In 1863 Ransom was captured in Tennessee and taken to Andersonville, Georgia. During his imprisonment he kept a diary of his experiences. On the 6th July, 1864 he wrote: "Boiling hot, camp reeking with filth, and no sanitary privileges; men dying off over 140 per day. Stockade enlarged, taking in eight or ten more acres, giving us more room, and stumps to dig up for wood to cook with. Jimmy Devers has been a prisoner over a year and, poor boy, will probably die soon. Have more mementos than I can carry, from those who have died, to be given to their friends at home. At least a dozen have given me letters, pictures, etc., to take North."
The Confederate authorities did not provide enough food for the prison and men began to die of starvation. The water became polluted and disease was a constant problem. Of the 49,485 prisoners who entered the camp, nearly 13,000 died from disease and malnutrition.
In August, 1865 President Andrew Johnson give his approval for Henry Wirz, the commandant of Andersonville, to be charged with "wanton cruelty". Wirz appeared before a military commission headed by Major General Lew Wallace on 21st August, 1865.
Wirz was found guilty on 6th November and sentenced to death. He was taken to Washington to be executed in the same yard where those involved in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln had died. Alexander Gardner, the famous photographer, was invited to record the event. The execution took place on the 10th November. The gallows were surrounded by Union Army soldiers who throughout the procedure chanted "Wirz, remember, Andersonville."
John L. Ransom's book, Andersonville Diary, was published in 1881. He died at the age 76 years on 23rd September 1919 in Los Angeles County.
6th July: Boiling hot, camp reeking with filth, and no sanitary privileges; men dying off over 140 per day. Stockade enlarged, taking in eight or ten more acres, giving us more room, and stumps to dig up for wood to cook with. Jimmy Devers has been a prisoner over a year and, poor boy, will probably die soon. Have more mementos than I can carry, from those who have died, to be given to their friends at home. At least a dozen have given me letters, pictures, etc., to take North. Hope I shan't have to turn them over to someone else.
7th July: Having formed a habit of going to sleep as soon as the air got cooled off and before fairly dark. I wake up at 2 or 3 o'clock and stay awake. I then take in all the horrors of the situation. Thousands are groaning, moaning, and crying, with no bustle of the daytime to drown it.
9th July: One-half the men here would get well if they only had something in the vegetable line to eat. Scurvy is about the most loathsome disease, and when dropsy takes hold with the scurvy, it is terrible. I have both diseases but keep them in check, and it only grows worse slowly. My legs are swollen, but the cords are not contracted much, and I can still walk very well.
10th July: Have bought (from a new prisoner) a large blank book so as to continue my diary. Although it is a tedious and tiresome task, am determined to keep it up. Don't know of another man in prison who is doing likewise. Wish I had the gift of description that I might describe this place.
Nothing can be worse kind of water. Nothing can be worse or nastier than the stream drizzling its way through this camp. And for air to breathe, it is what arises from this foul place. On al four sides of us are high walls and tall tress, and there is apparently no wind or breeze to blow away the stench, and we are obliged to breathe and live in it. Dead bodies lay around all day in the broiling sun, by the dozen and even hundreds, and we must suffer and live in this atmosphere.
12th July: I keep thinking our situation can get no worse, but it does get worse every day, and not less than 160 die each twenty-four hours. Probably one-forth or one-third of these die inside the stockade, the balance in the hospital outside. All day and up to 4 o'clock p.m., the dead are being gathered up and carried to the south gate and placed in a row inside the dead line. As the bodies are stripped of their clothing, in most cases as soon as the breath leaves and in some cases before, the row of dead presents a sickening appearance.
At 4 o'clock, a four or six mule wagon comes up to the gate, and twenty or thirty bodies are loaded onto the wagon and they are carried off to be put in trenches, one hundred in each trench, in the cemetery. It is the orders to attach the name, company, and regiment to each body, but it is not always done. My digging days are over. It is with difficulty now that I can walk, and only with the help of two canes.
This morning, lumber was brought into the prison by the Rebels, and near the gate a gallows erected for the purpose of executing the six condemned Yankees. At about 10 o'clock they were brought inside by Captain Wirtz and some guards. Wirtz then said a few words about their having been tried by our own men and for us to do as we choose with them. I have learned by inquiry their names, which are as follows: John Sarsfield, 144th New York; William Collins, 88th Pennsylvania; Charles Curtiss, 5th Rhode Island Artillery; Pat Delaney, 83rd Pennsylvania; A. Munn, U.S. Navy and W.R. Rickson of the U.S. Navy.
All were given a chance to talk. Munn, a good-looking fellow in Marine dress, said he came into the prison four months before, perfectly honest and as innocent of crime as any fellow in it. Starvation, with evil companions, had made him what he was. He spoke of his mother and sisters in New York, that he cared nothing as far as he himself was concerned, but the news that would be carried home to his people made him want to curse God he had ever been born.
Delaney said he would rather be hung than live here as the most of them lived on the allowance of rations. If allowed to steal could get enough to eat, but as that was stopped had rather hang. He said his name was not Delaney and that no one knew who he really was, therefore his friends would never know his fate, his Andersonville history dying with him.
Curtiss said he didn't care a damn only hurry up and not be talking about it all day; making too much fuss over a very small matter. William Collins said he was innocent of murder and ought not be hung; he had stolen blankets and rations to preserve his own life, and begged the crowd not to see him hung as he had a wife and child at home.
Collins, although he said he had never killed anyone, and I don't believe he ever did deliberately kill a man, such as stabbing or pounding a victim to death, yet he has walked up to a poor sick prisoner on a cold night and robbed him of blanket, or perhaps his rations, and if necessary using all the force necessary to do it. These things were the same as life to the sick man, for he would invariably die.
Sarsfield made quite a speech; he had studied for a lawyer; at the outbreak of the rebellion he had enlisted and served three years in the army, being wounded in battle. Promoted to first sergeant and also commissioned as a lieutenant. He began by stealing parts of rations, gradually becoming hardened as he became familiar with the crimes practised; evil associates had helped him to go downhill.
At about 11 o'clock, they were all blindfolded, hands and feet tied, told to get ready, nooses adjusted, and the plank knocked from under. Munn died easily, as also did Delaney; all the rest died hard, and particularly Sarsfield, who drew his knees nearly to his chin and then straightened them out with a jerk, the veins in his neck swelling out as if they would burst.
Collins' rope broke and he fell to the ground, with blood spurting from his ears, mouth and nose. As they was lifting him back to the swinging-off place, he revived and begged for his life, but no use, was soon dangling with the rest, and died hard.