He is the only person in the United States ever to be executed for war crimes.
Hartmann Heinrich Wirz –“Henry”—was born in Switzerland in 1823. He was practicing medicine in Louisiana when the Civil War began. Wirz was eventually assigned to the staff of General John Winder, who was in charge of Confederate prisoner of war camps.
In May 1864, Wirz became commandant of Andersonville Prison in southwest Georgia. It was built to hold only 10,000 POWs. When the Confederacy refused to exchange black prisoners, all exchanges ended in 1864.
Andersonville’s population swelled to 33,000. Wirz tried to impose order, but was no match for the problems caused by massive overcrowding.
Andersonville had the highest mortality rate of any Civil War prison; nearly 13,000 Union POWs died there, mainly of malnutrition and disease. Many who lived were little more than walking skeletons.
The U.S. government held Wirz responsible. He was arrested after the war, tried by a military tribunal for conspiracy and murder, and convicted on all counts.
Sentenced to public execution, Henry Wirz was hanged in Washington D.C. on November 10, 1865, Today in Georgia History.
Today in Georgia History is a joint collaboration of the Georgia Historical Society & Georgia Public Broadcasting.