Henry Wirz


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(1823–1865) Confederate army officer. Born in Zurich Switzerland, Hartmann Heinrich Wirz emigrated to the United States in 1849. He was overseeing a plantation when the Civil War began. He enlisted in the Fourth Louisiana Infantry in 1861, and was injured badly enough the next year to lose the use of his right arm. He was promoted to captain and assigned to the staff of Brig. Gen. John Henry Winder, who put Wirz in command of the Richmond military prison, where he was actually popular with the inmates. When he was reassigned to Alabama, they petitioned to keep him. Wirz spent most of 1863 in Europe, and when he returned to the Confederacy in early 1864 Winder gave him command of the stockade at Andersonville, Georgia. Prisoner exchanges had stopped, all supplies were scarce, and the prison was severely overcrowded, and as a result its Union inmates died by the thousands. Wirz was arrested in May 1865, still tending to the sick at Andersonville. By then Winder had died, and Wirz was left to bear sole responsibility for the horrors he had supervised. He was tried for the murder and abuse of prisoners and sentenced to hang in Washington, D.C. He was the only Confederate officer executed as a war criminal.

From The Oxford Essential Dictionary of the U.S. Military in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Warfare and Defence.

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