Restricted Defending Henry Wirz: Georgia Gov. Lester Maddox at the 1984 Wirz Memorial at Andersonville

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Pat Young

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Swiss immigrant Henry Wirz is among the most controversial figures of the Civil War. To many Americans he is a war criminal responsible for the deaths of thousands of prisoners at Andersonville. However, to adherents of the Lost Cause he was a martyr who laid down his life in sacrifice to the prejudices and hypocricy of the North. In the early 1900s the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) erected a monument to Wirz in Andersonville and in the 1970s the UDC and the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) began holding annual memorial gatherings to honor Wirz.

In 1984 the memorial keynote was former Georgia Gov. Lester Maddox.

Columbus Daily Enquirer
Monday, Nov 12, 1984
Columbus, GA

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Pat Young

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Although I did find widespread publication of articles on this event, the UPI did distribute a preview article nationally:

Marietta Journal
Sunday, Nov 11, 1984
Marietta, GA
Page: 6

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Pat Young

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This phase of devotion to the tattered shreds of Lost Cause mythology, at least pertaining to Wirz and Andersonville, peaked in the mid-1980s. In 1981, the SCV awarded Wirz the Confederate Medal of Honor. And in 1984, a speech praising Wirz—who chose “death over betrayal,” making him a worthy symbol of Confederate heritage—given by Georgia’s former governor Lester Maddox, himself a symbol of segregation, highlighted the event. The opportunity to confirm southernness by celebrating Wirz attracted white southerners who sought to assert the legitimacy of their heritage in a difficult era of turbulent race relations and political transition. The ritual celebration of Confederate mythology offered a reconfirmation of the traditional racial identities of the past. It was not coincidence that in the same speech in which Maddox, never one to shy away from controversy, portrayed Wirz as a symbol of southern virtue, he also took a thinly veiled shot at African Americans, criticizing welfare recipients as “bums and parasites.”

From: Cloyd, Benjamin G.. Haunted by Atrocity: Civil War Prisons in American Memory (Making the Modern South) (pp. 153-154). LSU Press. Kindle Edition.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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You know, these discussions always, invariably and every, single time become ' us v. them ' brawls and it's incredibly unfortunate. Era accounts- men who survived that shameful shambles came forward, told their stories and were judged themselves. They're still judged- Wirz v. the men who didn't die. You get tired of disclaimers too, that others deserved the same fate because the topic is Wirz.

Making liars of men who suffered and lived to be voices for those buried at Andersonville is re-writing history at the expense of POW's. Slippery slope. Through all the arguments all about how somehow Wirz was a victim remain the voices of those who spoke.

Again. There are accounts of humane men doing the best they could with what they were given to do the job. Good men in impossible situations. Wirz wasn't one of them.
 

Pat Young

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1984 was not the only year that Wirz memorials took place. In fact, in 1983 the Sons of Confederate Veterans called on its camps across the South to honor him as part of a campaign to change public consciousness about the Andersonville commandant.

Columbus Daily Enquirer
Monday, Nov 07, 1983
Columbus, GA
Page: 5


wirzb1.JPG
 
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Pat Young

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The 1983 commemoration focused on alleged flaws in the trial of Wirz.

Columbus Daily Enquirer
Monday, Nov 15, 1982
Columbus, GA
Page: 7


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wirzc3.JPG
 

Pat Young

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Events to commeorate Wirz and rehabilitate his reputation took place far from Andersonville:

Trenton Evening Times
Sunday, Nov 11, 1990
Trenton, NJ

wirzd.JPG
 
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Patrick H

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These are interesting articles, simply because I was unaware that the memorial services have been held. I agree with @Copperhead-mi about Lester Maddox. If I were in the position of trying to clear a convicted war criminal's name and reputation, I think I'd have gone searching for a less controversial speaker. Wirz might have, indeed, been in a nearly impossible situation, but I think he could have done more for his prisoners than he did.
 

nitrofd

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Swiss immigrant Henry Wirz is among the most controversial figures of the Civil War. To many Americans he is a war criminal responsible for the deaths of thousands of prisoners at Andersonville. However, to adherents of the Lost Cause he was a martyr who laid down his life in sacrifice to the prejudices and hypocricy of the North. In the early 1900s the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) erected a monument to Wirz in Andersonville and in the 1970s the UDC and the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) began holding annual memorial gatherings to honor Wirz.

In 1984 the memorial keynote was former Georgia Gov. Lester Maddox.

Columbus Daily Enquirer
Monday, Nov 12, 1984
Columbus, GA

View attachment 296005
I wonder if he had his axe handle with him.
 
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jackt62

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Very fascinating post-scrip to Wirz's 1865 trial and execution. I had no idea about the modern day efforts to "honor" him.
 

SeaSoldier

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Well, the articles are very interesting. As stated, sounds like a railroad job. No comparison with Camp Douglas where the Commander refused fresh fruit and vegetables to Confederates causing death due to scurvy, malnutrition and guards shooting a black Confederate POWs as soon as they stepped into the confines. No trials for use of excessive force. Commanders of Camp Douglas were all promoted even with massive deaths daily.

Keynote speakers? We all have our own opinion of various elected officials. Barring whatever prejudices they may harbor,paying their respects to the fallen should get some kind of respect even if you don't agree. Go find your own "hero". I am still scratching my head trying to figure out why we are still fighting the Civil War, taking sides and excoriating the other side for their misdeeds. We should be trying to learn from the mistakes, honor both sides: both were American and both believed in what they were doing was good for their country and themselves.
 
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