"...such large wolﬁsh eyes!"
—Georgia Civil War Heritage Trails —
After the Battle of Shiloh, Tennessee, on April 6 & 7, 1862, the Confederate government selected Macon as a Federal prisoner-of-war camp site. The Macon Fair and Parade Grounds was used to incarcerate 900 prisoners-of-war later that spring. Named for James Oglethorpe, Georgia's founder, Camp Oglethorpe encompassed fifteen acres surrounded by a 12-foot high wooden fence with an outside walk for sentries. The Macon Daily Telegraph newspaper noted, "The majority of them hail from Iowa; the balance consisting of Missourians, Indianans Illinoisans, and a few Tennesseans."
Two 12-pounder cannon were positioned so they could sweep the site. Ten feet inside the stockade wall ran a line of boards nailed to posts. Guards were ordered to shoot any prisoner approaching this line, hence the name "deadline."
Numerous wooden-framed structures included a hospital, doctor's shop and cook house. A spring ran through the camp, and a well supplied drinking water.
Prisoners were allowed to build whatever shelters they could from scrap lumber and other materials. For distraction, they shot marbles, tossed horseshoes and made bone jewelry. Some even sold their wares to local citizens, or exchanged them for extra food or clothing.
New arrivals continued during 1862 until the number of prisoners reached between
1,200 and 1,400 men, almost a quarter of whom were ill or wounded. Dr. James B. Hinkle, the prison's surgeon, asked Macon citizens to send old mattresses, coverlets, bagging, and carpeting for use in the prison hospital. A ridge southwest of the camp was used for prisoner burials.
During the Atlanta Campaign in 1864, with many more prisoners arriving, a new prison was opened for all Federal enlisted men at Andersonville, forty miles south of Macon. Camp Oglethorpe was then principally reserved for officers. During the last year of the war, Macon was overwhelmed with thousands of wounded Confederate soldiers and refugees exasperating camp shortages of medicine, food, clothing, and shelter. Luther G. Billings of the 3rd New York Cavalry described his fellow prisoners in Camp Oglethorpe as "ragged, unwashed and unshaven, with rags of dirty parts of undergarments barely covering them, with repulsive unhealed wounds, sores, and such large wolfish eyes!"
On July 31, 1864, Federal cavalry commanded by Major General George M. Stoneman was defeated and captured at Sunshine Church north of Macon. Stoneman and more than 400 others were Camp Oglethorpe's final new prisoners. Not knowing Federal military objectives during the fall of 1864, the Confederates moved all prisoners from Camp Oglethorpe and many from Andersonville to South Carolina or southeastern Georgia.
After the war, the Georgia State Fair was ??? again held on the site of Camp Oglethorpe ??? of the prison's survivors visited Macon in 1904, Governor Aaron T. Bliss of Michigan. ???? not seeing the stockade as it had looked like years earlier, but he was "glad to see work ??? established on the site as it shows the bitter feelings have been forgotten and in its stead ???? people are working for the up-building of their ????."