Editor's Note: This page
contains a collection of brief biographical profiles of Civil
War officers published in the Charger over the years.
Most of these profiles are not original to either the
Charger or this website but were cobbled together from various
sources including web sites such as www.nndb.com and
www.wikipedia.com and books
such as The Civil War Almanac. You'll note that the focus of these
profiles has typically been on less well-known players in the
Civil War drama and not the superstar generals on whom we tend to more often
focus our attention.
Other Biographical Profiles On
Three Ohio Civil War
Veterans Who Became President
Garibaldi, General-in-Chief, U.S. Army?
The Rock of Chickamauga
John C. Breckinridge - He
Should Have Been Hanged
Grant vs. Lee
Sherman’s Little Known
Failure: The 36th State
The Most Overrated General
Most Effective General
Peter Principle and George B. McClellan
Wounded Lion: U.S. Grant's Last Campaign
The Sword Was
Mightier Than the Pen
and Arabella - A Love Story
and Fanny - A Love Story
Barlow-Gordon Controversy: Rest in Peace
An Uncivil War: General
George G. Meade & The Pennsylvania Reserves In Northern
Born: October 23, 1828,
Fauquier County, Virginia
Died: June 6, 1962,
Pre-War Profession: Planter
Fought for: The Confederacy
Turner Ashby was a Confederate
General whose death in combat seemed to typify the doomed gallantry
of the South’s military efforts.
Ashby was from an old Virginia
family. His grandfather had fought in the Revolution and father had
fought in the War of 1812. Turner was opposed to secession in
principle, but, as a planter and grain dealer, he defended the
practice of slavery.
He personally organized a troop of
mounted volunteers to ride to Harper’s Ferry when he heard of John
Brown’s raid, but he arrived too late to take action. When Virginia
seceded, Ashby immediately organized another troop of horsemen that,
incorporated into the 7th Virginia Cavalry, he led in the early
operations in the Upper Potomac.
In the spring of 1862, Ashby helped
cover Jackson’s retreat to Swift Run Gap, but by late May he was
pursuing the retreating Federals under Banks. On May 27, Ashby was
commissioned a brigadier general, by which time he was commanding a
cavalry brigade that was fighting rearguard actions to protect
Jackson’s army as it retreated from the Shenandoah Valley.
On June 6, 1962, Ashby was killed
by federal troops.
Taken from the Civil War Almanac
(Bison Books, 1983)
Nathaniel Prentiss Banks
Born: January 30, 1816,
Died: September 1, 1894,
Massachusetts state congressman, US congressman, Speaker of the
House of Representatives, Governor
Fought for: The Union
Nathaniel Prentiss Banks had little
formal education. At the age of twenty-three he was admitted to the
bar, but failed seven times to become a member of the Massachusetts
legislature before winning a seat. He was speaker of the
Massachusetts house, presided over the Constitutional Convention of
1853, and the same year was elected to Congress—the first of ten
terms under five different party affiliations. Elected Speaker of
the House of Representatives after 133 ballots in 1856, Banks showed
moderation in deciding among factions during the bitter slavery
In 1858 he was elected governor of
Massachusetts, serving until January, 1861, when Lincoln appointed
him a major general of volunteers after Banks proffered his
services. Many West Point officers could not be made to understand
that, however substandard Bank's qualifications were for the. job of
a field commander, he contributed immeasurably in recruits, morale,
money, and propaganda to the Federal cause.
He was expelled from the Shenandoah
with the loss of 30 per cent of his force during Stonewall Jackson’s
celebrated Valley campaign and, in August, 1862, was again defeated
by Jackson at Cedar Mountain.
Banks was responsible for costly
assaults at Port Hudson, which was compelled to surrender anyway
after the capitulation of Vicksburg, and was the commander, if not
the author, of the ill-fated Red River campaign of 1864. After the
evacuation of Alexandria during the retreat of the expedition, Banks
was superseded by General E. R. S. Canby.
Having received the thanks of
Congress for “the skill, courage, and endurance which compelled the
surrender of Port Hudson,” General Banks was mustered out of
military service in August, 1865, and was almost immediately elected
to Congress—his first of six terms in the postwar years - five as a
Republican and one as a Democrat. During the same period he was
elected once to the Massachusetts senate and served nine years as
United States Marshal for the state.
Before the end of his last term in
the house, he retired to his home in Waltham where he died on
September 1, 1894.
Born: March 22, 1817, Warrenton, NC
Died: September 27, 1876,
Pre-War Profession: Graduated West
Point 1837, Seminole War, Mexican War, Lt. Col, resigned 1856,
Fought for: The Confederacy
Braxton Bragg, a North Carolinian,
was graduated from West Point in 1837, fought in the Seminole War
and saw distinguished service in Mexico, where he won acclaim for
the performance of his battery at Buena Vista in February 1847. He
resigned from the army in 1856 to become a planter in Louisiana.
Appointed a brigadier general in
the Confederate army in February 1861, he commanded the coastal
defenses between Mobile and Pensacola. He helped Albert Sidney
Johnston reorganize the Army of Tennessee in northern Mississippi in
the early spring of 1862 and led Johnston’s right wing at Shiloh in
April. Promoted to full general shortly after the battle, he took
charge of the Army of Tennessee in June. In late August, Bragg
launched his invasion of Kentucky, with the political aim of drawing
the state into the Confederacy. After the drawn battles of
Perryville (October 1862) and Stones River (December 1862-January
1863) he withdrew to Tullahorna, the campaign a failure.
Federal forces under William J.
Rosecrans maneuvered Bragg out of Tullahoma, and then out of
Chattanooga, in the summer of 1863. Bragg attacked Rosecrans along
Chickamauga Creek on September 19 and 20, driving the Federals back
to Chattanooga with heavy losses. This was potentially a great
victory, but Bragg failed to exploit his initial advantage. Instead
of pressing the attack, he drew his army up into the hills above
Chattanooga and besieged the city.
U.S. Grant reopened a supply line
into Chattanooga in October and launched a
attack on Missionary Ridge, forcing Bragg to retreat into north
Georgia. Joseph E. Johnston relieved him of command of the Army of
Tennessee on December 2, 1863.
Bragg’s difficult personality compounded his lack of battlefield
success. Irritable, disputatious, dyspeptic, he made many enemies
among the senior officers and inspired little affection in the
ranks. Senior subordinates such as James Longstreet, D. H. Hill and
William Hardee had no confidence in him. “The tone of the army among
its higher officers toward the commander was the worst conceivable,”
Longstreet’s aide, G. Moxley Sorrel, wrote of the period after
Chickamauga. “Bragg was the subject of hatred and contempt, and it
was almost openly so expressed.”
Bragg served as an adviser to
President Jefferson Davis through most of 1864. He returned to the
field toward the war’s end and fought his last battle against W. T.
Sherman’s forces in North Carolina in March 1865. He joined Davis in
his attempt to escape Union forces; taken prisoner on May 9, he was
paroled shortly thereafter.
He worked as a civil engineer in Texas and Alabama after the war,
served a four-year term as Alabama’s commissioner of public works
and supervised a harbor improvement scheme at Mobile. He died in
Born: March 23, 1818,
Died: November 19, 1898,
Graduated West Point, 1841, served in the Seminole War, the
Mexican-American War and from 1848 to 1861 performed various staff
duties chiefly as Assistant Adjutant General.
Fought for: The Union
Don Carlos Buell was born near
Marietta, Ohio, on March 23, 1818. He graduated from West Point in
1841 and, as a company officer of infantry, took part in the
Seminole War of 1841-42. He fought in the Mexican War, during which
he was present at almost all the battles fought by Generals Zachary
Taylor and Winfield Scott, winning the brevet of captain at Monterey
and that of major at Contreras-Churubusco, where he was wounded.
From 1848 to 1861 he performed various staff duties, chiefly as
assistant adjutant general.
On the outbreak of the Civil War,
he was appointed lieutenant colonel on May 11, 1861, brigadier
general of volunteers a few days later, and major general of
volunteers in March of 1862. He aided efficiently in organizing the
Army of the Potomac, and, at the instance of General George B.
McClellan, in November of 1861 was sent to Kentucky to succeed
General William T. Sherman in command. Here he employed himself in
the organization and training of the Army of the Ohio (subsequently
of the Cumberland), which to the end of its career retained a
standard of discipline and efficiency only surpassed by that of the
Army of the Potomac. In the spring of 1862, Buell followed the
retiring Confederates under Albert Sidney Johnston and appeared on
the field of Shiloh at the end of the first day's fighting. On the
following day, aided by Buell's fresh and well-trained army, Ulysses
S. Grant carried all before him.
Buell subsequently served under
Henry W. Halleck in the advance on Corinth, and in the autumn
commanded in the campaign in Kentucky against Braxton Bragg. After a
period of maneuvering in which Buell scarcely held his own, this
virtually ended in the indecisive battle of Perryville. The alleged
tardiness of his pursuit, and his objection to a plan of campaign
ordered by the Washington authorities, brought about Buell's removal
from command. With all his gifts as an organizer and disciplinarian,
he was haughty in his dealings with the civil authorities and, in
high command, he showed, on the whole, unnecessary tardiness of
movement and an utter disregard for the requirements of the
political situation. Moreover, as McClellan's friend, holding
similar views, adverse politically to the administration, he
suffered by McClellan's displacement. The complaints made against
him were investigated in 1862-63, but the result of the
investigation was not published. Subsequently he was offered
military employment, which he declined. He resigned his volunteer
commission in May, and his regular commission in June of 1864.
After the war, he was president of
Green River Iron Company (1865-70) and subsequently engaged in
various mining enterprises. He also served (1885-89) as pension
agent at Louisville. He died at his home near Rockport, Kentucky on
November 19, 1898. He is buried in St. Louis, Missouri.
Excerpted from www.nndb.com and
John Bell Hood
Born: June 1 or 29, 1831,
Died: August 30, 1879, New
Graduated West Point, 1853, served in California, and later
transferred to the 2nd U.S. Cavalry in Texas, where he fought
Fought for: The Confederacy
Lacking neither courage nor
fighting skills, John Bell Hood’s deficient strategic abilities and
ill-suitedness to high command helped cause the destruction of the
Confederacy’s Army of Tennessee late in the war.
The tall and imposing Kentucky
native graduated in the bottom fifth of his class at West Point, and
his early military service included a stint in the elite 2nd
Cavalry, during which he had already begun to demonstrate bold, if
Leaving the U.S. Army in April 1861
to join the Confederacy, he and his famed brigade of Texans made
noteworthy showings in the Seven Days battles, Second Bull Run, and
Antietam, where they sustained heavy casualties breaking the Union’s
initial attack. A gunshot wound at Gettysburg crippled Hood’s left
arm but the injuries did not slow his military advancement.
As Joseph E. Johnston’s chief
officer in the 1864 defense of Atlanta against William T. Sherman’s
invading Union army, Hood roundly criticized his superiors' cautious
strategy. In July, he was given the chance to do better when
Jefferson Davis, eager for a hard fighter, appointed Hood to take
over the Army of Tennessee from Johnston in the middle of the
Within two days of gaining command,
Hood went on the offensive, playing into Sherman’s hands. His three
attacks against the Union army—at Peachtree Creek, near Decatur, and
at Ezra Church—cost him 15,000 men, and he was forced to retreat
back to Atlanta's strong fortifications. The city was besieged and a
month later fell to the North. Hood still managed an effective
withdrawal of his troops and with help from Nathan Bedford Forrest,
attacked Union supply lines in north Georgia and Tennessee.
Hardly halting Sherman’s relentless
“March to the Sea,” though, the impetuous Hood conceived a
bolder—and hopelessly unrealistic plan: an all-out invasion of
Tennessee. Along with forcing Sherman to turn, he hoped to retake
the state altogether, advance further northeast, collect
reinforcements and crush Ulysses S. Grant’s forces in Virginia from
Instead, Hood’s outnumbered men
wound up confronting John Schofield’s entrenched troops in Franklin.
On November 30, over the furious objections of his lieutenants, he
ordered a massive assault on the fortified Union line. After over a
dozen valiant but futile charges, Hood lost a quarter of his army.
Losing the confidence of the survivors as well, he nevertheless
proceeded north to Nashville, this time encountering George Henry
With his depleted force camped
outside the city, Hood ran out of ideas and waited, first for
reinforcements that never arrived and then Thomas’ inevitable
attack. When it came, an overpowering two-day onslaught in
mid-December, the Army of Tennessee virtually disintegrated.
Retreating deeper and deeper South with what was left of his force,
Hood resigned his command in January.
After the war, he went into
business in New Orleans, where he, his wife, and eleven children
died in a yellow fever epidemic four years later.
Born: April 14, 1832, Utica, NY
Died: August 15, 1882, Staten Island, NY
Pre-War Profession: Civil Engineer
Fought for: The Union
James Hewett Ledlie was born in New York, he was educated at
Union in Schenectady and became an engineer engaged in railroad
construction. Shortly after the out-break of war he became major of the 19th
New York Infantry, subsequently named the 3rd New York Artillery.
This regiment, at the expiration of its original term of service,
mutinied and 23 of the original 206 offenders were sentenced to the
Dry Tortugas. Ledlie was promoted lieutenant colonel, colonel, and
then brigadier general on December 24, 1862; the latter rank expired
on March 4, 1865, for lack of Senate confirmation. (He was reappointed on October 27, 1863, and in due course
Meantime, Ledlie had served unexceptionably on the
Carolina coast, commanding an artillery brigade under John G.
Foster, and in district and post command at various points in the
Federal Department of Virginia and North Carolina. In the course of
the fierce fighting around Spotsylvania Court House in May, 1864,
Ledlie joined the Army of the Potomac and was assigned to the
command of a brigade in Ambrose E. Burnside’s IX Corps.
The following month, after Petersburg was invested, he became
commander of the 1st Division of the corps. At the end of July his
division was selected to lead the Federal assault upon the
Confederate works after the explosion of the celebrated Union mine.
At 4:45 A.M. on the morning of July 30, 170 feet of Confederate
entrenchment was disintegrated, creating a “crater” 60 feet across
and 30 feet deep. While Ledlie’s men struggled to get over their own
parapet—no provision had been made for ladders or steps and while
the possession of Petersburg and the end of the war may have rested
in the palms of their hands, Ledlie huddled “in a bombproof ten
rods in rear of the main line."
In September he was criticized by a court of inquiry, and in
December was virtually read out of the service by George G. Meade on
U. S. Grant’s orders. He resigned on January 23, 1865. After the war
he continued his career as a railroad engineer in the west and
south. Ledlie died at New Brighton, Staten Island, on August 15,
1882, and was buried in Forest Hill Cemetery, Utica.
Born: October 15, 1818,
Died: May 10, 1885, San
Graduated West Point, 1838, initially posted to the 1st U.S.
Artillery, served as tactics instructor at West Point and
aide-de-camp to General John E. Wool during the Mexican-American
War. He was brevetted captain at Buena Vista and then served
in the Adjutant General's department after the war and was promoted
to major in 1856.
Fought for: The Union
Irvin McDowell was one of several
Union generals who were fine administrative officers but ineffectual
in the field and thus saw their careers tainted by the war. Ohio
born and a West Point graduate, McDowell had a career typical of an
army officer of his time, including service in the Mexican War. By
the time the Civil War broke out, he was well regarded by members of
the new Republican administration.
In May of 1861, he was given the
most crucial command, that of the Army of the Potomac and the
Department of Northeastern Virginia. As a very meticulous
administrator, McDowell knew that the Union troops were not that
ready for battle when they met the Confederates at First Bull Run,
so he accepted the loss. The government and public in the North,
however, were not so detached and McDowell was replaced in the top
command by General George McClellan and demoted to head a division.
In the ensuing months, McDowell was
shifted from one command to another; by the Second Bull Run campaign
in August of 1862, he was in command of the III Corps, Army of
Virginia. Although the Union forces were generally beaten, McDowell
was particularly singled out for his failures and was removed from
command. Although he demanded an official inquiry and was eventually
exonerated, he was never given another field command.
McDowell retired from the army in
1882 and spent his last years in San Francisco.
Totally dedicated, with no interest
in political or popular considerations, McDowell simply lacked the
inspirational and decisive qualities required of a leader at a
certain time in history.
Taken from The Civil War Almanac,
World Almanac Publications (1983).
Born: August 10, 1814 in
Died: July 13, 1881 in
Graduated West Point, 1837, served with the artillery against the
Seminoles, the Mexicans (earning two brevets), the Mormons, and on
Fought for: The Confederacy
Though born in Pennsylvania, John
Pemberton married a Virginia belle and, when secession came, he went
with his adopted state. His first positions were with Virginia
infantry, but he was back with the artillery by June 1861. In
December 1861 he was moved to a more active coastal sector, down in
South Carolina. The Union had seized Port Royal Island as a
blockading base; it also threatened landings up and down the
Atlantic coast. Robert E. Lee organized the whole coastal area, and
Pemberton was one of the sector commanders. He took over from Lee in
March 1862 and held the position until late September.
He was transferred to Mississippi
(commanding the forces there and in Louisiana east of the
Mississippi River) in October 1862. This was a much bigger
challenge, since it was in the middle of the defense of Vicksburg.
Grant was a more energetic commander than Pemberton, and did what
was considered impossible. Pemberton had a dual responsibility,
garrison Vicksburg and keep his army intact. He split his effort,
and did neither well. He sent too few troops to defeat Grant and
then withdrew the battered forces into Vicksburg. The result was
more prisoners for Grant when Pemberton finally had to surrender.
Pemberton was vilified in the
South: he was not Southern by birth and had surrendered an Army
rather than fight to the death for glory. The Union eventually
exchanged him in May 1864 and Jefferson Davis had to figure out what
to do with a competent but unpopular officer. There was no chance of
giving him high command, few trusted him or would serve under him.
He offered to serve as a private, as a way of regaining respect.
Pemberton was finally put back into the artillery, as a Lieutenant
Colonel (demoted from Lieutenant General) and put in charge of
Richmond’s artillery during the long siege.
He lived on a Virginia farm after
the war, loved by neither his adopted country nor his home state.
Born: June 17, 1837 in
Died: July 7, 1863 at
Graduated from Harvard, Class of 1859 and practiced law in Erie,
Fought For: The Union
Strong Vincent became a hero at the
Battle of Gettysburg, where he was mortally wounded defending Little
Round Top. When hostilities erupted in April 1861, Vincent left the
law to become an officer in the Erie Regiment, Pennsylvania
Volunteers. He mustered out with the regiment in July 1861 and into
the U.S. Army on 14 September 1861. When the regiment commander,
Col. McLane, was killed at Gaines' Mills on 27 June 1862, Vincent
was promoted to colonel. He served in several campaigns with the
Army of the Potomac, fighting at Yorktown, Fredericksburg, and
Chancellorsville. Vincent was promoted to colonel after Yorktown,
and prior to Gettysburg, was given command of the Third Brigade,
First Division, of the Fifth Corps.
On the night of July 1, 1863,
Vincent and his men were hurrying toward the battlefield under a
bright moon. When the soldiers passed through a small town near
Gettysburg, the regiment bands began to play and residents came to
their doors to cheer the Yankee troops. Vincent remarked to an aide
that there could be a worse fate than to die fighting in his home
state with the flag overhead.
The next day, as Vincent and his
brigade were arriving behind the Union lines, General Gouverneur K.
Warren frantically summoned Vincent's force to the top of Little
Round Top, a rocky hill at the end of the Federal line. Warren
observed that the Confederates could turn the Union left flank by
taking the summit, which was occupied by only a Yankee signal corps
at the time.
So Vincent and his men hurried up
the hill, arriving just ahead of the Rebels. Vincent placed his
brigade in the order of the 16th Michigan, 83rd Pennsylvania, 44th
New York, and 20th Maine (under Joshua Chamberlain, Huzzah!), taking
special care to ensure that the 83rd Pennsylvania and 44th New York
were side-by-side. It was brigade tradition that these units,
sometimes called “Butterfield’s Twins,” fight next to one another.
The brigade held the top, but just barely. Vincent was mortally
wounded in the engagement and died on July 7. He was promoted
posthumously to brigadier general.
Born: January 31, 1830,
Hunter Village, New York
Died: October 20, 1917,
Pre-War Profession: Owned
foundry and millwright business
Fought for: The Union
John Thomas Wilder was born in
Greene County, New York on January 31, 1830 and grew to be six feet
two inches tall. In 1849, Wilder moved to Columbus, Ohio, and was
hired as an apprentice in a foundry. Turning down an offer of
ownership, Wilder moved to Greensburg, Indiana in 1857 to start his
own foundry and millwright business. In four years Wilder became a
nationally recognized expert in hydraulics and his business employed
one hundred people in five states.
When the Civil War erupted, Wilder
immediately cast two six-pound cannons and raised a unit of men.
Governor Oliver P. Morton appointed Wilder lieutenant colonel of the
17th Indiana Volunteer Infantry on June 4, 1861. Under Gen. J.J.
Reynolds, his unit took part in the battles of Cheat Mountain and
Greenbriar in West Virginia.
On April 4, 1862, the 17th arrived
too late for the battle at Shiloh, Tennessee, but was involved in
the siege of Corinth, Mississippi. From September 14-17, at the
crucial railroad junction in Munfordville, Ky., Wilder's outnumbered
brigade held up a large part of Bragg's army under Buckner and thus
helped Buell beat Bragg to Louisville. Wilder surrendered, but was
later exchanged. He then unsuccessfully pursued Confederate cavalry
general John Hunt Morgan, missing the battle of Murfreesboro.
As a result of this experience
Wilder sought and received permission to provide horses for his
infantry. He planned to use the horses for transport with the men
fighting on foot. It was a complete unit, building its own wagons
and shoeing its own horses. Each man carried a hatchet with a two
foot handle and, for that reason, was first called the "Hatchet
Brigade." Wilder trained his men to fight from behind cover and, in
the spring of 1863, he also equipped his men with Spencer repeating
The brigade fought with distinction
at Hoover’s Gap, Tennessee, where his mounted infantry was
instrumental in securing the gap and outflanking Hardee's corps,
thus forcing Bragg's eventual withdrawal to Chattanooga, and earning
the sobriquet "Lightning Brigade.”
At the battle of Chickamauga,
Wilder's Brigade saved the Union Army from almost certain
destruction on two occasions. On September 18 at Alexander's Bridge,
the 17th Indiana, the 98th Illinois, and two sections of Lilly's
Battery along with Minty's Cavalry made a valiant stand to hold off
an entire Confederate Army corps under Cheatham, preventing
Rosecrans from being cut off from Chattanooga. Two days later, his
brigade was the only one on the Union right to not be driven from
the field. While the rest of the right flank was fleeing to
Chattanooga, the Lightning Brigade repulsed the charges of an entire
Confederate infantry division and then counter attacked. Wilder was
preparing to cut his way through to Thomas, but was told by the
panicked assistant Secretary of War Charles Dana that Rosecrans was
either captured or killed and he instructed Wilder to bring him back
to Chattanooga. Wilder assigned some scouts to accompany Dana and
slowly withdrew to Rossville, collecting material and stragglers.
By retarding the beginning of
Longstreet's attacks on Thomas, the brigade contributed to the
success of Thomas' famous stand at Snodgrass Hill, where Thomas
earned the name "The Rock of Chickamauga." Wilder withdrew only the
next morning and was the last commander to leave the field.
From October 1-10, Wilder, under
Gen. Crook, harried Wheeler's cavalry, which was raiding middle
Tennessee and, on the 7th, Wilder defeated Wheeler at the battle of
Farmington. He led his brigade during parts of the Atlanta campaign
and Thomas unsuccessfully tried to have him put in charge of the
On August 7, 1864, Wilder was
brevetted brigadier general, but he was compelled to resign on
October 4 because of recurring typhoid fever from which he had been
suffering since the Corinth campaign. Other considerations were his
dissatisfaction with the progress of his military career and the
financial difficulties of his foundry back home.
In 1866, Wilder moved to
Chattanooga, Tennessee in search of a more healthful climate and
because of the business opportunities the area offered. He founded
the Roane Iron Works in 1867, then built and operated two blast
furnaces, the first in the south, at Rockwood, Tennessee. In 1870,
he established a rail mill in Chattanooga. From 1890 to 1892, he was
active in the promotion and construction of the Charleston,
Cincinnati & Chicago Railroad. He briefly served as mayor and then
postmaster of Chattanooga, pension agent at Knoxville, and
commissioner of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Park.
Wilder died while vacationing in
Jacksonville, Florida on October 20, 1917, and was buried in Forest
Hills Cemetery in Chattanooga. At the Chickamauga battlefield there
is a monument to him which consists of a white 85-foot tower. A
spiral staircase leads to the top of the tower where visitors can
view almost all of the field of battle.
Born: 1822, Zurich
Died: November 10, 1865,
Pre-War Profession: Medical
Fought for: The Confederacy
Henry Wirz was the Confederate
officer who commanded the infamous Andersonville Prison where many
Union prisoners died, and who was executed for his role there.
Wirz was born in Switzerland and
emigrated to the United States in 1849, taking up the practice of
medicine in Louisiana. When the Civil War broke out, he enlisted as
a private and saw early service as a clerk in Libby Prison in
In the Peninsular Campaign, Wirz
was seriously wounded at Seven Pines in May, 1862. Promoted to
Captain, he was then sent to Europe as a Confederate dispatch bearer
and purchasing agent.
In January, 1864, he returned and
was assigned to head the newly formed military prison in Georgia
that became known as Andersonville, although its formal name was
Camp Sumter. A log stockade originally enclosing some 17 acres, then later 26,
Andersonville quickly grew to take in some 33,000 Federal prisoners
- all enlisted men - by the summer of 1864. Although they were given
the basic rations of Confederate troops, there was such
overcrowding and poor sanitation that the poor diet plus exposure to the
elements soon led to the spread of disease.
There would eventually be some
13,000 identified graves there, but it was estimated that many
others died. As General Sherman drew near in September, 1864, the
Confederates transferred the healthy prisoners to Charleston.
Wirz was later taken prisoner and
charged with committing specific crimes, even conspiracy to kill
prisoners. In November, 1865, after being found guilty by a special
court martial, he was executed.
Taken from The Civil War Almanac
(Bison Books, 1983).
Henry Alexander Wise
Born: December 3, 1806,
Died: September 14, 1876,
Pre-War Profession: Lawyer,
Congressman, Diplomat, Governor of Virginia
Fought for: The Confederacy
Henry Alexander Wise served as a
general in the Confederate Army, but it was as governor of Virginia
that he laid his claim to history.
Born in Virginia, he practiced law and
served as a US Representative from 1833-44. Between 1856-1860, he
served as governor. Aware that Virginians living along the northern
and western borders of the state tended to be non-slaveholders, he
urged that John Brown be put to death as an example.
When war broke out in 1861, Wise took
a commission as brigadier general in June and led the forces that
tried to hold western Virginia to the Confederate cause. He failed
and then fought to hold Roanoke Island, North Carolina, in February,
1862. He was again defeated , losing his own son and some 2000
Wise returned to fight in the final
defense of Richmond and Petersburg and in the retreat leading to the
surrender at Appomattox. Wise practiced law after the war and
refused to ask pardon from the federal government. He was George
Taken from the Civil War Almanac
(Bison Books, 1983).