January 25, 2012

Plains and Prisons

It may appear that we are backtracking a bit, since we crossed into Georgia late yesterday afternoon.  There is a method to our madness, as southwest Georgia seems to be an interesting point of departure for our eventual drive into Kentucky.  From here, we can head north on one route and south on a different one.

Southwest Georgia has two national park units, and we visited both of them today.  Jimmy Carter National Historic Site and Andersonville National Historic Site could not be more different.

Plains, Georgia, is a pretty little town, and has always been home to Jimmy Carter.  The Jimmy Carter National Historic Site encompasses much of the town.  Carter grew up just outside of town and continues to live in the home that he and Rosalynn built in 1960. Plains High School has been restored for use as the park’s visitor center and museum. Plains Depot, which served as Carter’s campaign headquarters, is also open to the public, as is his boyhood home and farm.

Plains High School
Plains Depot
Plains High School is a beautiful building and is perfect for housing exhibits that explore Carter’s life and contributions.  The museum interprets Carter’s boyhood in Plains, his years in the Navy, his return to Plains in 1953, his entire political career and his work today with the Carter Center.  I had forgotten much about his presidency, and it was good to be reminded just how much Carter did accomplish.  I continue to be impressed with his work with Habitat for Humanity, his efforts to advance human rights and his mediation of peace agreements throughout the world.

Tim and I wandered around Plains and had lunch downtown.  The peanut theme is a bit overdone in Plains, but it seems to be effective, since we ended up leaving town with fried peanuts and peanut brittle.  Naturally, we also had to sample homemade peanut ice cream. It was really delicious and so much better than I had expected. 

Downtown Plains
Billy Carter's Service Station
Plains Baptist Church
From Plains we made our way to Andersonville National Historic Site, the location of the most notorious Confederate prison camp during the Civil War.  We arrived just in time for a ranger-guided tour of the site.  The tour was immensely useful in helping us to understand the scope of Andersonville, since no structures exist today from that awful period.  A few earthworks and the sites of several wells are the only physical remains from the camp.  The intangible remains are another story.

During the fourteen months that the prison existed, more than 45,000 Union soldiers were confined here. At least 13,000 died from disease, malnutrition, poor sanitation, overcrowding or exposure. Conditions were horrific. Visiting the site today and viewing the small reconstructed sections of the camp can give one only a vague sense of what it must have been like in 1864.

A Reconstructed Corner of the Camp Gives Some Idea of Life at Andersonville
Andersonville National Historic Site interprets much more than its Civil War past, however. It is a memorial to all prisoners of war and is the only National Park unit to serve this purpose.  The American prisoner of war experience from the Revolutionary War through the Persian Gulf War is told here through exhibits, videos and oral histories.

The Memorial Courtyard Represents All Prisoners of War
After a sobering history lesson, we did have fun talking with the rangers at Andersonville, two of whom previously worked at Big Bend National Park.  We received great tips on visiting that park and filed the ideas away for future reference.

We headed toward Macon, Georgia, and settled into Arrowhead Park at Lake Tobesofkee Recreation Area.  This is a beautiful county-operated campground, and we have a site right on the lake.  There is something to be said for waterfront property.  It is so nice that we have decided to stay here for another day to take advantage of this wonderful location.

Waterfront Property
A Beautiful Evening on the Lake


  1. Did you get to try Billy Beer? Ha ! Love A

  2. A, Darn! Why didn't we think of that? We had to settle for iced tea. Sarah