Category: Borderlands 2023-2024

Border Patrol

Border Patrol highway check point.

Drive anywhere near the southern border and we encounter Border Patrol highway checkpoints. The Border Patrol officer asks for our name or nationality. Sometimes the dog will be walked around the trailer. The officer nods. We move on. That’s been our experience with Border Patrol.

The little RV park we’re heading for on highway 90, the only east-west road in this area. It’s announced by a rusty neon sign that looks like it was put up in the ‘60s but the neon still works and at night it spells out TUMBLE IN in the dark sky. Situated on the east side of Marfa, Texas between the highway and the railroad, it’s a quiet place except when the train comes along hauling containers to and from Los Angeles or an eastbound truck is going through the gears, getting back up to speed on the highway as it leaves town. West Texas is pretty much treeless and the campground is no exception. Other than two trees planted by the corrugated metal garage that serves as a rec hall, everything and everybody is in plain view.

It’s always nice to talk to folks at the campsite. We meet the most interesting people that way. Say “Hi” to someone and chances are you’re going to learn something.

“Hi” I say to the man getting something out of his car next to his camper.

“How are you doing?” he replies.

“Fine. It’s a beautiful day.”

“This weather is the best. Where are you from?”


“What are you doing down here?”

“Oh, we come down for the winter. The weather’s a lot better.”

He smiles, “I grew up in Maine. My Dad just sent me a picture of six, eight inches of snow on the ground. My name’s Matt by the way.”

“I’m Alan. So why did you come down here?”

“Border Patrol. I work for Border Patrol.”

“And you live here?”

“Yeah. I traded a gun for this trailer. It’s not beautiful but it works for me. Being single I don’t need a lot.”

“Hey is that your bicycle?” I ask looking at a mountain bike leaning against his trailer.

“Yeah. I ride to work on it sometimes. District headquarters is only about 4 miles down the road.”

“I’ve gotta ask you about tires. I’ve been out on mine about three times and have gotten two flats.”

He laughs, “Let me tell you about Texas riding. You ever hear of goat’s heads? Little round seeds with spines sticking out every direction. You’re going to pick those up everywhere. Sooner or later, probably sooner, one is going to puncture that thin tire. It drove me crazy when I first got here. Then I found these foam things you put in the tire. Tannus they’re called.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard of them. They work?”

“I haven’t had a flat since I got them.”

“What do you like about Border Patrol work?”

He laughs again, “They pay me crazy money to ride around the mountains all day. I love being out in the mountains.”

Now one might be drawn to speculate why a single guy with a good job is living in a trailer he traded for a gun. I’m here to tell you to put that thought right out of your head. It’s an unwritten rule of the road that you don’t inquire as to where folks are coming from or where they are going. If they want to tell you, that’s fine. If they don’t, it doesn’t pay to even think about it. Just accept what you see. Things go a lot smoother that way.

“You patrol the mountains along the border?”

The U.S. border with Mexico near Presidio, TX

 “Yeah. If they make it across the border we get ‘em. They’re mostly nice people. Some bad ones but mostly just ordinary people. They come all this way just trying to get away from something. Maybe something really terrible. But we’ve gotta round ‘em up.”

“What do you do with them?”

“We bring ‘em in. Interview them. Separate out the bad ones. Let the rest go.”

“Just let them go?”

“Basically. We document them. They all claim asylum ‘cause they know. The only way they can legally claim asylum is to present themselves at a border crossing. But because they claim asylum they get a hearing even though they crossed illegally. It might take a year, maybe 2, before their hearing. So they get to stay here until the hearing. They get a free bus ticket to any major city. Most of ‘em have friends or family in the U.S. so they go to wherever they are. A lot coming across here go to Odessa. Some don’t have anybody so they become a problem for the border towns. Most of ’em won’t get asylum approved but they’ll get to stay here until the hearing. That’s the problem.”

“Now don’t get me wrong. We’ve got lots of people that come through the Presidio crossing every day. Good people. Over a hundred a day just to work at the tomato farm. People on business or to visit family. I love those people. They do it right. Show up at the crossing with their papers. Tell us what they’re doing.”

A truck waiting to cross the border at Presidio

“Those are the good ones. The problem is the ones coming across illegally. There’s way to many. We’re really stretched thin. We’re picking up people everyday in this sector. I’ve probably picked up several thousand over the four years I’ve been in Border Patrol and they just keep coming.” 

With hundreds of migrants crossing daily in the area, the U.S. government indefinitely shut down the remote international crossing between Lukeville, AZ, and Sonoyta, Mexico. The morning after it was closed, about a dozen Border Patrol agents in olive green uniforms watched over some 400 migrants who had spent the night by the towering wall of steel bollards. Another 40 officers loaded migrants and drove vans taking them to a temporary field intake center. Chris Clem, retired Yuma, AZ sector chief, said it is part of the smugglers strategy to overwhelm remote areas and stretch agents as thinly as possible, forcing highway checkpoints to close and other resource to be diverted to processing migrants.

AP news report, DECEMBER 8TH

“It’s all run by the cartels. $10,000 to $15,000 they charge. For that they get three tries to get across. If we catch them right at the river we send them back but we’ll see them again in a few days. I don’t call any cartel good but the cartel across from this sector, La Linea, is one of the better cartels. They’re a business. They’re out to make money and not as violent like Sinaloa.”

“$10,000. That’s a lot of money.”

“Yeah. When we round ’em up I try to explain to them. Why don’t you just get a visa? $600 for a visa. Now you’ve spent a whole lot of money and chances are you’re just going to be sent back. I don’t know if they understand.”

“But if La Linea is making money on this, their incentive is to keep it going. Keep finding people to pay them to cross.”

“Yeah, we get people from all over. Haiti, Honduras, Guatemala.” He laughs, “You would think Guatemala would be running out people by now. But yeah, they work with other cartels to the south to move them north. We’re even getting them from Russia and the Middle East now. Everybody’s making money off it and Border Patrol gets stuck trying to stop them at the border.”

“These cartels are smart. They look for our weakness and exploit it. And the cartel guides are good. They know every trail and ranch road. We can catch ‘em when they’re bringing people across but when they’re on their own, man those guys are fast. Little guys but really athletic. I’m in good shape but there’s not many of those guides I can run down on foot when they’re alone.”

“The best is when we catch ‘em at night. We’ve got a lot of tech so we can spot ‘em day or night. If it’s night they’re usually asleep by the time we get there. The night vision googles we walk right up to ‘em.  Slip the cuffs on ‘em before they even wake up. They’re pissed but it’s all over for ‘em. The guides will get deported. The others will claim asylum. That’s what I like. Get out there and get the job done.”

“I really like this sector. A lot of guys want to go to the El Paso or Del Rio sectors but here you’ve got beautiful country. It’s laid back. Nobody hassles you.

“What do you think the solution is? I mean the big picture solution.”

“Send them back. If all ’em that’s illegal was sent back the problem would be solved.”

“Hey do you have any recommendations for what to see or do here? We were down to Chinati today.”

“Chinati the art place?”


“You want to take a drive? See some of the most beautiful country in the area?


“Take 67 down to Presidio. As you’re comin’ into town you’ll see a right hand turn. Take that about 20, 25 miles you’ll come to a little town. You can tell because the speed limit goes down. Turn right on the only gravel road and just follow that. It’ll take you through what I think is the prettiest country in west Texas. You’ll be going through the Chinati Mountains.”

“You got good tires?” he glances over at the truck. “And a spare. Yeah, you’ll do alright. The road gets a little rough in places. You’ll see signs ‘Pinto Canyon Ranch, Private Property’ but the road’s a county road. Just stay on it and it’ll bring you right back to Marfa.”

The following day we head off toward Presidio, 60 miles to the south.

Marfa is the county seat of Presidio County. Marfa’s the county seat because, with 1,800 people, it’s the biggest town in the county. Once one leaves the outskirts of Marfa there will be a ghost town and one other building before you reach the outskirts of Presidio. It’s big wide open range land with mountains on either side. When I say range land it’s not like one sees a lot of cattle out there. Little patches of grass grow between the creosote bush, sotol and prickly pear cactus. Not enough to feed many cattle. Barely enough to feed a cow. I pass the time noting the barbed wire fence on either side. Some with wood posts but most are metal now. Three strand, four strand and some of the newer fence with five strands, wire still shiny and sparkling in the sun.

Further south on 67 we can see the Border Patrol checkpoint in the distance. It’s the only inhabited building on the road. They don’t check you going south but they do have a bunch of detection equipment set up on the south bound side of the road and they want you to slow down for it. 50 Ahead the sign says. As we approach, we can see there’s some activity on the north bound side. Lights flashing on top of a pickup truck. Now we can make it out. Two white Border Patrol pickups with a third darker pickup between them. Half a dozen people are sitting in the grass along the barbed wire ranch fence. A Border Patrol officer, squatting next to them, appears to be talking. Two other officers are with a man by the pickup trucks. And then we’re by it. The sign ahead informs us the speed limit is back to 70 and that it’s 11 miles to Presidio.

Early that evening I see Matt sitting outside his trailer reading a book.

“How was your day?”

“They sent me up to El Paso to pick up some stuff. Somethin’ they needed in a hurry I guess.” El Paso is 200 miles away.

“I hate driving in El Paso. Everybody’s in a hurry. Changing lanes, rushing to the next stop light. I’m glad to get back here.”

“We took your advice and drove up Pinto Canyon. That is some beautiful country out there. And remote. We only saw one pickup coming the other way.”

“Did you see any of my friends out there?”

“Border Patrol? They had some people pulled over at the checkpoint on 67. After that just one Border Patrol truck before we got to Pinto Canyon Road. But I wasn’t really looking.”

“I’m sure they were out there. That road’s a favorite of the smugglers. We keep a pretty good eye on it. It avoids our check point on 67.”

“That’s a rugged road in places.”

“That’s why they like it. But once we spot ’em we can send some guys down from Marfa to intercept ’em. That’s where it gets fun. If they see us coming they try to hide the cargo. If its people they’ll send ’em off into the desert to hide. That means we’ve got to find ’em. We can usually tell. Somebody will have dropped something. A child’s toy, a water bottle. Then we just track ’em. Usually they’re happy someone found them. They have no idea where they are or where to go. The guide doesn’t care. If the other team caught him he’ll just say he wants to go back to Mexico. He won’t talk about the people he brought over. He’ll let them die in the desert.”

“That’s the way it goes out here. One illegal dies in Border Patrol custody it makes headlines. We save a ten or twenty people the guides left in the desert and no one mentions it. I don’t even look at the news anymore. And the cartels push this. We’ve had more assaults on officers than ever before. They want something to happen that makes the news ’cause they know that will mean more restrictions on us. They’re smart. They’re playing the long game.”

“Under the previous president … you remember wait in Mexico? We’d lock ’em up, document them and send them back across the border. When their asylum court date came up they could come back for that. And the ones like the guides or ones just trying to get in to earn some cash. We could confiscate what they had. Drug money, phone, stuff like that. It all became property of the U.S. government. I caught one guy he had 8,000 dollars on him. He was begging me. I told him ‘Sorry Bud. You just made a donation to Uncle Sam.’ And, get caught 2 times crossing illegally the third time would be 2 years in jail. It was that kind of stuff that made them think. The illegal crossings slowed down.”

“Trump wasn’t a politician. He wasn’t perfect. He was a vicious negotiator in New York. Kind of an asshole really. That’s what we need down here. Somebody who maybe doesn’t play by the rules but get results.”

“Now the pendulum has swung the other way. Last week we set a record for the highest number of illegal encounters in a day. 11,000 along the southern border. In one day! We don’t have enough people to process that many. It just keeps getting worse cause they know nothing’s going to happen to them. In the worst case they’ll just get deported.”

“But the pendulum will swing back. It always does. Maybe in the next election. I don’t know. But me, I’m here to stay. I love this job. The pay is good and I get to work in outdoors in some beautiful country. I’m in it for the long haul.”


The next morning Matt has long since left for work when we pull out on the highway heading toward Big Bend National Park. We stop in the town of Alpine for fuel and a few groceries. There won’t be much choice in either until we return.

  • Border Patrol recorded more than 2.4 million encounters with people crossing the southern border illegally in the year ending September 2023.
  • President Trump’s wait in Mexico policy was based on a COVID era policy known as Title 42. President Biden kept Title 42 in place until it was overturned by the courts.
  • Additional funding for border security is stalled in Congress by debate over aid to Ukraine and Israel.
  • Since the border crossing closed, Lukeville’s two businesses have been boarded up and the town’s few residents have left.


Main Street, Andersonville, Georgia

November 12, 2023

“This is it. Stop at the museum in the center of town. That’s what they said.”

The main street of Andersonville, Georgia is 3 blocks long with a large obelisk monument in the center of the street. There is no interstate highway nearby. Even the two lane state highway manages to miss the town. One has to know where to turn to find it. We pull in and parallel park in a row of empty diagonal parking spaces on Main Street. One person walks up the otherwise empty street. The color of the overcast sky is Confederate gray.

On August 7, 1862, George Hitchcock of Ashby volunteered in the 21st Infantry Regiment of Massachusetts. He kept a diary throughout the war. On June 2, 1864 he was captured by Confederate forces and sent to Andersonville prisoner of war camp in Georgia.

“We enter through the great double gates which shut us in from the world and for the first time are made to realize what are the horrors of the place of which rumor has already whispered. As  we move slowly through the pressing crowd of our fellow prisoners… we see squalor and filth on every side. A terrible stench arises from the excrement which cannot be disposed of. Someone tells me I best sit down where the first chance offers, and this I do for if I had waited till dark, I’m assured I would not even find room to stretch out.

GEorge Hitchcock, june 16, 1864,

We walk up to the door of the Drummer Boy Museum. I try the door. It doesn’t move.

From inside a voice shouts, “Push!”

I put some force against the door and it yields.

“Welcome to Andersonville. My name’s Cynthia” a women exclaims from behind the counter with a smile. “Y’all want to see the museum?”

“We do but we want to find the RV park.”

“The RV park is right up the street but you pay for it here. When you get up there you see Miss Kay. She’ll get you settled. Where y’all from?”


“Well you folks might of heard of Andersonville prison camp in the Civil War. This little museum is to explain the facts. I only go by the facts. What’s written in the books, … well, it’s got a perspective to it that doesn’t always line up with the facts. You been to the Federal Park yet?”


“When you get there those rangers are going to give you the politically correct view. The one that’s approved. Well, you know how much you can trust the government. Here you’re going to get the facts. Now you go on up the street. I put you in site 12. Site 11 is a little soggy but site 12 should be dry. Miss Kay will be waiting for you.”

“Oh, tomorrow we’ll be having the Captain Wirz Honor Day. If you’re going to be around you might want to come by. Starts at 2. You know about Captain Henry Wirz?”

“No, I’m afraid I don’t.”

“Y’all come back here when you’re settled. I’m here until 3.”

We drive the block and a half up Main Street to the RV park. There are camping spots but no numbers on them. I stop. Then right on que a woman walks out from behind a trailer followed by 6 or 8 cats. I walk over to her.

“You must be Miss Kay.”

“Yes sir I am. Now you’re gonna be in site 12 which is right next to where you’re stopped.”

“You want me to back in?”

“Oh no sir. These are pull through.” she says with some pride. “You just drive up by the dumpster and over the grass.”

“Thank you ma’am.”

“You need anything you just come see me. I’m here all the time. Sure is cold for this time of year” she says as she pulls the housecoat tight around her shoulders and heads back to the trailer cats in tow.

I walked back to the Drummer Boy Museum. The little Main Street is a mix of historic and more recent buildings. Stopping at the obelisk in the middle of the street I read the panels at its base.

Born Zurich Switzerland 1822
Sentenced to Death and Executed
Washington D.C. Nov.  10, 1865

I walk across the road to the little museum. I now know to push the door with force.

“Welcome back.” says Cynthia smiling. “You’re welcome to look around the museum. The prison was about half a mile beyond the railroad tracks that are just past this building. The trains would stop here and the Union prisoners would disembark on Main Street and be marched to the prison. We take no sides. Both Union and Confederate prisons were horrible. It was war. But Andersonville received the notoriety. The victor writes the history. We’re here to tell the truth. Go ahead on in. We ask you leave $5 in the donation box if you can afford it. If not, then whatever you can donate.” The little museum was very well done with a number of artifacts and a large model of the prison in center of the room. The prison was constructed by slaves who cleared the forest and used the logs to construct a 18 foot high palisade enclosing 16 acres.

Prisoners began arriving before the prison was completed. As they flowed in, Confederate Captain Henry Wirz arrived to take over command of the facility. Security is inadequate he determines. He orders a low wood fence built 20 feet inside the palisade. Guards are to shoot any prisoner entering the no man’s land between the fence and the palisade. Union prisoners call the crude fence the dead-line.

Another man shot at the dead-line today The guard is composed of Georgia home guards. Either old men or very young boys, ignorant and cruel, unlike your average fighting rebel who has learned some spark of honor … Over one hundred men died today but their places were made good by a larger number who came in.

George Hitchcock, June 21, 1864

As I leave the room housing the collection Cynthia is talking to a well-dressed older gentleman.

“I believe we’ll have 30.” he says. “Same as last year.”

“Well I’ll be cooking for 30 then. I have ham, collard greens, sweet potatoes and beans. Are they bringing the canon?”

“Yes. The artillery regiment will be here.”

“I best cook for 35 then. And I’ll have to make sure the gate is open too.”

Just then the door rattles. “Push!” Cynthia shouts. The door yields with a slight groan and a family of visitors enters the small entry room.

The older gentleman and I back into a corner to give the family space in the tiny office. Cynthia is busy giving them the introduction.

“Sounds like you have something going on tomorrow.” I say to him.

“We sure do.” he replies with the strong southern accent of someone born and raised here. “The Captain Wirz Recognition Day is tomorrow. We got folks comin’ from all over. Alabama, Florida maybe South Carolina. You know about Captain Wirz?”

“Well just what I saw on the monument.”

“You been over to the national historical site across the way haven’t you?”

“Yes. Just this morning.”

“They only tell you half the story. The half they want to tell. You see when the war ended they made a big ruckus about the POW camp at Andersonville. They showed photos of skeletal Yankees and said this was inhumane and it was all Captain Wirz’ fault. The truth is, what they don’t tell you, is the northern POW camps were just as bad. They don’t show you any photos of them.”

“When the war ended everyone was supposed to be pardoned. Paroled they called it then. Well the Yankee soldiers come and told Captain Wirz to gather his papers because he was being arrested and taken to Washington. The charges were the murder of 13 Yankee POWs at Andersonville.”

“Captain Wirz had joined the Army of the South in Louisiana. He was wounded in battle and couldn’t use his right arm. Because he couldn’t fight anymore Jeff Davis sent him here to run the prison camp and he did the best he could. Don’t get me wrong. Things were not good here but Captain Wirz tried get more food and clothing for the prisoners.  He set up a hospital for them and many of the prisoners held no ill will toward him.”

This fellow is in in seventies or eighties dressed in a sports coat with an easy going way about him. He seems truly happy to be telling the story, smiling at every pause.

“When the Federal troops got him to Washington they set up a military tribunal to try him even though the war was over. They said he killed 13 prisoners, 3 by beating them to death. Well they never produced a single body and never explained how a man who could only use one arm could beat a soldier to death. And they wouldn’t let any prisoner who spoke favorably of him testify. It was a complete farce of a trial. Of course they found him guilty and hung him. Then after he was dead they cut head and arms and legs off and displayed them around the country. Like a carnival show.”

“So tomorrow we have a day to honor Captain Wirz. He was a loyal Confederate soldier who did the best he could under trying circumstances and he was treated unfairly and inhumanely by the government in Washington. We are doing our piece to restore his good name.”

“You stop by if you like tomorrow. 2 pm. That’s when it starts in the Village Hall. Best get there 15 minutes early to get a seat.”

“Thank you. I think I will.” I respond. “My names Alan by the way.”

“James. James Gasden. Where did you say you’re from?”


“You come tomorrow. You’ll learn something they don’t teach you about in the north.”

As our conversation comes to a close, the family is back in the office. A young man in full Confederate uniform browses the bumper stickers and mementoes on offer, his hobnail boot clicking on the wood floor. I try to catch his eye to ask if he is a re-enactor, but his parents are at the door and he turns away.

“Signs of scurvy have appeared in my mouth. The gums swell up and turn dark purple. Where others have it and do not recover, this swelling spreads in a few days until the face and neck turn black. My general feeling is one of complete lassitude and low spirits. I am feeling very poorly. Drew no bread today.”

george Hitchcock, September 20, 1864

I follow the family out the door and walk past the Village Hall to little municipal campground. Miss Kay is out in her house coat, cats circling around her.

“Good afternoon.” I call to her.

“Good day to you. I hope you’re enjoyin’ your stay. Exceptin’ for this weather. Lordy it is cold for this time of year. A course you northerners are used to it. Me, it goes right to my bones.”

“You come here every year?” I ask.

“Heavens no. I live here. I come to camp in 2007 and I never left. Nice place Andersonville. Real nice folks here.”

I glance around her campsite. The little fence she set up is partially fallen. Some belongings, perhaps once prized, peer out from under ragged tarps. The car has not moved in many months.

I agree. Everyone has been real friendly. Miss Kay heads back to her electric heater. I look forward to tomorrow.

In the morning we head to the American POW Memorial and museum. The politically correct federal park Cynthia referred to. It is large and we only get through a small portion before it is time to return for lunch. Main Street has changed in just a few hours. Cars are parked all the way up to the Village Hall. Some motorcycles have just arrived. I hurry through lunch and walk back down Main Street.

The motorcyclists are hanging around. I stop to admire their bikes but they pay me no heed. Their leather jackets emblazoned with the stars and bars and the words Sons of Confederate Veterans, Mid-State Defenders, Mechanized Cavalry.

They didn’t appear to want to talk so I strolled on to the man standing by the canon.

He was more forthcoming and explained how he’d been trained to fire these ancient artillery pieces. I asked if I could get a picture of him with his cannon. Just then the young man in the Confederate uniform from yesterday walked into the field of view.

“Sorry.” he said and moved to get out of the picture.

“No, please, I want you in the picture as well.”

He obliged and stepped forward, rifle in hand. As soon as the photo was taken the young man looked toward the monument and said, “I gotta go.”

I learn his name is Blake.

I turn to see James standing by the monument waving his arm for all to assemble at the Village Hall. I begin to walk toward the Hall with the others. Approaching the hall I notice the men are dressed in coat and tie or uniform or black leather. I, dressed in jeans and flannel shirt, say to James who is greeting people near the door. “I feel as if I’m not properly dressed for this.”

“Don’t you pay that any mind. Everyone is welcome.” he replies with a smile.

I find a seat in the back row. James takes the podium. “We begin today with the pledge to United States flag.”

Following the pledge of allegiance, I prepare to sit down.

“And the salute to the Confederate flag.” If I sit I will be the only one in the room to do so. I remain standing as the group recites the words.

“I salute the Confederate Flag with affection, reverence and undying devotion to the cause for which it stands.”

“Now our featured speaker, the Reverend Bill Weaver.’ James announces.

The Reverend Weaver is a tall distinguished man clearly practiced at the art of giving a rousing sermon. Beginning softly he speaks not of suffering or salvation but of blame. “The Union prisons were just as bad.” “General Sherman could have freed the prisoners here rather than marching to Atlanta.” “General Grant refused the offer of prisoner exchange.” Then, gradually lifting his voice until he is close to shouting as he speaks of the heroism of Captain Henry Wirz,

“Wirz would rather die than lie … rather die than perjure himself … rather die than betray the south!” Then, after a pause, in almost a whisper, “I got news for you folks … we don’t have too many men like that today.”

After standing ovation James takes the podium again.

“I’ve got one more thing if y’all can remain standing.” says James as he takes his phone out of his pocket.

“If I can get it to work. There it is.” he says with smile. A familiar tune, just audible, comes from the tiny speaker. The crowd joins in.

Following the song everyone heads down to the monument to Captain Wirz to lay wreaths at its base and chat.

A group of five men in Confederate uniform with period rifles march down the street and line up beside the monument. Blake is one of them. Three times they fire a salute, each echoed by the canon.

A group of five men in Confederate uniform with period rifles march down the street and line up beside the monument. Blake is one of them. Three times they fire a salute, each echoed by the canon.

Later I run into Blake at the museum. He carries a flag which he is anxious to show. It has been signed along the binding by members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

“I think it would have been better if the South won the war. Then we would be our own country and make our own decisions.”  he says with confidence in a mild southern accent. “Lincoln was a tyrant that wanted to see the south subjugated. That’s why he started the war.”

Several people in the small room express their agreement with him.

“Lincoln started the war?”

“He said he wasn’t going to bring canons to Fort Sumter but he sent 2 ships with canons to the fort. They were pointed right at Charleston. We had to defend ourselves.” he replies with shrug as teenager are wont to do.

“Let me ask you, where does your loyalty lie? I mean which are you most loyal to, the Confederacy or the United States?”

“The United States.” he replies without hesitation.

“Come on son. It’s time to go.” his father says.

I shake Blake’s hand.

“A pleasure to meet you sir.” and he heads for the door. I head back to camp.

“I am sleeping soundly at 10 o’clock at night when the summons came, and we are hustled up and out through the huge gates in pitchy darkness. Between two strong lines of guards about half the remaining portion of Andersonville prisoners pass to the railroad station. Whatever the future my have in store for us, we are devoutly thankful … that we are permitted to get out alive while so many thousands of our comrades are now under the sod all around us.”

George Hitchcock, November 2, 1864

One can’t help but feel the weight of history on this small Georgia town. The flags, the speeches, the reverence for a man long gone—all of it steeped in a cause that had no moral basis. A cause that tore a nation apart. A cause that James, Rev. Weaver, Blake and Cynthia hope to keep alive. I promise Cynthia to send her a copy of George Hitchcock’s diary, “From Ashby to Andersonville” to add to her facts.

The next day we hook up the camper and drive down Main Street, around the monument to Captain Wirz and over the railroad tracks that brought George Hitchcock and 45,000 other prisoners of war to Andersonville.

On the road again to look for America.


Nearly thirteen thousand prisoners of war died of disease, exposure and malnutrition at Andersonville prison during the 14 months it existed. In 1865 the prison burial ground was declared a national cemetery.

“The man most closely associated with Andersonville’s horrors, Henry Wirz, was executed on November 10, 1865, for war crimes. When prejudices nourished by the long war were greatly aggravated by the assassination of President Lincoln, Wirz’s death was encouraged by vindictive politicians, an unbridled press and a nation seeking revenge. He was the only Confederate official put to death after the war.”

Ronald g. watson, former Ashby High School teacher and editor of George Hitchcock’s diary

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