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Southern Heritage <br>News and Views: Captain Wirz Memorial Set for Sunday

Monday, November 03, 2008

Captain Wirz Memorial Set for Sunday

By Calvin E. Johnson, Jr.

Some people ask who Studs Terkel who died last week was.

Should it surprise you that some people don’t recognize the name of Terkel? To a greater surprise and shame should be the fact many folks don't know who George Washington, George Washington Carver or Robert E. Lee was. Would it surprise that some people don’t even know what the “War Between the States”, also called Civil War in the North, was about? There are some who cannot even name the men who served as president of the Union or Confederacy during that tragic war. There was a time when Americans knew their history and told their children and grandchildren stories about their ancestors.

A century ago, 100 years last May 12, 2008, the United Daughters of the Confederacy unveiled a monument to the memory of Captain Henry Wirz in Andersonville, Georgia . Wirz, who was Commandant of Andersonville Prison, was born in Zurich Switzerland in 1822.

They teach our children of the infamous Andersonville Prison but what about the infamous Union prison camps in Chicago and New York . Andersonville is but short distance from historic Americus, Georgia.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans invite you to attend a 33rd Annual Captain Henry Wirz Memorial Service to be held in the town of Andersonville , this Sunday, November 9, 2008 at 2 PM. The guest speaker will be Reverend Walter Blackman, immediate past Chaplain of the Military Order of Stars and Bars.

Who was Captain Henry Wirz?

In April 1864, Wirz 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: quote:

“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.” Unquote

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 not 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, quote “Lord, thou callest me, here I am…And, now, farewell, wife children, all; farewell, farewell; God be with us.” Unquote

Those words don’t sound like that of a villain!!

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.

“When time shall have softened passion and prejudice, when reason shall have stripped the mask of misrepresentation, then justice holding even scale, will require much of the past censure and praise to change places.”—December 1888, former Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

The time is long overdue to exonerate the good name of Captain Henry Wirz. Wouldn’t it, after 143 years, be the compassionate-Christian thing to do?

God Bless the men and women of the United States Armed Forces and God Bless America!!


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