A. G. Blair testifying about inhumane treatment
I was in the military service of the United states, in the 122d New York. I was taken prisoner on the 23d of May, 1864, at the battle of the Wilderness. I was taken to Libby Prison first, and from that to Andersonville, where I arrived about the first of June. Captain Wirz was in command of the prison when I arrived there.
I have heard a great many questions asked Captain Wirz about rations whenever he would come into camp. His reply was generally an oath, saying that we would get all the rations we deserved, and that was damned little.
Q. Did he ever say he would not give you rations if he could?
A. I never heard him make that exact remark.
Q. Did he make any similar remark?
A. Several days during the fore part of my imprisonment there we had no rations. The report came from good authority that he was the cause of it, he being in charge of the camp.
[Interrupted by counsel for the accused.]
A. I have not heard those words from his mouth.
Q. Did you hear any similar language used by Captain Wirz to that which I repeated to you? If so, state what the language was.
[Objected to by counsel for the accused on the ground that witness had already answered in the negative. After deliberation the objection was overruled.]
A. On one occasion when he was asked by several of the prisoners who had not had any rations for twenty-four hours, when they were to have any, he made remark that if the rations were in his hands we would not get any. That was in the beginning of July, 1864, just before or after the 4th.
I have seen him stand at the gate when sick men were carried out. The men were very anxious to get out of the sun into the shade, and they would rush out to a small passage-way made in the large doors coming out, to suit him. I have seen him shove the well, and the sick who were being carried, over on their backs; or sometimes he would order the guards to do it. The condition of the men taken out of camp into the hospital was hopeless - all that I ever saw taken out.
I escaped from Andersonville in the latter part of July or the fore part of August. And got about thirty miles from the stockade when I was captured and brought back to the camp. I was kept over night, and then was put in the stocks. The first day that I was taken out of the stocks I was not put in the stockade that night. I was put in the stocks the next day, and then was returned to the prison with three other comrades. I do not recollect the exact number of hours I was kept in the stocks; I should think five or six hours.
Q. Did the prisoner give any orders in reference to your being put in the stocks?
A. Just before I was put in the stocks I saw him give some orders from his headquarters, and I supposed that those were the orders.
I saw prisoners shot on or near the dead-line, on several occasions. I was down, in the fore part of my imprisonment, to get water at the creek. That was the only resource for obtaining water, except you had a right in one of the wells. The crowd was very great there. It was absolutely necessary sometimes either to get over the dead-line or to thirst. I have seen men on five or six occasions either shot dead or mortally wounded for trying to get water under the dead-line. I have seen one or two instances where men were shot over the dead-line. Whether they went over it intentionally, or unconsciously from not knowing the rules, I cannot say. I think that the number of men shot during my imprisonment ranged from twenty-five to forty. I do not know that I can give any of their names. I did know them at the time, because they had tented right around me, or messed with me, but their names have slipped my mind. Two of them belonged to the 40th New York Regiment. Those two men were shot just after I got there, in the latter part of June, 1864.
Q. Did you see the person who shot them?
A. I saw the sentry raise his gun. I hallooed to the man. I and several of the rest gave the alarm, but it was to late. Both of these men did not die; one was shot through the arm; the other died; he was shot in the right breast. I did not see Captain Wirz present at the time. I did not hear any orders given to the sentinels, or any words from the sentinels when they fired; nothing more than they often said that it was done by orders from the commandant of the camp, and that they were to receive so many days furlough for every Yankee devil they killed. Those twenty-five or forty men were shot from the middle of June, 1864, until the 1st of September. There were men shot every month. I cannot say that I ever saw Captain Wirz present when any of these men were shot. I had no chance of seeing him unless he was in the stockade. The majority of those whom I saw shot were killed outright; expired in a few moments.
Q. Can you give a detailed description of those you saw killed and of the dates?
A. In regard to the dates I cannot give you any detail. I lost dates there, and did not know when Sunday came. I came very near being shot myself. A very large crowd had gathered at the stream of water, and I was reaching over the dead-line in order to get some water. I could not get it anywhere else, as I had no right to the wells. A bullet came, I should judge, within two or three inches of my right ear, striking one man through the arm, and mortally wounding another. These men were in their tents, unoffending.
Q. Were all these twenty-five or forty men shot by the sentries for crossing the dead-line or being near it?
A. Some were across it, and others not. I saw a man shot who was three feet inside the dead-line. I saw one shot on the 10th of July, just the day before the men whom we called the raiders were hung.
Q. Describe the circumstances that led to the men being shot.
A. I do not know, except from the great desire of sentries to get furloughs.
Q. Did you ever hear any order given by the prisoner in reference to firing grape and canister on the prisoners in the stockade?
A. He gave an order; I did not hear it; but there was an order given------
(Interrupted by counsel for the accused:)
Q. What order did you ever hear him give?
A. Captain Wirz planted a range of flags inside the stockade, and gave the order, just inside the gate, "that if a crowd of two hundred (that was the number) should gather in any one spot beyond those flags and near the gate, he would fire grape and canister into them."
Captain Wirz gave this order I was speaking of to the crowd of prisoners around the gate. He merely told them he would fire upon them if they gathered there. I did not hear him give the order to men outside. He warned us that if we gathered there in numbers he would fire upon us.
Q. Then it was not an order, but simply a warning.
A. Yes, sir.
This excerpt obtained by Troy Drew from the trial record as quoted in The Andersonville Prison Trial: The Trial of Captain Henry Wirz, by General N.P. Chipman, 1911.