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Libby Prison Letter & Cover

 William E. Endicott

 10th Mass. Light Artillery

Captured at Ream's Station, VA - 8/29/64

 

*We have included a folded re-printed copy of the cover letter, to help make the writing more legible.

*This historic document will come in a frame.

 

~ Ream's Station ~

The Second Battle of Ream's Station was fought during the siege of Petersburg in the American Civil War on August 25, 1864, in Dinwiddie County, Virginia. A Union force under Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock began destroying part of the Petersburg Railroad, which was a vital supply line for Gen. Robert E. Lee's Confederate army in Petersburg, Virginia. Lee sent a force under Lt. Gen. A. P. Hill to challenge Hancock and the Confederates were able to rout the Union troops from their fortifications at Reams Station. However, they lost a key portion of the railroad, causing further logistical difficulties for the remainder of the Richmond-Petersburg Campaign.

 

~ Libby Prison ~

Libby Prison was a Confederate prison at Richmond, Virginia, during the American Civil War. It gained an infamous reputation for the overcrowded and harsh conditions under which officer prisoners from the Union Army were kept. Prisoners suffered from disease, malnutrition and a high mortality rate. By 1863, one thousand prisoners were crowded into large open rooms on two floors, with open, barred windows leaving them exposed to weather and temperature extremes.

 

The building was built before the war as a food warehouse. In 1889, Charles F. Gunther moved the structure to Chicago and renovated it into a war museum. A decade later, the Coliseum Company dismantled the building and sold its pieces as souvenirs.

 

The prison was located in a three-story brick warehouse on two levels on Tobacco Row at the waterfront of the James River. Prior to use as a jail, the warehouse had been leased by Capt. Luther Libby and his son George W. Libby. They operated a ship's chandlery and grocery business.

 

The Confederate government started to use the facility as a hospital and prison in 1861, reserving it for Union officers in 1862 because of the influx of prisoners.It contained eight low-ceilinged rooms, each 103 by 42 feet (31.4 by 12.5 metres). The second and third floors were used to house prisoners. Windows were barred and open to the elements, increasing the discomfort. Lack of sanitation and overcrowding caused diseases. From 700 prisoners in 1862, the facility far exceeded the maximum capacity of 1,000 by 1863. Mortality rates were high in 1863 and 1864, aggravated by shortages of food and supplies. Because of the high death toll, Libby Prison is generally regarded as only second in notoriety to Andersonville Prison in Georgia.

 

Upon their release from Libby a group of Union surgeons published an account in 1863 of their experiences treating Libby inmates in the attached hospital:

 

Thus we have over ten per cent of the whole number of prisoners held classed as sick men, who need the most assiduous and skilful attention; yet, in the essential matter of rations, they are receiving nothing but corn bread and sweet potatoes. Meat is no longer furnished to any class of our prisoners except to the few officers in Libby hospital, and all sick or well officers or privates are now furnished with a very poor article of corn bread in place of wheat bread, unsuitable diet for hospital patients prostrated with diarrhea, dysentery and fever, to say nothing of the balance of startling instances of individual suffering and horrid pictures of death from protracted sickness and semi-starvation we have had thrust upon our observation.

Libby Prison Letter & Cover ~ William E. Endicott ~ 10th Mass. Light Artillery

SKU: Libby Prison Letter & Cover Display
$750.00Price
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