lenses myself on my ancestors. You have inspired me.

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