Old Capitol Prison,
Washington, D.C., Nov. 10, 1865
My dearest wife and children
When these lines reach you, the hand that wrote will be stiff and cold. In a few hours from now I shall be dead. Oh, if I could express myself as I wish – if I could tell you what I have suffered when I thought and the children! I must leave you without means to live to the miseries of a cold cruel world. Lize, do not grieve, do not despair; we will meet again in a better world. Console yourself, think as I do that I die innocent. Who knows better than you that all these tales of cruelties and murders are infamous lies, and why should I not say it?
A great many do call me hard hearted, because I tell them that I am not guilty – that I have nothing to confess. Oh, think for a moment how the thought that I must suffer and die innocent, must sustain me in the last terrible hour, that when I stand before my Maker, I can say “Lord, of these things you know I am not guilty. I have sinned often and rebelled againt Thee. Oh, let my unmerited death be an atonement”. Lize, I die reconciled; I die, as I hope, as a Christian. This is His holy will that I should die, and therefore let us say with Christ “Thy will, oh Lord, be done.”
I hardly know what to say. Oh, let me beg you do not give away to despair. Think that I am going to my Father, to your Father, to the Father of all, and that there I hope to meet you. Live for the dear children. Oh, do take good care of Cora, kiss her for me. Kiss Susan and Cornelia, and tell them to live so that we may meet again in the heaven above the skies. Tell them that my last thought, my last prayer, shall be for them.
You ask me about Cora’s schooling. My dear wife, you must do now as you think best. In regard to your going to Europe, I would advise you to wait until you hear from there. I have written to my father; if he should be dead, my brother, I hope, is still alive. I send you his address. You had better get a certificate of our marriage – also of Cora’s birth, and have them approved before a magistrate. If you should go to Europe you will need them. I shall hand this letter to Mr. Schade, who will send it to you, with some other papers and books. This is all I can leave you; but no, I can leave you something more, something better – my blessing. God bless you and protect you. God give you what you stand in need of and grant that you all so live that when you die, you can say: Lord, Thou called me, here I am! And now farewell, wife, children, all. I will and must close; farewell, farewell. God be with us.
Your unfortunate husband and father
A transcript of this letter with handwritten remarks from Hans Georg Wirz (grand-nephew of Captain Henry Wirz, father of Heinrich L. Wirz) is located in the Wirz family archives, Zentralbibliothek, Zürich, Switzerland. This letter was published in several American newspapers, for example in the “New York Times” from November 13, 1865. It is not known, if the original still exists.