In the summer of 1864, tens of thousands of Union POWs were dying of thirst at the military prison in Andersonville, Georgia. Suddenly, a spring erupted from the ground within the stockade. The POWs credited its appearance to divine intervention, and "Providence Spring" became part of the established lore of the Civil War.
The spring was enclosed within a large stone shelter by Union veteran groups in 1901. Fancy marble slabs flanking the spring have grown stained and encrusted by impurities in the water over the years. "The prisoner's cry of thirst rang up to heaven," reads one of several inscriptions. "God heard, and with his thunder cleft the earth, and poured His sweetest waters gushing here."
Providence Spring is visible on a slope below some of the reconstructed walls of the prison at the Andersonville National Historical Site.
How many prisoners were actually saved by Providence Spring is open to question, since a modern sign outside the shelter warns: "Water Unfit for Human Consumption: PLEASE DO NOT DRINK."