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How was it that Henry wirz was hung - General Civil War Talk - Civil War Talk - Civil War Interactive Discussion Board
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 Posted: Wed Dec 20th, 2006 12:58 am
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rebel outlaw rhodes
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Henry wirz was hung  for cruelty and no doubt it was horrible in that camp at andersonville but the union officer running camp douglas was promoted to general.



 Posted: Wed Dec 20th, 2006 02:31 am
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ole
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Wirz was a scapegoat. Someone had to be hung for something. He got the short straw. And he was on the losing side.  Given the high feelings of the time, it is quite remarkable that he was the only one.

Ole



 Posted: Wed Dec 20th, 2006 11:03 am
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Doc C
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Agree with you, ole, Wirz was a scapegoat and others, i.e. Winder, got off. He was hung on the same gallows as the Booth conspirators. (As an aside Mary Surrat's boardinghouse is now Wok & Roll, not bad sushi, chinese just around the corner from the MCI center in DC). However, did anyone deserve to be tried in the first place? Were the confederates quilty of starvation, neglect or did the union prisoners suffer from just the confederacy lack of supplies? Didn't confederate pow's suffer similar fates in Elmira, etc.? Did not union prisons retatliate against conferderate prisoners when it was learned of the conditions in the southern camps?

Doc C



 Posted: Wed Dec 20th, 2006 05:24 pm
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ole
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Agreed, Doc. Not a nice picture to hang among the heroes and good things we'd prefer to read about. The Union did have its ***holes. Cornfed prisoners suffered horribly and there is no excuse for it. But Camp Sumter at Andersonville was egregiously foul. No shelter, as opposed to inadequate. Just a pen to hold POWs. Wirz, had he been so inclined, was powerless to provide basic necessities. As I said earlier, someone had to pay the ultimate price -- the bloodlust required slaking. Wirz had the unfortunate opportunity.  Oh well, that isn't the only blot on our otherwise illustrious past.

Ken



 Posted: Wed Dec 20th, 2006 07:51 pm
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TimHoffman01
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The answer can be knocked down quite simply:  Who Won and Who Lost?

The Victors, as well as getting the honor of writing the history (usually, although with the ACWit often appears to be more even a propaganda race sometimes), have the perk of never, ever being the "bad guys."  That dubious prize always seems to fall on the losers in a war.  Only VERY recent history (and the advent of instantaneous TV coverage) seems to have changed that.

Add to that the fact that Wirtz was a foreigner (an immigrant from Switzerland) who still spoke with an accent (immigrated to Louisiana around 1849).  He was an easy target. 



 Posted: Wed Dec 20th, 2006 10:32 pm
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Widow
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Hi, R.O. Rhodes, welcome to the board.

Yes, Wirz was tried and found guilty.  But the trial was rigged, his defense lawyers were stymied at every turn.  He was quite ill and had to lie on a couch in the courtroom.

Stanton, the Secretary of War, was a vindictive man.  He had the power and the public support to make sure somebody paid, and Wirz was the obvious choice.

Even though Wirz got no support from Gen. Winder, maybe he could have come up with some improvements, especially the water supply.  Just redirecting the flow of the creek, with prisoners doing the work, might have helped.  Also, upstream of the stockade, the creek was the soldiers' latrine and horse corral.  Could Wirz have relocated them?  Or diverted part of the creek to his soldiers' camp and let the rest of it go through the stockade?  I don't know, I've never been there (saw the movie, though).

As for shade and shelter, a little imaginuity goes a long way.  But Wirz was short in that department.

How about vegetable seeds for fresh produce?  There are several things Wirz, with his medical training, should have known and then done something about it.

The History Channel has run several programs on this topic:
  • Civil War Journal: War Crimes: Death Camps
  • Eighty Acres of Hell: Camp Douglas
  • The Horrors of Andersonville Prison
Patty



 Posted: Thu Dec 21st, 2006 01:26 am
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rebel outlaw rhodes
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I believe you have all made some great points and I did view the history channels 80 Acres of hell and I thought that the show did alot of justice in showing that the confederates hardly had enough to feed their own men let alone prisoners.  While the union forces had the food but the commander kept those rations from these freezing starving men and instead tourtured them. But you dont hear about that in the history books.



 Posted: Thu Dec 21st, 2006 02:28 am
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ole
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All true, rebel outlaw, and a disgusting blot on history. This last spring I visited the site. I stood by the creek and the spring.  Depressing. Conditions were so bad the locals tried to supply food. Their efforts were rejected. Wirz paid for that hell hole. Guilty or not, he was in charge. Nothing on either side to brag about.

Ole



 Posted: Thu Dec 21st, 2006 01:59 pm
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HankC
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As in many high-profile trials, Wirz was convicted on narrow charges, murder (7 specific counts, I believe) as opposed to a more nebulous 'crimes against humanity'.  You can only hang a man once, after all, but historians can convict forever ;)

He and the Lincoln conspirators pretty much took care of the North's remarkably low level of blood lust.

 

Cheers,

HankC



 Posted: Sat Dec 23rd, 2006 05:33 pm
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amhistoryguy
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I certainly agree that Wirz was a scapegoat, and that the treatment of POW's during the CW on both sides was inhumane and a low point in this country's history. But, I should like to also point out that Wirz was not the only Confederate tried for war crimes, as is so often stated.
Another camp commandant, Major John H. Gee, commandant of Salisbury Prison, was arrested and brought before a military commission at Raleigh, North Carolina and unanimously aquitted of all charges. Major Gee's commission fills 4000 pages which can be found in the National Archives, and yet, the fact he was also tried and found not guilty of the charges, is all but overlooked, or ignored.
James W. Duncan, also a Confederate at Andersonville, was arrested, charged and tried for "violations of the laws of war" at Andersonville. He was also found guilty, but instead of death, he was sentenced to 15 years. (He served one before escaping.)
Commissions also tired men like G. St. Leger Grenfeldt for "conspiring to release rebel prisoners of was at Camp Douglas. near Chicago." Robert C. Kennedy was tried for "irregular and unlawful warfare" for his attempt to burn New York City.
Captain John Yates Beall was tried by a military commission, found gulity of being a spy and using irregular warfare, and was executed. Beall's case was brought before Lincoln, and a petition signed by 91 members of congress called for at least a temporary stay in order to re-examine the case. Lincoln turned down any and all attempts to save Beall's life. Beall's case is of particular interest because of the involvement of Lincoln, and his steadfast determination to have the sentence of death carried out.
Then of course there is the case of Captain Champ Ferguson, tried, found guilty, and executed for the many murders he committed.

So, dispite the often made claim that Henry Wirz was the only Confederate tried and executed for war crimes, this is not the case. Others were tried, others were executed, Wirz is the one we seem to choose to remember.

Regards, Dave Gorski



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