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Henry Wirz
  Category:   Confederate Officer
 
  Born:   ?  
 
  Died:   ?  

Overview:   He became commandant of the infamous Andersonville Prison. After the war he became one of the first men in history to be tried and executed for "war crimes".
 
Biography:   Henry Wirz was the only man convicted for what would now be considered ‘war crimes.’ It didn’t help him that he was an immigrant, a Swiss.

He’d come to this country in 1849, moving to Kentucky and then practicing medicine in Louisiana. He enlisted in the 4th Louisiana Battalion, but rapidly became a lieutenant. He served in Virginia, and was crippled at Seven Pines, losing almost all function in his right arm. He’d done well, and was promoted to Captain (August 1862) but had to be moved onto the staff. He was ordered to the Tuscaloosa military prison, but asked for leave to visit Europe.

The Confederacy could spare the services of a one-armed officer who was only fit to guard prisoners, and they let him go. He came back and was given more interesting duty as a courier. That didn’t last forever, and he was ordered to Andersonville, first to command the interior of the camp, then to take overall command (March 1864). He wasn’t particularly brutal, but he did nothing more than he had to, and thousands died more of neglect than cruelty. The camp became notorious, better known at the time than the concentration camps were in World War 2.

Still, Wirz was allowed a safe-conduct out of the country after he was captured. Then the political waters heated up, and he was shipped to Washington for trial. It was more of a kangaroo court than a trial: a scapegoat had to be found, and Wirz fit the bill. Every objection he raised was quashed. Contradictory evidence was ignored. He was convicted (to nobody’s surprise) and hanged with four companies of men (and 250 ghoulishly curious onlookers) chanting “Remember Andersonville”.

If his superior, John Winder, had survived the war, Wirz would likely have been off the hook and Winder become the villain.



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