Class Year

2020

Document Type

Blog Post

Publication Date

7-24-2018

Department

Civil War Institute

Abstract

This post is part of a series featuring behind-the-scenes dispatches from our Pohanka Interns on the front lines of history this summer as interpreters, archivists, and preservationists. See here for the introduction to the series.

Captain Henry Wirz remains one of the most controversial figures in Andersonville’s history. One of just a handful of soldiers convicted of and executed for war crimes after the Civil War ended (not the only one, though perhaps the most notorious), he has taken on a dual identity in American memory as a remorseless criminal and an honorable martyr . Few physical reminders of Camp Sumter survive—only the earthworks and underground remains of the stockade wall logs indicate that a grassy Georgia field once held forty-five thousand Union prisoners of war. Written accounts and sketches, however, provide a fairly reliable basis for fabricating reproduction objects. One of the most memorable is “Wirz’s Jewelry”—the ball and chain with which Captain Wirz punished prisoners who attempted escape, stole supplies, or offended the Swiss officer. This instrument of confinement, carries its own complex symbolism, which has influenced historical memory of Civil War prisons. [excerpt]

Comments

This blog post originally appeared in The Gettysburg Compiler and was created by students at Gettysburg College.

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