History: One of the realities of the Civil War was how to care for the thousands of prisoners taken by the North and South. Confederate forces captured 211,400 Union soldiers of which 30,208 died in prison camps. Andersonville, located in Georgia, was the largest of the camps established during the Civil War. During the fourteen months it existed, more than 45,000 Union soldiers were confined there. Of these, almost 13,000 died from disease, poor sanitation, malnutrition, overcrowding, or exposure to the elements. Handicapped by deteriorating economic conditions, an inadequate transportation system, and the need to concentrate all available resources on its army, the Confederate government was unable to provide adequate housing, food, clothing, and medical care to their captives.

Economic History: Because of the inability of the Confederates to provide the basic necessities of survival, all prisoners were faced with an acute shortage of food, shelter, clothing, water, and medical attention. In coping with this grim situation, soldiers turned to varying forms of economic activities to improve their situation. In doing so, the prisoners of war continually made choices on how to acquire the resources that were available. The result was that they organized their economic life to deal with the problems raised by an acute scarcity of goods and services. Successful economic behavior became the condition for survival. As with all societies, the prisoners of war engaged in various economic activities which included the producing, exchanging, and consuming of goods and services.

Andersonville Prison, Microcosm: Economics Lesson