CIVIL WAR OP-ED: Wirz Memorial Set for Sunday November 4

By Calvin E. Johnson Jr.
Captain Henry Wirz
Captain Henry Wirz
One hundred and four years ago, on May 12, 1908, the United Daughters of the Confederacy unveiled a monument to the memory of Captain Henry Wirz in Andersonville, Georgia.



Our young people are taught about the so-called infamous Andersonville Prison where Captain Henry Wirz served as Commandant but what about the infamous Union prison camps in Chicago and Elmira in New York?



The Alexander H. Stephens Camp Sons of Confederate Veterans invite you to attend a 37th Annual Captain Henry Wirz Memorial Service to be held in the town of Andersonville, Georgia on Sunday afternoon, November 4, 2012 at 3 PM. In case of inclement weather, the service will be held in the old restored Andersonville Baptist Church --  now called the "Village Hall."



Starting at 2:00 p.m. the musical group from Leesburg, GA, "A Joyful Noise," will provide music for an hour.  They have played and sung before a number of groups for several years, and they will be playing Southern songs and Gospel Hymns. They will be singing "Amazing Grace" and "Dixie" during the 3:00 p.m. Memorial Service.



The guest speaker is Ms. Cassy Gray from Fairfield, Ohio. Greetings will include that which will be read from Col. Heinrich Wirz of Bern, Switzerland, the great grandnephew of Capt. Henry Wirz.



Mayor Marvin Baugh will read a proclamation declaring Nov. 4 as Capt. Henry Wirz Day in Andersonville.



Who was Captain Henry Wirz?



In April 1864, Wirz, born in Switzerland in 1822,  was appointed Commandant of Andersonville Prison. It has been written that the Union prisoners numbered 32,000 at Andersonville in August 1864. During this time food and medical supplies were scarce for both Union prisoners and their Confederate guards. The blockade of Southern ports was also very effective and Union President Abraham Lincoln halted the exchange of prisoners.


On August 18, 1864, Union General Ulysses S. Grant said:


"It is hard on our men in Southern prisons not to exchange them, but it is humanity to those left in the ranks to fight our battles. At this particular time to release all Rebel prisoners north, would insure Sherman’s defeat and compromise our safety."

Why wasn’t Captain Henry Wirz given a fair trial?



In August 1865, President Andrew Johnson ordered that the charges against Confederate generals and public servants should be dropped but not for Captain Henry Wirz. The Wirz trail was a mockery with witnesses allowed to testify for the prosecution but few for the defense. Captain Wirz was hung in Washington, D.C. on November 10, 1865. It is written that Wirz was offered a deal to save his life, which was to testify against the former Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Wirz, being a man of honor, refused.



Captain Henry Wirz, in the last letter to his wife  —dated November 10th -- said in the concluding sentence:  "Lord, thou callest me, here I am…And, now, farewell, wife children, all; farewell, farewell; God be with us." 



In 1977, at the National Convention of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, this Historical-Fraternal group declared Captain Henry Wirz a Confederate Martyr and Hero. A posthumous Medal of Honor was also presented in honor and memory of Captain Wirz and is on display at the Andersonville Welcome Center.

Johnson is a speaker, writer of historical essays, author of the book “When America Stood for God, Family and Country” and Chairman of the Confederate History and Heritage Month Committee for the Sons of Confederate Veterans:

He lives in  Kennesaw, Georgia, near Atlanta
Comments powered by Disqus