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John Ransom's Andersonville Diary: Life Inside the Civil War's Most Infamous Prison Mass Market Paperback – May 1, 1994


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 281 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Trade (May 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425141462
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425141465
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #89,028 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

9 1-hour cassettes --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

From AudioFile

Union prisoner of war John Ransom filled several books with his accounts of life in Andersonville, where 13,000 prisoners died, and other Confederate prison camps. David Thorn reads those accounts with a genteel calmness, even when recounting the most horrible experiences--a stint on a brutal chain gang, the uncertainty of coping with illness, or the suspense of watching a prisoner play dead to make his escape. At times Ransom seems astonished to note that prisoners would kill for a ration of bread or amused by "wormy and musty" bean soup, which he imagines as coming from some cookbook's "new edition." Thorn's consistency helps tie together an account that, from circumstances, rambles at times but amply preserves a record of war's inhumanity. J.A.S. © AudioFile 2001, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Customer Reviews

It is hard to put it down once you start reading.
Dave, N8LU
Ransom's Andersonville is such a interesting first-hand account of the daily miseries of being a Union prisoner.
Todd E. Newman
When I was encouraged to read this book I saw it as a bore.
C. Hill

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Rocco Dormarunno on March 22, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
When one considers that John Ransom, at the time of his interment at Andersonville, was not a professional writer, and that much of his recounting of his horrible experiences was censored, this diary is compelling, gritty, gruesome, and all too credible. This unblinking look at a part of Civil War history that is often overlooked, captured my attention as few diaries have. (The diary of Anne Frank, of course, being the most engaging and heart-rending of the genre.)
The stories of mistreatment of the Union soldiers abound--by other Union soldiers as well as the Confederates! But no scourge was more frightful than the natural ones: the weather, insects, and contaminants were just as unfeeling and effective in their decimation of the prison population. This is not a diary for the weak-hearted. The constant tales of humiliation, hunger, and brutality, along with the growing list of Ransom's associates who were dying all around him, are incessant. Just when things get to their grimmest, the reader is treated to the suspense of Ransom's breakout and escape, which you have to read to believe. Whether you are a devotee of Civil War stories or not, John Ransom's "Andersonville Diary/Life Inside the Civil War's Most Infamous Prison" is a fabulous story of toughing it out in the worst of situations, and a thorough examination of one of the Civil War's darkest times and places.
Rocco Dormarunno, author of The Five Points.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By fenske@bellsouth.net on May 26, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is simply the best Civil War personal history I have ever read. It is at the same time depressing and uplifting. The struggle, humor, and horror of the situation is amply described. John Ransom lived an entire lifetime in a little over a year spent as a prisoner. It is history presented as it should be.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Cheated on July 3, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
John Ransom holds back any unnecessary fancy writing and gets to the point. Unfortunately for the 20th century reader, it was published in the 19th century, when censorship in print was at an all time high, so we don't get to read about every vulgarity that he saw while in that deathcamp, and he admits to the reader that some of what he is seeing is undescribable. Even so, I highly recommend it. I even cried at the end (I'm a girl).
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Mark Fordham on June 25, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
QUICK REVIEW: An adequate record of the horrors of the Andersonville POW camp during the Civil War. This is not as descriptive as it could be but it still captures the story of a POW's live as a prisoner in an interesting way.
FULL REVIEW: This account of one soldier's life as a prisoner is good as a story of the events that occur during his imprisonment. However it is not a great account of life at Andersonville specifically. He is only in Andersonville for six months and spends the other half of the book telling us about the other situations he was involved in. He tells us first about life as a prisoner in Richmond, then later about his escape attempts, life in the hospital, etc. He admits, in the diary, that he is not good at writing discriptively, so there are some important details that are left out which other books on Andersonville would describe. But the events he records do reflect the conditions that existed there. It is an interesting story of a prisoner in the South during the Civil War, and is worth reading.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Todd E. Newman on March 26, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Ransom's Andersonville is such a interesting first-hand account of the daily miseries of being a Union prisoner. Ransom mentions his stay in Richmond before being transferred to Andersonville, Georgia. He also describes his daily affairs, hardships, horrors and escapes with much detail. Due to the horrid conditions of the camp, details are captured by Ransom and are sometimes quite graphic. Ransom thought that someday his diary would reach others and certainly didn't want others not to know what hardships actually carried on daily. His vivid descriptions of camp life and his own personal battle of deteriorating health encompasses the reader in this book. His daring escape after being released from Andersonville while being shipped to another southern prison is another gripping tale that awaits the reader in this very interesting story. It's a great book about humanity and suffering. One wonders how people can inflict such burden upon prisoners, though by 1864 the supply withered Confederacy only created further havoc for those contained. This book is a graphic tale of Andersonville and an important asset to explaining Civil War History. 5 STARS!!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By M. Heiss on May 27, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I appreciate this book more, also having read the novel ANDERSONVILLE, which is loosely based on this diary.

John Ransom was a michigan artilleryman captured and imprisoned, first on Belle Isle, and then in Andersonville. The language is accessible and the diary never descends into squalor, fear, or depression. Ransom and his comrades made a pact to stay as healthy and positive as possible during their imprisonment, and that comes through in the diary, written in three journals and hidden throughout his captivity. Ransom does not dwell on the horrifying details of the prisons, but focuses on the good and bad in the characters around him. His horror comes through, especially when he lists the dead of his acquaintance, or even just quantifies the daily death rate -- 15 per day... 20 per day ... 40 per day ... over 100 per day.

If you want the shocking gory details, read the novel Andersonville by MacKinlay Kantor -- it isn't *near* the book that this diary is. But you will get physical descriptions of the prison that will turn your stomach. You will get physical descriptions of the diseases afflicting the prisoners -- much more detail than you probably want. But the novel Andersonville suffers from being way too depressing and maudlin, which never happens in John Ransom's diary.

This diary is by far the better of the two books.
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