This stream, a branch of Sweetwater Creek, was the prison's water supply. Today's neatly dredged channel is misleading. When the prison was built, the stockade posts slowed the current, turning the stream banks into acres of stagnant swamp.
The prisoners' latrines stood downstream. Overcrowding soon foulded the water, and the sluggish current failed to wash sewage out of the prison. The stream's bacteria quickly became lethal.
"This little creek was our only water supply, and when we would go after water we would often sink to our hips in the mire, and men would often have to be dragged out by their comrades."
Charles C. Fosdick, 5th Iowa Infantry, February 26, 1864.
To Confederate officials, this source of fresh water made Andersonville an ideal site for a prison. Just upstream, however, the bakehouse and guards' camp polluted the creek before it even entered the stockade.