Article on Wirz "Why does Georgia honor one of America's worst war criminals?"

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http://www.newrepublic.com/article/123365/why-does-georgia-town-honor-one-americas-worst-war-criminals

I'm not very familiar with Wirz and Andersonville, although I am generally aware of the horrors that occurred there and the debate about culpability. What stood out to me in this article were the pictures...they reminded me of liberated concentration camps. Truly awful images.

This part also stood out: "Witnesses also testified that Wirz personally murdered and tortured prisoners, and ordered guards to do the same. "
If this is true, I don't know how anyone can honor this man. Even if it's not, he's hardly a hero.

Anyway, thought I would share, am interested in the perspective on this from the experts out there.
 

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http://www.newrepublic.com/article/123365/why-does-georgia-town-honor-one-americas-worst-war-criminals

I'm not very familiar with Wirz and Andersonville, although I am generally aware of the horrors that occurred there and the debate about culpability. What stood out to me in this article were the pictures...they reminded me of liberated concentration camps. Truly awful images.

This part also stood out: "Witnesses also testified that Wirz personally murdered and tortured prisoners, and ordered guards to do the same. "
If this is true, I don't know how anyone can honor this man. Even if it's not, he's hardly a hero.

Anyway, thought I would share, am interested in the perspective on this from the experts out there.
Obviously this is just more of the current PC South-bashing. Wirz' trial and subsequent conviction was controversial both at the time and now. This was never proven and many now feel he was merely made the scapegoat for the deaths of Union prisoners there.
 
Interesting article. May I suggest, with respect, a review of this thread:

http://civilwartalk.com/threads/henry-wirz-hero-martyr.1091/

I think this link is well worth the trouble and it certainly makes relevant points about the lack of proper evidence against Wirz:

http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/Wirz/INTRO.HTM

And this is typical from another website:
James Madison Page (a former lieutenant with the Sixth Michigan Cavalry, former Andersonville inmate and the author of "The True Story of Andersonville Prison" (1908)) was subpoenaed, but after being interviewed, was not called as a witness. Page stated that any act of cruelty that was described in the specifications could not possibly have taken place without his knowledge, and he heard nothing of the alleged murders until Wirz's trial. The Andersonville prisoners had little to do all day but talk, and any events within the prison that affected prisoners would be the subject of intense, widespread discussion. Acts such as those alleged against Wirz could not have happened without the widespread knowledge within the inmate population. But Page never heard of the alleged incidents, for one clear reason: they never happened. It should be further noted that of the eleven Union prisoners whom Wirz was convicted of murdering, none were ever identified as to name or any other particulars. Fictitious men do not need names.
http://www.holohoax101 EDIT: I have removed this link as it appears it is "not safe" according to McAfee

It does seem that the man was railroaded.
 
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Desert Kid

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Obviously this is just more of the current PC South-bashing. Wirz' trial and subsequent conviction was controversial both at the time and now. This was never proven and many now feel he was merely made the scapegoat for the deaths of Union prisoners there.
Wasn't Wirz' actions more out of negligence and prisoner overpopulation, lack of rations and adequate facilities tacked onto some nepotism amongst Andersonville's staff here and there?
 

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I will add that an interesting "take" on this subject is the play The Andersonville Trial which has been discussed here before. It was written in the 1950's in the wake of the Nuremberg Trials of the Nazis following WWII and was later televised in a production starring William Shatner of later Star Trek fame as the prosecutor Col. N. P. Chipman and character actor Richard Baseheart of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea as Wirz. It's a reasonable attempt to explain the events both of the trial and at the prison. The consensus of the play follows the popular idea that even if Wirz was innocent of most of the accusations (including and especially the murder of prisoners) he probably could've done more to alleviate conditions there.
 
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Wasn't Wirz' actions more out of negligence and prisoner overpopulation, lack of rations and adequate facilities tacked onto some nepotism amongst Andersonville's staff here and there?
He made effective arguments to that effect but they went nowhere. The trial (like that of Mary Surratt) was likely illegal in the first place, being completely held as a military tribunal chaired by Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace and no kind of an actual court case; Wirz was even denied representation as I remember and was forced to speak on his own behalf. This was purely what was termed a drum-head court-martial for purely political reasons because the North demanded retribution. Wirz was and remains the only person tried for what became known as war crimes during the entire Civil War.
 

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Wirz' trial and subsequent conviction was controversial both at the time and now. This was never proven and many now feel he was merely made the scapegoat for the deaths of Union prisoners there.
True enough. It probably should have been Winder on that scaffold, but he had the foresight to cark before that came about. There were all sorts of irregularities and (possibly) perjured testimony at Wirz's trial, but there's no question in my mind that he nonetheless bore substantial responsibility for the situation at Andersonville, so my sympathy in his case is limited. (There is an old lawyer's adage, that "even a guilty man can get railroaded," and I think something like that happened here.) As I've said before, the great injustice represented by the Wirz hanging is not that Wirz got hanged, but that virtually no one else was called to account, in any substantive way, for the abuse and neglect of prisoners on both sides of the lines.
 
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"The Confederate flag has come under fire lately, following the mass murder in June at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina. The flag was taken down from its pole on the state’s capitol grounds, and last month students at the University of Mississippi successfully protested for the state flag, which incorporates the Stars and Bars, to be removed from campus. How can it be that the rebel flag comes under attack while a monument to a convicted war criminal responsible for 13,000 deaths, erected almost on top of their graves, is left unprotested? The Confederate flag is a part of history, even though it is part of an ugly history; the monument to Wirz is a distortion of history. The true test of the commitment to stop the glorification of the Lost Cause will not come over flagpoles or license plates but on monuments like the one to Henry Wirz."

This is the final paragraph in the article whose link is posted above; until this final bit of foolishness which sounds like nothing but more mindless rabble-rousing it sounded like a reasonable discussion of events. The author here ignores the passions of the times that created the atmosphere in which Wirz was convicted and accepts everything at face value, which as Andy has suggested likely involved perjury in order to achieve a conviction. It's obvious from the last sentence here that the real purpose of this is another attack on Confederate monuments and symbols, not any sympathy with the 13,00 deaths.
 

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"The Confederate flag has come under fire lately, following the mass murder in June at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina. The flag was taken down from its pole on the state’s capitol grounds, and last month students at the University of Mississippi successfully protested for the state flag, which incorporates the Stars and Bars, to be removed from campus. How can it be that the rebel flag comes under attack while a monument to a convicted war criminal responsible for 13,000 deaths, erected almost on top of their graves, is left unprotested? The Confederate flag is a part of history, even though it is part of an ugly history; the monument to Wirz is a distortion of history. The true test of the commitment to stop the glorification of the Lost Cause will not come over flagpoles or license plates but on monuments like the one to Henry Wirz."

This is the final paragraph in the article whose link is posted above; until this final bit of foolishness which sounds like nothing but more mindless rabble-rousing it sounded like a reasonable discussion of events. The author here ignores the passions of the times that created the atmosphere in which Wirz was convicted and accepts everything at face value, which as Andy has suggested likely involved perjury in order to achieve a conviction. It's obvious from the last sentence here that the real purpose of this is another attack on Confederate monuments and symbols, not any sympathy with the 13,00 deaths.
Wirz is not much of someone to commemorate (though I did like the guy who played him in Andersonville), but this is the meat and bones of it.

This was never ever about those 9 dead parishioners, it's about waving the bloody shirt.
 
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As Wirz was an immigrant I am hoping to write about him next year. Anyone point to good sources they have used on his trial?

I haven't dug too deeply into the Wirz trial, but this link may be useful:

http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/Wirz/Wirz.htm

As I understand, although Wirz is generally described today as being tried for "war crimes," that's a modern term and was not actually a criminal charge at the time. He was actually charged with 13 counts of murder, which case the prosecution made with some very dubious, and possibly perjured, testimony. Even by 19th century civilian court standards, it was a mess.
 
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Wirz was even denied representation as I remember and was forced to speak on his own behalf.
Not according to the links.
After all defense motions were denied, three of the five defense counsel withdrew from the case. Only Baker and Schade remained. Baker and Schade quit after complaining of the deferential treatment the commission showed prosecution witnesses. Only the pleading of Henry Wirz persuaded them to return. At the conclusion of the trial, when the defense request for time to prepare its closing argument was denied, both attorneys quite for good. The closing argument for the defense as well as the prosecution was handled by the same man, Colonel Chipman
.

Henry Wirz was defended by a competent Washington, D.C. attorney, Louis Schade, who promptly filed for dismissal of the charges on the grounds that a military tribunal had no jurisdiction to try a civilian, that the charges were vague as to time, place and manner of offense, and that as a Confederate officer Wirz was entitled to the terms agreed to between Generals Sherman and Johnston upon the latter's surrender. All of these pleas, though valid, were overruled, and Wirz then pleaded not guilty to all charges. Wirz's trial began on August 25, 1865. Col. N.P. Chipman, USA Judge Advocate, headed the prosecution. Louis Schade, a Washington attorney and Swiss countryman of Wirz was counsel for the defense. Schade acted in this capacity without pay and as a volunteer since the penniless Wirz had no funds with which to pay him

He may as well have defended himself for all the good it would do.
 
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"How can it be that the rebel flag comes under attack while a monument to a convicted war criminal responsible for 13,000 deaths, erected almost on top of their graves, is left unprotested?"
I'm guessing the real answer is that the monument is far out of the way of the prison and cemetery, just a plain piece of stone that you'd have to go up to and read to know what it's about, in a tawdry little tourist-trap town across the way, so nobody really cares. I mean, it's an entertaining little place and the people try hard to give the tourists a good time, but anyone who goes there either knows or can quickly see what to expect.

You could visit the prison site, the museum, see the cemetery, and never even come near the monument. So nobody really cares. They could care. But it's just not the same level of in-your-facedness as a Confederate flag in front of a major courthouse.
 
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Wasn't Wirz' actions more out of negligence and prisoner overpopulation, lack of rations and adequate facilities tacked onto some nepotism amongst Andersonville's staff here and there?

Perhaps he did walk into command of a bad situation.

Yet, if you put a man in a hole from where he cannot escape, fail to feed him or, perhaps more importantly, give him potable water, and withhold basic medical supplies which were available, and let this situation continue for months, are you negligent or a murderer?
 

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I suppose the first issue raised by several of you is whether Wirz should have been tried by a military commission. Anyone have an opinion on whether this was the appropriate tribunal? We know that many men caught as spies were tried by the military, not civilian courts during the war. I presume that that the war had not ended at the time of this trial. On the other hand, he was tried in DC where there were functioning civilian courts. What do you think.
 
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