Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Andersonville prison commandant Wirz: Monster in gray or fall guy?

I traveled today to Andersonville to see the site of the prison, the national cemetery and the National Prisoner of War Museum.

(I’ll be writing and posting photos about my journey in the next few days.)

The unimaginable horror of the place permeated my thoughts on the ride home. And I couldn’t get Maj. Henry Wirz, the Confederate commandant of Fort Sumter, out of my mind.

Wirz was accused of murder and conspiracy and was hanged in November 1865. History books say he was a murderous villain who dehumanized and starved thousands of Union prisoners at the middle Georgia stockade. About 13,000 Federals died at Andersonville.

Defenders say he was a scapegoat for conditions common at prisons run by both sides during the Civil War. A sign and monument in the hamlet of Andersonville proclaim his innocence, arguing he did the best he could under the circumstances. More than 200 Confederate guards also died at Camp Sumter.

Academic treatises, movies and writings have argued whether he was a monster or a victim. The links below are a sampling of what is on the Web. One is the Armchair General forum; the other is brief account of the prison and his rule.

What do you think of Maj. Henry Wirz? Did he get what he deserved? Please share your comments below.

Background on the prison and Henry Wirz.
See forum on the executed officer

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