Saturday, December 14, 2013

Concerning Captain Wirz

I would like to add that my ancestor, Major Raphael Jacob Moses, chief of commissary for General Longstreet's Corps, tried to defend Wirz, and pointed out that the Union prisoners received the same rations as the Confederate soldiers did.

From my as yet unpublished book on the Moses family:

"in his memoirs, Moses wrote: "I have never turned my back on an enemy that was attacking me, or failed to forgive one as soon as he cried for quarter. I can also say that I never deserted a friend…"

Indeed, when Henry Wirz, the former commandant of Andersonville Prison in Georgia was put in trial for his life after the war, for starving and abusing his POW's, Moses came to his defense. Moses wrote to him, pointing out that the hungry federal prisoners at Andersonville were receiving the same provisions as the equally deprived Confederates in the field:

I only heard a few days ago that you were in prison, charged with cruelty to the Andersonville prisoners. Heaven knows that if there was ever such a charge without a shadow of foundation, this is such. Major Allen can prove, and so can I, that the Andersonville prisoners were supplied from this post with precisely the same rations as our army in the field…

As Jerrold Northrop Moore writes in "Confederate Commissary General,"

Wirz was condemned to death. Just before his execution he was offered a reprieve in exchange for a statement to convict Jefferson Davis of cruelty to Federal prisoners of war. Wirz refused and was hanged.

In 1928, the Atlanta Journal summed up Moses' career thusly: "At the beginning of the war, although overage, he hastened to the defense of his beloved Southland, offering his fortune, his service, his sons – everything save his honor – a willing sacrifice on the altar of his country."

Moses stayed a loyal Confederate until the end. When he died in 1893, his calling card still read, "Major Raphael J. Moses, C.S.A."