Why only Wirz?

     The initial charges and specifications brought against Wirz listed multiple other Confederate military officers and political figures including the Secretary of War and the Confederate President, Jefferson Davis, himself. The prosecution was mysteriously told to drop the political figures from the list of charges and specifications. Several explanations can be presented for such action.

     The South had only recently fallen and Jefferson Davis as well as the other political figures still commanded great admiration and respect among Southerners. Indictment of Davis would, no doubt, have created great impediments, further delaying peaceful readmission of Southern states following the war. This is particularly true since evidence of conspiracy involvement by Davis relating to Andersonville was non-existent.

     Additionally, several officials and Confederate officers had been pardoned. Some, including General Winder, were dead. Others had fled the country to avoid potential imprisonment or worse.

     The simple answer is that Wirz could be found and arrested. Wirz had been the commandant of Andersonville which was the prison camp having the most deaths of Union soldiers over the shortest period of time. He was known to the men who were prisoners in Andersonville. The men blamed him for the conditions and deaths occurring in the prison and they strongly despised him. The North needed someone to blame and to take vengeance upon. Wirz was the best candidate for this scapegoating.

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Text by Jon Rice.

These materials were prepared as part of a class assignment for The Seminar in Famous Trials course at the University of Missouri-K.C. School of Law. The use of any sound or images in the trials sites is in furtherance of the educational mission of the Seminar.