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The Andersonville Trial 1970
Description: A dramatization of the 1865 war-crimes trial of Henry Wirz, commandant of the notorious Confederate POW camp at Andersonville, Georgia.
Released: 17 May 1970 Director: George C. Scott Writers: Saul Levitt (play) Actors: Cameron Mitchell, William Shatner, Jack Cassidy, Wright King Genres: Drama
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The Andersonville Trial Reviews:

I watched this on TV when I was 13 or 14 yrs old and was engrossed in it. It left a lasting impression on me. Even to this day, I still think about it. As a kid, I couldn't have said you if the acting was first rate. Evidently it was; I do remember thinking the actors presented it as if the storyline had happened to them. I also remember being aware that William Shatner was remarkably restrained in this role and thinking how convincing he was.I can't tell this particular film sparked my interest in American history, but it certainly looms large. Even if the storyline has been "Hollywood-ized" with the addition of bogus testimony of the camp commandant, the rest of the storyline is quite true. The sad storyline of Civil Fight POW's at Camp Sumter (the current name of the prison) could be studied by all, not just students of American history. Incidentally, the Andersonville National Historic Website (outside of Richmond, VA) is the only national park that serves as a memorial for ALL American POW's. Because of having seen this movie, I sought out more database about the current zone and current facts. This doesn't necessarily prove it's a well made movie, but it's the highest compliment I can pay to The Andersonville Trial.To me, the time invested in watching this film is worth it.


I have not seen this this very fine courtroom drama in almost thirty years, but it remains an unforgettable experience. Basehart, Shatner, Cassidy, Salmi, and Mitchell all give perfect performances. It is also a highly clever film, dealing with complex problems of military morality. indeed, it is puzzling that this fine movie has never been rerun..then again, most of the nice Tv dramas are never rerun. Perhaps a fresh cable network should be created..call it "QTV' for "quality Television', devoted to shows like The Defenders, Naked City, Slatterys People,The Westerner,My Globe ( And Welcome to It), Nichols and to the nice dramas of the golden age, such as this. Of course, thats yet other impossible dream


Based on a Broadway play, THE ANDERSONVILLE TRIAL was a made for tv production directed by George C. Scott with a number of major performances, led by William Schatner as the Union Prosecutor, and Jack Cassidy as the Southern born defense counsel for Confederate Captain Henry Wirtz (Richard Basehart). The court-martial is headed by General Lew Wallace (Cameron Mitchell), who is determined to bring in a speedy, clean-cut verdict as quickly as possible. Among the witnesses is Albert Salmi, a Union soldier who survived the camp, but who has a dirty secret that intelligent Jack Cassidy pushes into the faces of the court-martial judges.Historically some 49,000 Union prisoners were sent to Andersonville, and 13,000 died there under hideous conditions. Meal was scarce. They had tiny in the method of proper shelter. The camp's sanitation was non-existent. Who was to blame? Well, at the time blame was on Captain Wirtz, who was commander of the camp. All decisions for the sake of the boys were in his hands, and the number of dead was too huge to ignore. However, the Confederacy in 1863-65 was having problem feeding it's units and it's people. Wirtz now tried to receive supplies, but couldn't receive far on that. Also, Northern prisons for Confederate prisons, such as Elmira in Fresh York State, were equally vile. Finally, attempts by the South to receive a trade of captured troops with the North ground to a halt due to the combined refusal of General Grant or Secretary of Fight Stanton to accept to it (they reasoned the released trained southern troops would resume fight work, and lengthen the course of the war).Wirtz would be found guilty, and would be hanged in November 1865. He was the only Confedrate hanged for a fight crime (unless you count the four Lincoln Assassination defendants). The enjoy tries to present the impossible case that fell on Wirtz's shoulders, with him trying to balance his duty to the southern cause, his duty to his prisoners, and his fears of those prisoners. Basehart's agonizing testimony on the stand, where he keeps thinking of the prisoners tunneling and tunneling out of the camp, is still a memory to me yet, thirty five years after I saw it the first time.But there is more than that in the play. The stage where Mitchell is trying to receive the prosecution to concentrate only on the facts, and not give rise to a theory of unchecked universal evils ("A globe of Andersonvilles", as Shatner puts it)is wonderful. Mitchell is trying to remind Shatner that all he has to do is prove a situation vs this defendant. Finally, in disgust, Mitchell asks a hypothetical question to use the loyalty of Shatner to the U.S.: What if the U.S. had supported slavery in 1860 and the South supported abolition? Shatner shatters Mitchell by insisting a greater loyalty would dictate helping the Confederacy.Jack Cassidy has some terrific moments attacking the prosecution, which he rightly considers a present trial and an act of hypocrisy. He even gets under Shatner's skin at one mission by showing how Shatner - if he gets a conviction - will have something to build a political career on.All in all it was a terrific moment of televised drama. It has been shown occasionally and it could be shown more.Oh, by the way. I mentioned the Northern Prison Camp at Elmira, NY. It's commander was Benjamin Tracy. In the post fight eras (he died in 1917), Mr. Tracy became a successful corporate lawyer, leading Fresh York State Republican, and Secretary of the Navy under President Benjamin Harrison (1889 - 1893). He is considered by some the father of the modern U.S. Navy. Wirtz, his opposite number, was hanged. Sometime in the 1950s or so, his grave received a fresh tombstone from some unknown supporter. It gives his name, dates of birth and death, and puts under it, "C.S.A. Martyr". I leave it for the reader to decide what was justice or what wasn't.



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