1865 September 9: Henry Wirz Asks for Safe Passage
This account by Henry H. Wirz, a Confederate captain at Andersonville Prison, comes from the September 9, 1865, issue of The Prescott Journal. This account is addressed to James H. Wilson, who captured Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and was the federal officer in command at Macon, Georgia.
Wirz’ Account of Himself.
ANDERSONVILLE,Ga. May 7, 1865.—It is with great reluctance that I address you these lines, being fully aware how little time is left you to attend to such matters as I now have the honor to lay before you, and if I could see any other way to accomplish my object I would not intrude upon you. I am a native of Switzerland, and was before the war a citizen of Louisiana, by profession a physician. Like hundreds and thousands of others I was carried away by the maelstrom of excitement and joined the Southern army. I was very seriously wounded at the battle of the Seven Pines [May 31-June 1, 1862] near Richmond, Va., and have nearly lost the use of my right arm. Unfit for field duty, I was ordered to report to Brevet General John H. Winder, in charge of Federal prisoners of war, who ordered me to take charge of a prison in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
My health failing me, I applied for a furlough and went to Europe, from whence I returned in February, 1864 ; I was then ordered to report to the commandant of the military prison at Andersonville, Ga. who assigned me to the command of the interior of the prison ; the duties I had to perform were arduous and unpleasant, and am satisfied that no man can or will justly blame me for things that happened here, and which were beyond my power to control ; I do no think that I ought to be held responsible for the shortness of rations, for for the over-crowded state of the prison, which was in itself a prolific source of the fearful mortality, for the inadequate supplies of clothing, want of shelter, &c., &c. ; still I now bear the odium, and men who were prisoners here seem disposed to wreak their vengeance upon me for what they have suffered, who was only the medium, or, I may better say, the tools in the hands of my superiors. This is my condition ; I am a man with a family ; I lost all my property when the Federal army besieged Vicksburg ; I have no money at present to go anyplace, and even if I had I know of no place where I could go ; my life is in danger, and I most respectfully ask of you help and relief. If you will be so generous as to give me some sort of a safe conduct, or what I should greatly prefer, a guard to protect myself and family against violence, I shall be thankful to you, and you may rest assured that your protection will not be given to one who is unworthy of it. My intention is to return with my family to Europe as soon as I can make the arrangements. In the meantime, I have the honor, General, to remain very respectfully, your obedient servant, H. Y.[sic] WIRZ, Captain C. S. A.
Major General J. H. Wilson, United State Army, commanding Macon, Georgia.