Capt. Henry Wirz Memorial Service met with much fanfare

Published 8:57 am Tuesday, November 22, 2022

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James Gaston

The 47th annual Capt. Henry Wirz Memorial Service was held in the town of Andersonville recently.  The Service is held annually and sponsored by the Alexander H. Stephens Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp in Americus.  The public is always invited to attend, and there were attendees from several states and throughout Georgia this year.

 The First Capt. Wirz Memorial Service was held in Andersonville in 1976 and was organized by Arthur Park of Orlando whose father served under Capt. Wirz at Andersonville Prison.

 Guest speaker for the Service this year was Attorney Martin O’Toole from Marietta.  He mentioned how a delegation of Union prisoners from Andersonville were given a pass to visit President Lincoln to request a prisoner exchange, but Lincoln refused to see them.

Speaker, Attorney Martin O’Toole Photo submitted


 Mr. O’Toole discussed the Wirz Trial and mentioned that Capt. Wirz was the Commandant at Andersonville Prison for the last 14 months of the War Between the States.  When the War ended, he was paroled but then was arrested and taken to Washington, D. C. for a Trial before a Military Tribunal.  A number of Northern witnesses testified with great certainty that Henry Wirz had personally executed prisoners.  However, of the 13 Prisoners Wirz was found guilty of murdering, NO NAME was ever given for them.

 A number of Defense witnesses were not permitted to testify.  Capt. Wirz was also found guilty of conspiracy, but there was no evidence brought forward in the Trial that there was a conspiracy. Many historians have said his Trial was one of the most unfair trials ever held in the United States.

Anderson’s Battery from Warner Robins. Photo Submitted

 Capt. Wirz was hung on November 10, 1865.  His executioners placed the noose around his neck so that when the trap door was sprung, his neck was not broken.  He dangled at the end of the rope for 20 minutes and strangled to death.  The Union troops present  chanted “Andersonville,
Andersonville” while he was hanging.

 The Northerners cut off Capt. Wirz head and neck and right arm and exhibited the bones around the country.  It took his attorney, Louis Schade, four years to get some of the bones back for a burial at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Washington.  To this day in 2022, there are still some of his bones on public exhibit at a museum in Maryland. 

Stewart/Webster and Americus Camp Honor Guard at the Wirz Monument. Photo Submitted

 SCV Camp Commander George Larsen welcomed the large crowd to the Memorial Service and lead the group in the pledges of allegiance to the U. S. and Georgia flags and the salute to the Confederate flag.  Rev. Mark Carter had the invocation.  James Gaston recognized many of the special guests.

 Greetings were brought by dignitaries from the Order of Confederate Rose, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Military Order of the Stars and Bars, Mr. Max Hurlimann for Col.  Heinrich Wirz of Switzerland (who is the great grand nephew), and Mr. William Freeman (descendant of Mr. Arthur Park.

 After singing Dixie, the attendees proceeded to the Capt. Wirz Monument where Anderson Battery of SCV Camp 1399 had a cannon salute.  This was followed by a rifle salute by the Stewart/Webster SCV and A. H. Stephens Camp Honor Guards to end the Memorial Service.