Posts Tagged ‘Private George Cohen’

Abu Ghraib Is Arabic For Andersonville

Posted in General on November 10th, 2009 by Eugene Finerman – 1 Comment

November 11, 1865:  Henry Wirz Is Hanged

Being born 150 years too soon, Henry Wirz was the only American to be executed for war crimes. The Swiss-born Confederate had no qualifications but a German accent to be the commandant of a prisoner-of-war camp. Under his sadism and neglect, the prison camp at Andersonville, Georgia could have been advertised as Club Dead. Its 45,000 prisoners lacked housing, had only theoretical meals and a trickle of a stream for both drinking and sewage. How could they survive under such conditions? They really were not supposed to; and 13,000 did not. The rest held on until the Union won the war and liberated them.

Among those wretched survivors was my great-grandfather.

George Cohen was not the brightest of my ancestors. Arriving from Danzig, Prussia in 1863, the teenager obligingly signed any paper handed to him by the immigration officials on the wharves of New York. One of those papers was an enlistment in the Union Army: surprise! General Sherman must have felt reassured to have such capable men in his command.

Private Cohen was on picket duty outside of Atlanta when the Confederate forces launched an attack. The Battle of Peach Tree Creek is remembered as an Union victory, but the Confederates had the consolation of capturing Private Cohen. I imagine that he was the only Private Cohen at Andersonville.

Whatever deprivations he suffered there, it did not prevent him from eventually fathering 14 children.