Set against the backdrop of the Civil War and its aftermath, War Criminals's Son by Civil War scholar Jane Singer brings to life hidden aspects of the conflict through the sweeping sage of the infamous Confederate Winder family and it's first born son, who shattered family ties to stand with the Union. General John H. Winder was the hard-handed provost martial of Richmond and subsequent commander of all prisons in the Confederate capital --including the prisoner of war death camp, Andersonville Prison--who had a reputation of being a cruel tyrant who brutalized his prisoners, even his own people. When he gives his son, William Andrew Winder, the order to come south and fight, or desert or commit suicide rather than ally with the Union, William goes to the White House, swearing his alligiance to President Lincoln, and is sent to command Alcatraz, a fortess-turned-Civil War prison. As the war dragged on and men were dying daily in his father's keep, William treated his prisoners humanely in spite of being repeatedly accused of disloyalty and treason. Though General John Winder died before he could be brought to justice, his subordinate, Henry Wirz, was charged with war crimes and executed after his trial, the first war crime trial by military commission in American history. Haunted by his father's villainy, William is sent into a lifelong exile, on a mission to do good at all costs. We meet the politicians, pioneers, traitors, and generals who blazed through William's life until he stops at the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, where alone, old, and ailing, he vowed to better the lot of the Native Americans. In War Criminal's Son, Jane Singer reexamines the horrors of Andersonville Prison and the command of Alcatraz with new, unpublished research and family materials, bringing to life a family and a country at war, with the universal themes of loyalty, family shame, and reclamation of lost honor in the face of unspeakable cruelty.
A must-read for those who enjoy the hidden stories behind American history. Ms. Singer has captured a tumultuous family history as she traces the life and trials of William Andrew Winder, the only Union man in an otherwise Confederate family. - Laurie Verge, director of the Surratt House Museum in Clinton, Maryland Jane Singer is a passionate storyteller and indefatigable researcher. In William A. Winder's compelling saga, she has met a subject worthy of her talents. It's a rattling good tale of shame and redemption, a metaphor, as the author demonstrates, for the 'recovery and reinvention of a fractured nation and her people' at the time of the Civil War. It's great to see Singer in action again! - Richard Willing, intelligence officer and historian A movie mogul once opined that there are thousands of stories from the Civil War that are worthy of a book or movie. Jane Singer identifies one in The War Criminal's Son. . . . Captain William A. Winder led a long, peripatetic life, splendidly told here. The author confronts us with the excitement and detritus that filled his days. . . . This is a great read. - Frank J. Williams, founding chair of the Lincoln Forum and president of the Ulysses S. Grant Association and Presidential Library