War Crimes Honored
Holding 32,000 Union soldiers—
The fifth largest city in the Confederacy—
Never issued clothing,
Wore their uniforms until the pieces fell off,
Lived in holes they dug in the ground.
One reportedly used a pocket knife
To amputate his own gangrenous feet.
The death toll reached 13,000.
The man who presided over their deaths,
Captain Henry Wirz,
Was put on trial for war crimes.
Stories began flooding the Northern newspapers:
Photographs of survivors starved into living skeletons,
Like nothing the world had seen before,
And would not see again
Until the end of World War II.
Wirz was found guilty of
Turning dogs loose on prisoners,
Such nameless blasphemy and ribald jest,
As to exhibit him rather as a demon than a man.
So why erect a monument to a demon?
To recast him as a martyr.
To rescue his name from the stigma attached to it
By embittered prejudice.
Poem found in “Weekend Read: Executed for committing war crimes—then honored with a Confederate monument,” Southern Poverty Law Center, June 8, 2018