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The Hanging of the “Andersonville Savage,” Captain Henry Wirz – Soldier of Fortune Magazine

The Hanging of the “Andersonville Savage,” Captain Henry Wirz – Soldier of Fortune Magazine

William Smith, eighth Kentucky Volunteers was captured at Chickamauga and photographed shortly after his launch from Belle Isle in the spring of 1864. Smith survived the conflict.
Library of Congress

When the Civil Warfare started, neither aspect anticipated an extended battle. Though there was no formal change system at the starting of the warfare, each armies paroled prisoners. Captured males have been conditionally launched on their oath of honor to not return to battle. This allowed them to return to camps of instruction as noncombatants. It additionally meant that neither aspect had to offer for the prisoners’ wants. An trade system arrange in 1862 lasted lower than a yr. North and South discovered themselves with hundreds of prisoners of conflict.

Captain Henry Wirz spent most of the Civil Struggle working in the Accomplice jail system, making him one of the most skilled individuals in that subject.
NPS/Andersonville Nationwide Historic Website

After the prisoner trade cartel broke down, giant numbers of Union troopers captured in late 1863 have been crammed into warehouses round Richmond and on Belle Isle. This speedy inflow overwhelmed the Confederacy’s capability to feed them or present medical care. The Accomplice military shortly started to seek for a alternative jail and Andersonville was chosen in the fall of 1863. Development on the new jail started in January 1864 and the first prisoners arrived from Richmond in February. These transfers continued all through the spring of 1864. By April 1864, most of the enlisted prisoners remaining in Richmond have been these too sick to maneuver. Many of these sick prisoners have been paroled and turned over to Union hospitals for medical care.

In the South, captured Union troopers have been first housed in previous warehouses and barns. As the quantity of prisoners elevated following the finish of common exchanges in 1863, camps have been constructed particularly as prisons in Florence, South Carolina, Millen and Andersonville, Georgia, and lots of different places. Most have been picket stockades enclosing open fields. In the North, officers transformed many Federal camps of instruction into prisons. Stockades have been positioned round Camp Butler in Illinois, Camp Chase in Ohio, and camps at Elmira, New York. Different Accomplice prisoners have been held at Fort McHenry in Baltimore and Fort Warren in Boston Harbor.

Camp Sumpter This was the deadliest floor of the Civil Struggle.

On January 1, 1865, Captain Henry Wirz issued a brand new set of guidelines and laws for the jail underneath his management, hoping to curb escape makes an attempt. The orders issued in January launched two roll calls every day, and reintroduced the withholding of rations if a single prisoner was unaccounted for. Prisoners might request an viewers with Wirz, however they have been additionally reminded that no prisoner ought to cross the deadline, converse to a guard on publish or buy something from the guards. To do in any other case, would danger being shot.

The confined troopers suffered terribly. The commonest issues confronting prisoners each North and South have been overcrowding, poor sanitation, and insufficient meals. Mismanagement by jail officers, in addition to by the prisoners themselves, worsened issues. The finish of the struggle saved a whole lot of prisoners from an premature dying, however for a lot of the conflict’s finish got here too late. Of 194,732 Union troopers held in Accomplice jail camps, some 30,000 died whereas captive. Union forces held about 220,000 Accomplice prisoners, almost 26,000 of whom died. The mortality charges for some of the Civil Warfare jail camps are proven under.

Andersonville Nationwide Cemetery – “An Object Lesson in Patriotism”

The Nationwide Cemetery, situated 300 yards north of the jail website established in 1864, is an integral half of the significance of Andersonville Jail Website. The 12,920 males who died at the jail camp are buried in the cemetery. The first burial passed off on February 27, 1864, solely three days after prisoners first arrived.Graves for the Union prisoners have been trenches three ft extensive and between 100 and 200 ft lengthy.

The largest and most well-known of 150 army prisons of the Civil Conflict, Camp Sumter, generally generally known as Andersonville, was the deadliest panorama of the Civil Warfare. Of the 45,000 Union troopers imprisoned right here, almost 13,000 died. At its most crowded, it held greater than 32,000 males, the place pressured overcrowding compounded issues of provide and distribution of important assets.
Every prisoner exerienced Andersonville on their very own phrases, which means that the story of captivity here’s a very complicated one. The pages under discover some of the tales of Andersonville:

Following the finish of the Civil Conflict, the burying floor for the jail was designated an nationwide cemetery on July 26, 1865. The cemetery is a 27.15 acre website, roughly 300 yards northwest of the jail website. Principal traits and options of the cemetery panorama embrace the Four-1/2 foot excessive brick wall that surrounds the website and is an integral half of each the aesthetic and historic scene; the common and rhythmic rows of marble headstones; the giant cover timber; and the giant monuments which are spaced round the complete website.

Since the 1870s roughly 7,000 American servicemen and their households have joined the prisoner burials and made Andersonville Nationwide Cemetery their last resting place. Their tales of sacrifice are separated by 100 years in the historical past books, however at Andersonville their tales are separated by just a few hundred paces.

As a result of of the large newspaper protection of the Wirz Tribunal, and the lack of trials towards main Accomplice leaders reminiscent of Robert E. Lee, it appeared to common People – each north and south – that Wirz was the solely individual tried, convicted, or executed after the struggle. This assumption as regularly been cited as “proof” that the authorities was out for vengeance towards Wirz alone.

Whereas the trial of Henry Wirz was by far the most well-known of the army tribunals at the finish of the Civil Conflict, it was not the just one. Actually, there have been almost 1,000 army tribunals by which Confederates, each regulars and guerrillas, have been charged with numerous violations of the legal guidelines of conflict – principally associated to the remedy of prisoners of warfare. Some of these trials even led to acquittals. For instance, the camp commander at Salisbury Jail, Main John Gee, was arrested in the fall of 1865 and charged with comparable crimes as Wirz. In contrast to Wirz, Gee was unanimously acquitted in the spring of 1866. After the warfare, Common Grant truly prevented the tribunal of one other of Salisbury’s commanders, Bradley T. Johnson, who confronted costs of negligence at the jail and for burning Chambersburg, Pennsylvania in the summer time of 1864. Even amongst these convicted, Wirz didn’t stand alone for the atrocities of Andersonville. James Duncan, who labored in the quartermaster’s workplace at Andersonville, was arrested and convicted of manslaughter by a army tribunal for his position in deliberately withholding rations from prisoners. He was sentenced to arduous labor at Fort Pulaski, the place he escaped a yr later.

Along with post-war army tribunals by the US Military, the Accomplice army routinely punished particular person guards who dedicated violations towards prisoners. For instance, a number of guards at Andersonville have been court-martialed by their very own superior officers and positioned in the shares or given the ball and chain proper alongside the Union prisoners.

Maybe the most enduring declare about Henry Wirz is that he was the solely individual executed by the Federal authorities in reference to the Civil Conflict. However this was not the case. For instance, greater than 300 Sioux Indians have been convicted and sentenced to demise by army tribunal in 1862. President Lincoln commuted the sentence of most, however in December 1862 thirty eight have been hanged by army tribunal in what stays the largest mass execution in American historical past. Though his execution is the most well-known of the Civil Conflict, Wirz was definitely not the solely Accomplice to be executed. Maybe most outstanding of these different Confederates to be executed was Champ Ferguson, who was convicted in the fall of 1865 for the execution of at the very least 53 captured Union troopers, though Ferguson claimed the complete was greater. In one other high-profile case, Accomplice officer Robert Kennedy was executed by a army tribunal for planting explosives round New York Metropolis, together with closely trafficked places like P.T. Barnum’s Museum.

There have been additional army tribunals towards Confederates deliberate in the spring of 1866. For instance, a board of inquiry discovered that there was adequate proof to cost Basic George Pickett, of Gettysburg fame, for signing off on the execution of twenty two North Carolinians serving in the Union Military who have been captured at New Bern, NC in February 1864. Nevertheless, because of the intercession of his previous West Level classmate Ulysses Grant and President Johnson’s April 1866 proclamation that the revolt was over, Pickett was by no means arrested and charged by a army tribunal. Johnson’s 1866 proclamation particularly banned army tribunals in peacetime, and successfully put a cease to any additional arrests and fees like these introduced towards Henry Wirz.

Army tribunals carried out by victorious armies are commonplace after wars, and are often fraught with controversy. The army tribunals held at the finish of the Civil Conflict have a lot in widespread with the trials towards Nazi officers at Nuremburg and even the army tribunals at Guantamo Bay. For these doing the prosecuting, they’re merely implementing the legal guidelines of conflict. Nevertheless, for these dealing with prosecution and their supporters, army tribunals seem as a miscarriage of justice by a vengeful victor. Finally, the cessation of tribunals, resembling what occurred after Johnson’s 1866 proclamation, is a vital step in the therapeutic and reconciliation course of after battle.

A number of many years later, after two devastating World Wars through which barbaric strategies have been utilized in POW camps and gulags, the Geneva Conventions of 1949 have been drafted. The United States was amongst the strongest supporters of worldwide legal guidelines designed to guard detainees towards neglect and abuse, and to offer larger protections to civilians on the battlefield. The Geneva Conventions addressed the issues of abuse and subjection to horrific circumstances for POWs, whether or not in worldwide or non-international battle. Detainees have been to be handled humanely and a slew of protections have been put in place. Not might excuses be made that the no ailing motive was meant, as apologists for the Civil Conflict POW camps had typically argued. Inhumane circumstances and brutal remedy haven’t any cowl beneath worldwide regulation.


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