Being incarcerated sure is far from a pleasant experience. If you did something against the law, jail time is your punishment. In prison, you are away from all the luxuries of life: no entertainment, no clothing of your choice, and isolation.

Then there’s being a prisoner of war when where you’re forced into labor, starved, and tortured. That was pretty much the reality of the POWs of Camp Sumter, which housed Union soldiers captured during the Civil War. Here’s what life was like there.

Camp Sumter

Whether it was called Camp Sumter or Andersonville prison did not matter to around 45,000 Union soldiers locked in the camp. It was described as hell upon earth. The conditions were so horrific that 13,000 of the imprisoned soldiers perished. Overcrowding, starvation, thirst, and exposure were all their reality.

The camp was originally built in 1864 after the prisoner-exchange system between the North and South broke down in 1863 due to disagreements on handling black soldiers after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1. Per the proclamation, persons held as slaves within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” As a response, the Confederates said that they would not return the captured Black soldiers of the North. They then had the Andersonville camp hastily built through Black slave labor.