Bernard McKnight - Andersonville Prison
As a prisoner of war Barney probably spent time in one or more Confederate prisons until finally being transferred to Andersonville, Georgia sometime between February and April of 1864. Andersonville Prison (officially known as Camp Sumter), under the command of Captain Henry Wirz, was to be known for its horrible conditions and low regard for human life. Disease ran rampant throughout the stockade. Sanitation facilities and medical attention were nonexistent, while death occurred in epidemic proportions. By July of 1864, 30,000 prisoners were held at Andersonville. A total of about 13,000 died in the facility during its existence. Survival became the main concern of most prisoners.

Sketch looking northwest where Stockade Creek entered the prison.
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"The noise of thirty thousand men never really subsided. The stockade echoed all day with a clatter and clamor that rose sometimes to a muffled roar; at nightfall it tapered to a sibilant hum, ceasing altogether only for those whose last sun had already set. Prison society continued into the night,

Riddle #6 Photo - August 16, 1864.
Notice the "deadline" to the lower left.
especially for the criminal and there the murmur of a prayer vigil rose from the tents of dying men. By 10 o'clock those chorals usually broke up for lack of firelight or warmth, and gradually the low moans of the sick swelled to fill the darkness with a mournful lullaby...Only in the gray predawn of three or four o'clock did the stockade approach anything that could have been called quiet..." (from Andersonville: The Last Depot by William Marvel)
Barney was present for the trial and execution in July of the infamous "Andersonville Raiders". These prisoners banned together and terrorized the rest of the camp. Finally in July the raiders faced growing opposition from fellow inmates, were overpowered and restrained. Captain Wirz permitted the prison population to put the Raiders on trial and promised to carry out their verdicts. The six ringleaders were sentenced to hang and the execution was conducted within the prison stockade by the prison population on July 11, 1864.
The greatest obstacle to survival was rampant disease and poor diet. The crowded, unsanitary conditions within the stockade resulted in an infestation of lice and maggots, and the contamination of the water supply. High rates of typhoid, infection, gangrene were the result. As the Confederate war effort failed, so did its ability to supply the needs of its prisoners. The daily staple of poorly prepared and insect infested cornbread was the caused widespread digestive problems. The lack of fruits and vegetables caused massive outbreaks of scurvy. Barney was simply unable to avoid the inevitable fate created by the abhorrent conditions. He developed scurvy. His gums became soft, began to bleed and his teeth loosened and fell out. As the condition worsened Barney's muscles slowly contracted reducing his mobility.

Riddle #8 Photo - August 16, 1864.
Ration wagon inside the north gate.
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Riddle #4 Photo - August 16, 1864.
Sinks at the east end of Stockade Creek looking south/southeast.
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Riddle #10 Photo - August 16, 1864.
Prisoner burial crew.
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On August 9, 1864 a violent thunderstorm moved into the area just after the noon hour. Thunder, lightening and torrential rainfall continued for the next three hours. As the huge volume of runoff rushed into the stream moving through the compound, water began to dam up against the upright logs of the stockade wall. Sewage from the swamp area back up into low areas poisoning many wells. The pressure finally caused many of the stockade logs to collapse, creating an opening. Most of the prisoners were so weakened by disease or so demoralized by their surroundings that there was little attempt to escape. The gap was plugged by Confederate guards as the storm ended.

Dawn of August 10 revealed a pitiful sight. The storm had punished many a failing soldier beyond recovery; the sickest of
" those who slept in the streets could not raise themselves to make way for the day's traffic, and numbers of them died under the driving rain." (Andersonville: The Last Depot by William Marvel) As the prison population tied to recuperate from the storm, Barney, at the young age of 27, died. He was one of over one hundred fatalities that day. Fellow inmates stripped the bodies of their dead comrades, tied a tag to their toe indicating their name and military unit, and placed the body by the stockade gate to be taken out and buried. During the month of August in 1864 an average of ninety-nine men per day died in the stockade. Barney's body was removed from the prison and buried in the cemetery a quarter of a mile away. His grave was numbered 5223.
  • Civil War Muster Roll
  • 3rd Massachusetts Cavalry History
  • Hervey Letter
  • Andersonville: The Last Depot by William Marvel
  • Documents and References

  • Bernard McKnight Grave 5223
    August 10, 1864
    Andersonville National Cemetery
    (Click the photo for a larger view.)

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