Friday, September 1, 2017

#WirzTrial: Andersonville reflects on first week of live tweets, interaction with followers

Andersonville National Historic Site in Georgia has begun its second week of “live tweeting” the trial of Capt. Henry Wirz, the stockade commandant at Fort Sumter during last year of the Civil War. Park guide Jennifer Hopkins (in a video summarizing the first week, above) talks below with the Picket about how the effort to enhance the site’s social media use has gone thus far: #WirzTrial.

Q. Overall, how the experience gone over the first 7-8 days?

A. The first week of tweeting the Wirz trial went pretty well. We gained some followers on Twitter, and received more interaction with them than usual. I'm hopeful to see what the coming weeks will bring. 

Q. Can you briefly summarize what followers had learned so far, and what type of testimony will follow the next week or so?
A. I think our followers are learning how not so black and white Wirz's trial was. However, some who are following the trial have stated that the positive testimonies about Wirz desn't change their negative view of him. But we've seen a good balance of positive and negative testimonies. In the coming week, we'll be hearing more from Confederate guards who were stationed at Andersonville. We'll also see an argument between, Mr. Baker (Wirz's lawyer), the judge advocate and the president of the tribunal. Mr. Baker points out that the majority of the testimonies are so general they shouldn't be considered when time comes for the verdict. 

Q. I see there have been a few Twitter replies and likes during the past week. How would you describe the reaction thus far? Do you get more on Facebook, though obviously almost all of this is on Twitter?
A. We have about 8,000 more followers on Facebook, so naturally Facebook posts will receive more likes, comment and shares than our Twitter posts. Through Twitter analytics. we are seeing an average of about 13 people following the trial, which is a great thing -- especially since most of the tweets don't include photos. Our other non-photo tweets get around 1-6 people clicking on (them). 

Henry Wirz
Q. Any tweaks planned moving forward, or is everything on track?
A. So far, everything is on track. We'll be talking less about conditions moving forward and start to focus a bit more on Wirz and what people have to say about him and his control over the prison specifically. We'll weave prison descriptions in there every once in a while, but I think everyone gets that the conditions here in 1864-65 were pretty horrible. The video I did at the end of week 1 was on a whim, but I think I'll keep that going each week. It received a lot of traffic and I think it's good to keep a running summary of what's happening. 

Q. Any reaction the staff has heard from other sites or visitors?
A. So far, everything is quiet. There are a few tweets where we'll start tagging other parks because that tweet pertains to them, so we might get some feedback then. 

Q. Any other thoughts?
A. I'm really hoping conversations pick up pertaining to the trial. It was one of the most talked about trials of its time, and yet there are still a lot of questions surrounding it. But I'm pleased with the reactions and comments from our followers so far. 


  1. I am in great hopes and expectations that this helps so many who believe the circumstances at Andersonville were clear cut, and educates them how complex not only the trial was, but the events that led up to the full weight coming down on one man who was not in control of many of the charges he was accused of.

  2. I have followed this for the first week and I have found it very well done. It has stimulated my interest to the point that I plan to visit there later this month, to see the historic site as well as visit the town and the monument to Wirz. I lived in Albany when very young and have driven near there many times on old US19 but have never made the journey over to Andersonville. I am very much looking forward to my visit. If this young ranger is the one guiding this effort she is to be commended, a great use of social media to help educate people on an issue that is still very controversial after 150 years.