The Andersonville Trial (1970)

andersonville[After Wirz bursts out laughing in response to testimony] “Keep in mind Mr. Wirz that your situation here is not amusing” – General Wallace

Number of Times Seen  – 1 (3 Sep 2015)

Brief Synopsis – The retelling of the famous war crimes trial following the US Civil War against the commandant of a Southern POW camp where many Northern soldiers died.

My Take on it – Back in high school, we read this play and even had the opportunity to go on a field trip to see it performed on stage.

The main issue presented here is whether one should follow an unjust order.

I have always been fascinated with the kind of debate depicted here especially since I have been both a soldier and a policeman.  Both of these profession rely on following orders and one can be in conflict if requested to do something against your own moral judgement.

During my short stint in the police force, I actually was put to this test when a commanding officer ordered me to write a ticket to someone to which I had not observed the crime itself.  Obviously this is far from a war crime, but I held my ground and refused to do it because if called to testify in court one day, I wasn’t willing to lie that I had seen the offense with my own eyes.

The arguments presented here are very powerful and even 150 years after the end of the civil war, the questions still remain relevant because many times things happen in war that are not questioned at the time, but only after-the-fact.

The cast of this movie is excellently led by none other than Captain James T. Kirk himself.  William Shatner gave a powerful performance as the Prosecuting attorney dealing with his own moral code as a soldier who himself has orders he isn’t sure if he should carry out or not.

Watch carefully and you’ll even be able to catch a very young Martin Sheen in a few scenes.

This movie deservingly won the Emmy for Best movie in 1970 and is definitely among the best courtroom dramas ever written.  It’s amazing how close it apparently is to the transcripts of the real trial back in 1865.

The question still remains if the soldiers that ran Andersonville were as despicable in their crimes against their prisoners as the Nazis were during WWII or as the Vietcong were during Vietnam.

Bottom Line – Excellent courtroom drama that is unfortunately still relevant following just about every war. Both sides of the argument about a soldier’s duty to follow orders or refuse if they find them immoral are very well represented and the question is still unable to be answered so many years later.  Excellent cast led by Shatner.  Won the Emmy for best Movie.  Highly Recommended!

MovieRob’s Favorite Trivia – All of the witnesses as portrayed in the film are the actual witnesses who testified at Wirz’s trial, and their dialogue in many cases is taken almost verbatim from the trial transcript. The major change from history is that Wirz did not testify and the whole “moral issue”, around which this film revolves, was never raised at the trial. (From IMDB)

Rating – Oscar Worthy


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4 thoughts on “The Andersonville Trial (1970)

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