(Preliminary note from while I was reading) I am really enjoying this book for what it is - the immediate impressions of a man going through hell and stopping to share details of the journey. The fact that it is not polished gives it some of its power. However, whoever decided to make a Kindle version of it (great idea!) should have taken the care to edit (more thoroughly). There are numerous distracting errors that are clearly from a scan - John Ransom the printer would be disappointed if he knew.
John Ransom was an ordinary Union soldier captured during the Civil War, but, perhaps because he was a printer, he knew a record of his experiences could be valuable, and he made sure to secure a series of blank books to fill during his more than a year in Confederate hands. He mentions a couple of times how he hopes the book will make his fortune, and I do hope he profited by it. My rating is 4 stars instead of 5 only because as an authentic record, it is not carefully shaped for literary value.
I have read this as research for my work-in-progress about another Michigan soldier, Solomon Ramsdell, who was also at Andersonville, though I searched in vain for any mention of him in Ransom's pages. Small wonder, with throughput in the prison in the tens of thousands during the weeks they shared there!
Ransom records his daily routine, except when we can almost feel the torpor of his illness, his delirium. He often writes with just a stub of a pencil, and in his travels (including escape!), one of his greatest priorities is to secure the volumes within his jacket, for example, or to rejoice that a friend has saved them for him when he was at death's door. I was particularly impressed with his and his companions' efforts to maintain their health and good spirits with careful discipline and hygiene - they will not drink water without boiling it first, and Ransom himself turns away possibly-spoiled meat even as he moves into starvation. My grandfather was a P.O.W. on a Japanese island in WWII, and he was himself, as a doctor, a morale officer and leader in his camp. He told of gathering grass from the edge of the camp to make a tonic for prisoners suffering from scurvy, or to prevent it, and Ransom, too, tells of how the men did what they could to secure sweet potatoes and onions in a similar technique.
Fascinating is the detail at one point of a woman disguised as a man (to follow her lover into war), who, once she is discovered, is whisked out of the prison, cared for decently, and sent home to the North. Though Andersonville was terrible, and its commander Wirtz later hanged for his crimes in governing it, Ransom says Wirtz's own superiors should have been held culpable as well, instead of laying all the blame on him. In contrast is the humane and healthful care Ransom received once he was transferred to a prison hospital in Savannah.
I will not repeat more details that other reviews cover fully, but I would urge that those who want to understand history would do well to read primary source materials such as this diary, and in their entirety, as excerpts can skew the impression. We can learn from Ransom and others, and we should.