Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Captain Henry Wirz: ruthless villain of Andersonville, or innocent pawn? (part 4 of 5)

[Part 4 of 5 in a series of documents that suggest Wirz's innocence]

Excerpted from Major General Butler's report to the "Committee on the Conduct of the War" is the following passage regarding the exchange of prisoners.

"I have felt it my duty to give an account with this particular carefulness of my participation in the business of exchanges of prisoners, the orders under which I acted, and the negotiations attempted, that was done, so that all may become a matter of history. The great importance of the questions; the fearful responsibility for the many thousands of lives which, by the refusal of exchange, were sacrificed by the most cruel forms of death---from cold, starvation, and pestilence of the prison pens of Raleigh and Andersonville---being more than all the British soldiers killed in the wars of Napoleon; the anxiety of fathers, brothers, sisters, mothers, wives; to know the exigency which caused this terrible and, perhaps, as it may have seemed to them, useless and unnecessary destruction of those dear to them by horrible deaths-each and all have compelled me to this exposition, so that it may be seen that those lives were spent as a part of the system of attack upon the rebellion, devised by the wisdom of the general in chief of the armies, ;to destroy it by depletion, depending upon our superior numbers to win the victory at last. The loyal mourners will doubtless derive solace from this fact, and appreciate all the more highly the genius which conceived the plan ind the success won at so great a cost."