Andersonville Prison

Topics: Henry Wirz, American Civil War, Confederate States of America Pages: 11 (4639 words) Published: May 7, 2002
When one turns on the television today they are made witness to all the crimes that are present in society. It is impossible to sit through thirty-five minutes of news without anger and rage becoming aroused. This is because society is bothered by infinitesimal paraphernalia. Society also believes in human rights and punishment for those who violate such rights. Yet what constitutes humanity? Ever sit there and watch the news and wonder just how far humanity reaches? When is it time to say this is a human rights violation? Every wonder when someone's morals and ethics begin to effect their ability to do their job? Ever wonder why in every news story the "bad guy" always become caught? Ever wonder how many people on death row might not be guilt? Some of them could have even been used as scapegoats. Yet how does one become a scapegoat? Could someone out there have that much hatred and anger to blame one person for the faults of many? Is the need for blame significant? Does desire lead to more hatred and evil? What does it feel like to be blamed for something that might not be wrong, and to be put on trial knowing that the jury wants to blame someone? In society and in the United States since its founding, there has been a need to place blame. Imagine how the person being blamed would feel. Henry Wirz did not have to image it; he lived through it and died for it. Someone is always to be blamed, even if they were just following orders. Orders which can only go so far until humanity takes effect. Henry Wirz was used as a scapegoat for war crimes committed during the Civil War at Andersonville Prison, however that does not justify his acts or make him an American hero. Ever take a midnight train to Georgia? No, well ever drive through Georgia? When driving through Georgia on State Road 49, there is a little town called Andersonville that is very easy to miss. To many it is just another town. Yet this town has its own trail. The Andersonville Trail is a small brown dirt road that leads visitors to the Andersonville National Historic Site (Roberts xi). This National Historic Site looks like a "well- tended" national cemetery. On closer examination, this cemetery is nothing like Arlington (Roberts xi). "In this national cemetery, the marble headstones are so close together, they almost touch. The markers appear to be one long headstone, as if one grave grew out of the other" (Roberts xi). In these graves at Andersonville, the men are buried naked, shoulder to shoulder, under less then three feet of dirt. "What [is scene] in the cemetery are the last vestiges of a great American tragedy" (Roberts xi). This cemetery is one massive grave, were the remains of nearly 13,000 Union prisoners of war who died of disease and starvation between February 1864 and May 1865. This is Andersonville. No person who comes to Andersonville can leave without profound soul searching. Moral, ethical and factual questions come to mind. How could something as horrible as this happen? Who was responsible? Have the guilty been punished (Roberts xii)? History books forget Andersonville, the American people want to forget Andersonville, and the government denies Andersonville, yet when an event is that horrific no one can forget or deny it. As much as America wants to forget what happened at Andersonville, they will never be able to, for the ghosts of Andersonville are all around. When something this awful happens, there is a need to find a villain. There is the need to place the blame on the person whom society feels is responsible for the heinous acts. "[Society] must be assured that the terrible events that happened at Andersonville were the work of one lone madman, who was adequately punished for his crime" (Roberts xii). This punishment assures society that there is nothing wrong with the United States history, that there is nothing to hide. By punishing the madman, it proves that there is nothing wrong...

Bibliography: Denny, Robert. Civil War Prisons and Escapes. New York, New York: Sterling Publishing Company, 1993.
Futch, Ovid. History of Andersonville Prison. Indiantown, Florida: University of Florida Press, 1968.
Hillstrom, Kevin. American Civil War Biographies. Michigan: The Gale Group, 2000
Levitt, Saul. The Andersonville Trial. New York, New York: Random House, 1960.
Murphy, Richard. The Nation Reunited. Canada: Time-Life Books, Inc. 1987
Roberts, Edward. Andersonville Journey. Shippensburg, PA: Burd Street Press, 1998
Robertson, James: Tenting Tonight: A Soldier 's Life. Canada: The Time-Life, Inc. 1984.
Shaw, William B., et al. A Photographic History of the Civil War. Six Volumes. New York, New York: The Blue and Grey Press, 1987.
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