Henry Wirz, Swiss Americans, Andersonville Military Prison, Norton Parker Chapman, United States history, Civil War, judicial error, trials—United States, 1861-1865—prisoners and prisons


Henry Wirz was the most controversial Swiss American. Born in Zurich, Wirz migrated to the United States and joined the Confederacy at the outbreak of the Civil War. He was assigned to oversee the military prison at Andersonville, Georgia, which had a very high death rate. Following the war, Wirz was arrested and tried for war crimes. The trial was a travesty of justice. Many of his supposed crimes were milder punishments than the Union inflicted on its own soldiers. The court allowed hearsay evidence, Wirz was no allowed to call key witnesses for his defense, and many leaders of the Confederacy were found guilty even though they were not part of the trial. Many leaders contributed to the tragedy of Andersonville, and Wirz was condemned and hanged for factors which he could not control. In fact, his efforts to aid the captives may have well saved many lives.

Original Publication Citation

Winkler, A. (2014). Henry Wirz and the tragedy of Andersonville: A question of responsibility. Swiss American Historical Society Review, 50(3), 1-97.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Masthof Press




Harold B. Lee Library