Camp Sumter, commonly known as Andersonville, was a prison facility built in early 1864 to house Union Soldiers captured during the Civil War. It was set up to imprison some 10,000 Union Soldiers. However, due to no one keeping up with the number of prisoners being sent to Andersonville, it is estimated that 33,000 Union Soldiers were imprisoned there by mid summer of 1864. Unlike most POW camps, there were no barracks or shelters, prisoners were simply placed in an open field. There were inner and outer walls, the space between the two was called the “Dead Zone.” Any prisoner stepping in that area would be shot to death by prison guards who were strategically placed at the top of the outer walls. There was very limited food and the only water supply was a small creek that ran thru the center of the field. That creek was used for drinking water, for bathing, and as a latrine. It was estimated that by end of July 1864 some 100 men were dying per day, most from malnutrition or dysentery as a result of the polluted water.
On August 9, 1864, William Tannehill, a committed Christian prisoner, gathered together a small group of Christians to entreat God for fresh water. An hour after the men began to pray, a clap of thunder was heard and pouring rain soon began. The heavy rainfall slowly filled the banks of Stockade Creek, washing away the filth within its waters. The men were overwhelmed with excitement as the rain continued for the next four days. They did, however, continue to pray, knowing the rain would only bring temporary relief. On day five of the rain a great cloud appeared and hovered over the prison camp. Suddenly a bolt of lightning lit up the sky, followed by a thunderous, deafening roar. Many of the men would later say that “it was like the explosion of a thousand cannons.” It was followed by another bolt of lightning that struck the ground just outside the outer walls. At the very place the fiery lightning struck there was another explosion, as torrents of fresh water gushed from the blasted, broken ground. Prisoner John Ransom wrote in his diary: “A nice spring of cold water has broken out in camp, enough to furnish nearly all here with drinking water. God has not forgotten us.”
The men named the spring “Providence Spring,” knowing it was the provident hand of God who brought the spring to life. The guards allowed the men to go outside the walls to carry fresh water to all the prisoners. That well spring of fresh water gave life to thousands of men for the duration of the war. As a result of God’s answer to the prayer of a few prisoners, many of the prisoners found the “living water” by giving their lives to Jesus Christ.
God may not answer your prayer as dramatically as he did for those Union soldiers at Andersonville, but you and I serve the same God. The God we serve is also the same God that parted the Red Sea, the God who shut the mouths of lions, who sent ravens to feed Elijah, who raised the dead, and gave sight to the blind. Malachi 3:6 says, “I am the Lord, I change not.”
What well spring of healing water do you need to gush forth in your life today? God is more than able to meet your physical, emotional, relational, or spiritual issues.
“And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him” (1 John 5:14-15).
“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16)
God may say yes, He may say no, and He may say wait. He may answer dramatically, and He may answer in a simple, seemingly common way. But you’ll never know until you ask. Why not gather a few Christians together to pray for your great need, or for the need of another?