Libby Prison in Richmond


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, October 17, 1863

We have created an online archive of all Harper's Weekly newspapers published during the Civil War. This archive contains incredibly rich details which are simply not available anywhere else. The material allows you to not only study details of the important events, but also see the people's reaction to the events.

(Scroll Down to See Entire Page, or Newspaper Thumbnails below will take you to the page of interest)


Nevski Flagship

Nevski Flagship


Abraham Lincoln Establishes Thanksgiving Holiday

Armed Slaves

Davis to Arm the Slaves

Confederate Ships

Confederate Rams

Russian Ships

Russian Ships

Soldier's Story

A Soldier's Story

Libby Prison

Libby Prison

Libey Prison

Libey Prison


Parade on Broadway

Libey Prison in Richmond

Libey Prison in Richmond

Russian Fleet

Russian Fleet


Pirate Cartoon




OCTOBER 17, 1863.]



"If I love you, Jane? better than all the world twice told."

"Then don't refuse me this one favor: the last, perhaps, I shall ever ask you. I want my brother here before it is too late. Tell him he must come to his little sister, who loves him dearly, and—is dying."

"Oh no! no! no!" cried the agonized father, casting every thing to the winds. "I will. He shall be here in twelve hours. Only promise me to bear up. Have a strong will; have courage. You shall have Alfred, you shall have any thing you like on earth, any thing that money can get you? What am I saying? I have no money; it is all gone. But I have a father's heart. Madam, Mrs. Dodd!" She came directly.

"Can you give me paper? No, I won't trust to a letter. I'll send off a special messenger this moment. It is for my son, madam. He will be here to-morrow morning. God knows how it will all end. But how can I refuse my dying child? Oh, madam, you are good, kind, forgiving; keep my poor girl alive for me: keep telling her Alfred is coming; she cares more for him than for her poor heart-broken father."

And the miserable man rushed out, leaving Mrs. Dodd in tears for him.

He was no sooner gone than Julia came in; and clasped her mother, and trembled on her bosom. Then Mrs. Dodd knew she had over-heard Mr. Hardie's last words.

Jane Hardie, too, though much exhausted by the scene with her father, put out her hand to Julia, and took hers, and said feebly, but with a sweet smile, "He is coming, love; all shall be well." Then to herself as it were, and looking up with a gentle rapture in her pale face:

"Blessed are the peace-makers; for they shall be called the children of God."

On this thought she seemed to feed with innocent joy; but for a long time was too weak to speak again.

Mr. Hardie, rushing from the house, found Edward at work outside; he was crying undisguisedly, and with his coat off working harder at spreading the straw than both the two men together he had got to help him. Mr, Hardie took his hand and wrung it, but could not speak.

In half an hour a trusty agent he had often employed was at the station waiting for the up-train, nearly due.

He came back to Albion Villa. Julia met him on the stairs with her finger to her lips: "She is sleeping; the doctor has hopes. Oh, Sir, let us all pray for her day and night."

Mr. Hardie blessed her; it seemed the face of an angel, so earnest, so lovely, so pious. He went home: and at the door of his own house Peggy met him with anxious looks. He told her what he had done.

"Good Heavens!" said she: "have you forgotten? He say; he will kill you the first day he gets out. You told me so yourself."

"Yes, Baker said so. I can't help it. I don't care what becomes of me; I care only for my child. Leave me, Peggy; there, go; go."

He was no sooner alone than he fell upon his knees, and offered the Great Author of life and death—a bargain, "O God," he cried, "I own my sins, and I repent them. Spare but my child, who never sinned against Thee, and I will undo all I have done amiss in Thy sight. I will refund that money on which Thy curse lies. I will throw myself on their mercy. I will set my son free. I will live on a pittance. I will part with Peggy. I will serve Mammon no more. I will attend Thine ordinances. I will live soberly, honestly, and godly all the remainder of my days; only do Thou spare my child. She is Thy servant, and does Thy work on earth, and there is nothing on earth I love but her."

And now the whistle sounded, the train moved, and his messenger was flying fast to London, with a note to Dr. Wycherley:

"Dear Sir,—My poor daughter lies dangerously wounded, and perhaps at the point of death. She cries for her brother. He must come down to us instantly, with the hearer of this. Send one of your people with him if you like. But it is not necessary. I inclose a blank check, signed, which please fill at your discretion.

"I am, with thanks,

"Yours in deep distress,



"Is Miss Bessie in?"

"Yes, Sir."

Without further question the speaker entered the house with the air of an accustomed visitor. The room into which he was ushered was furnished with a degree of elegance which betokened alike wealth and good taste. The young man threw himself upon a sofa, and taking from his pocket a telegram just received, read it with sparkling eyes. Certainly it must have contained good news, to judge by the expression of his face. He was interrupted in his occupation by a soft hand upon his shoulder.

"Mr. Mordaunt, I protest against your converting my drawing-room into an office. Is your letter, then, of absorbing interest?"

"I beg your pardon, Bessie," said the young man, coloring slightly; "you entered so softly that I did not hear you."

"Is that all you have to say to me?" inquired the young lady, playfully. "I begin to think it was scarcely worth while to come down."

"No Bessie," said the young man, taking her hand, "it is not all I have to say to you. I have come to ask you to reconsider your decision postponing our marriage for six months. What good reason is there for it?"

"It is my guardian's wish, Frederic," said Bessie, more gravely. "He thinks I am so young that we can well afford to wait. After all it is but a short time. Six months will pass away very quickly."

"To you, perhaps," returned the lover, half reproachfully.

"And why not?" she retorted, playfully. "For think, Frederic, they are the last six months of my independence. From that time I am to be subject to the whims and caprices of a husband. I am afraid they are all sad tyrants. On second thoughts, it would perhaps be better to name a year."

"Would you have me commit suicide?"

"As if you were capable of it," she retorted, laughing merrily.

"You don't know what I am capable of," said young Mordaunt, shaking his head.

"Perhaps if I did know I should be unwilling to marry you at all," said Bessie, with a saucy smile.

Frederic Mordaunt's face flushed slightly, as if a sudden thought had crossed his mind, but a moment afterward he responded in the same vein.

Half an hour afterward the young man rose to go. Bessie Graham followed him to the door, and then with slow and meditative steps re-entered the drawing-room. As she passed the mirror a hasty glance was perhaps natural. Rarely has mirror reflected back a more pleasing face or more graceful figure. Neither perhaps was faultless, but the face had a wonderful power of expression. A smile fairly lighted it up, leaving it absolutely radiant. Yet there was something about the mouth that smiled so sweetly which would have assured a careful observer that Miss Bessie had a will of her own when she chose to exert it. The eyes were clear and truthful. Purity and sincerity were reflected in these mirrors of the soul. Frederic Mordaunt was not the only one who had been won by the charms of the young heiress. For Bessie was an heiress, and a wealthy one. Not that she thought of it. The two hundred thousand dollars which constituted her fortune were a poor substitute in her eyes for the tender love of her father, who had been snatched from her three years since by a sudden distemper.

Bessie was about to leave the room when her attention was suddenly drawn to a loose sheet of paper which lay on the carpet at the foot of the sofa on which her late visitor had been sitting. Picking it up, a glance informed her that it was a telegram, and dated at Halifax. Her eyes rested upon it a moment, and almost unconsciously she took in its contents. The blood rushed to her cheeks, and she exclaimed, impetuously, "Good Heavens! can Frederic have acted so base a part?"

The expression of her face was completely changed. There was a deep earnestness in her eyes, but lately sparkling with a merry light. "This must be inquired into without delay," she resolved. "If it be as I suspect, all is over between us. Yes," she repeated, in a slow and resolute tone, "henceforth and forever all is over between us."

She wrote two lines upon a sheet of note-paper, and ringing the bell hastily, said to the servant who answered her summons, "Do you know Mr. Mordaunt's office?"

"Yes, Miss Bessie."

"You will convey this note thither immediately, and place it in his own hand. If he is absent wait for him."

"Yes, Miss Bessie."

Mr. Mordaunt had walked quickly back to his office, having important business awaiting his attention. He was a young merchant who had the reputation of great shrewdness in business matters. Some said that he had never done a better stroke of business than in securing the affections of the young heiress. Perhaps he thought so himself. He had not been returned five minutes when Bessie's messenger arrived.

"A note from Miss Bessie."

"Indeed," said the young merchant, graciously. "Give it to me."

His face assumed a perplexed expression after he had read this brief missive:


"Will Mr. Mordaunt favor me with a call at his earliest convenience on a matter of great moment?


"What can this mean?" thought Mordaunt. "I left her but a moment ago as cordial as usual. Yet nothing can be colder than this strange note. Your mistress is well?" he inquired of the servant. "Yes, Sir, quite well."

Not a little disturbed at this summons, which thoroughly mystified him, Frederic Mordaunt, leaving business to take care of itself, hastily returned to the house which he had just quitted. He was shown without delay into the presence of Bessie.

"Why, Bessie," he commenced, "you have fairly frightened me with the suddenness of your summons. What—"

A glance at the grave face of the young lady arrested the words upon his lips. "I hope you are not ill," he said, in a changed voice.

"You left something behind you," said Bessie, quietly, "which I thought might be of importance. I have therefore judged it best to send for you that I might return it in person."

She extended the telegram.

Frederic Mordaunt turned suddenly pale. He mechanically reached out his hand and took the paper.

"I have an apology to make," Bessie continued, in the same cold tone. "Not aware that it was of importance, I accidentally let my eye rest upon it."

The young man's paleness was succeeded by a crimson flush, but he still remained silent.

"Frederic!" Bessie burst forth, in a changed tone, "is this dreadful thing true? Have you really been false to your country, and deliberately engaged in furnishing aid and comfort to the enemy? I gather from this telegram that, through an agent in Halifax, you have fitted out cargoes to run the blockade. Is this so?"

The young man's eye quailed before her searching glance. "Forgive me, Bessie," he entreated,

"and I will faithfully engage never again so to forget myself."

"Forgive you! It is not me you have offended, but your country."

"I will give half the proceeds to the Sanitary Commission—nay, the whole," said Frederic, deprecatingly.

"That can not repair the evil."

"You are hard upon me, Bessie," said the young man, a little resentfully. "I am not the only one who has engaged in this business. It is wrong, I admit, but it is not the worst thing a man can do."

"Very nearly," returned Bessie, gravely. "Listen, Frederic Mordaunt," she continued, rising, and looking down upon him like an accusing angel. "Three months ago word came to me that a cousin, who was my early play-fellow and always dear to me, fell upon the battle-field fighting bravely. Do you think, in my sorrow for him, that I have not remembered with indignation those who caused and who perpetuate this unhappy war? Yet I could almost envy him his fate. He never proved recreant to honor and false to his country. His memory will ever be held sacred in my heart. Think, Frederic Mordaunt, how many thousands have fallen like him—how many a heart has been made desolate—how many a fireside is wrapped in sadness."

"That is true; but am I responsible for all this?"

"Their blood is upon your hands, Frederic Mordaunt," said Bessie, sternly. "You, and such as you, who betray your country for a little paltry gain—who furnish the rebels with the means of prolonging their unrighteous contest—are guilty of all the extra bloodshed and suffering which must necessarily result. Shame on you, Frederic Mordaunt! And you call yourself loyal! I have more respect for an open enemy than for a secret traitor."

"Bessie," said the young man, thoroughly humiliated, "I will not seek to defend myself. I will make any reparation that you may require. Only do not be too hard upon me."

"I hope you will make such reparation as your conscience exacts. For me I will not venture to dictate. You are not responsible to me any farther than you are to all who have the welfare of their country at heart."

"Surely yes," said the young man, his heart sinking with a new apprehension. "The relation between us will justify you in any demand. You have only to express your wishes."

"The relation to which you refer has ceased," said Bessie, coldly. "I give you back your promise."

"You can not mean it," said young Mordaunt, in accents of earnest entreaty. "Say that you do not mean it."

"It is best so," said Bessie. "I was mistaken in you. I thought you a man of the strictest honor. I did not think— But what need to proceed? Providence has willed that my eyes should be opened. Let the past be forgotten."

"Do not cast me off without a moment's reflection," urged Frederic, more and more desperately. "Give me time, and I will satisfy you of my sincere repentance."

"I heartily hope you will, Frederic. The interest that I have felt in you will not permit me to say less. But if you have a thought that any change which time will bring will shake my resolution, put it away at once. Where I have once lost my respect I can no longer love. Within the last hour the whole plan of my life seems to have changed. My love for you has gone, never to return. It is best that you should know it. I sincerely hope that you may awake to a full sense of the disgrace in which you have involved yourself, and may seek as far as possible to repair it. Should such be the case, my good opinion of you may in time be restored. Do not seek for more."

Frederic Mordaunt took his hat slowly, and left the room. He felt that it would be useless to urge his suit further. There was that in the expression and tone of Bessie Graham which warned him that it would be in vain. Even in that hour, perhaps, the loss of the fortune which the heiress would have brought him was not the least bitter ingredient in his cup of humiliation. Yes, even in a pecuniary view his speculation had failed miserably. He had gained five thousand dollars and lost two hundred thousand.

As for Bessie, she did not grieve much for the lover she had dismissed. It was as she had said. All her love for him had passed away when she awoke to a sense of his unworthiness. She has firmly resolved that whenever her hand is given, it shall be to one who has devoted himself heart and hand to the service of his country.


WE reproduce on pages 668 and 669 several drawings by Captain Wrigley, of the Topographical Engineers, illustrating the LIBEY PRISON AT RICHMOND, AND THE PLACE OF CONFINEMENT FOR UNION TROOPS AT BELLE ISLE. Captain Wrigley was several months in the Libey Prison, and had ample leisure to make drawings and observations. He also sends us (and we publish on the same pages) portraits of Captains Sawyer and Flynn, the two officers who were selected by Jeff Davis to be murdered in retaliation for the execution by General Burnside of two rebel spies. The despot of the Slave Confederacy has not yet carried his threat into execution; but the sentence of death still hangs over the two officers, and must be hard to bear. Captain Wrigley has written us the following account of his observations:

"The military prison at Richmond, Virginia, is situated on the corner of Twentieth and Cary streets, directly on the canal and James River. A fine view of the river, its beautiful islands, and the distant hills is obtained from the south and west windows. The tents on Belle Isle, where our soldiers are kept, just peer above the long railroad bridge leading to Petersburg. This bridge is nearly half a mile in length, and built of timber on

stone piers. Two and four hundred yards this side are two other bridges, one for the Danville Road, the other for foot travel. Below them the river eddies furiously between huge rocks and hundreds of beautiful little islands, covered in every available inch with trees, bushes, small flowers, and verdure of all kinds. Just at the bend of the river, about a mile below the prison, is that part of Richmond known as the 'Rocketts'—formerly a village of that name, but now connected with the city by straggling tobacco factories, warehouses of all kinds, and tenements usually found in the suburbs.

"Richmond lies, as it were, in an amphitheatre of hills, facing the river, on whose bank is the prison, and from which a fine view of the town is obtained from the north and west windows. Far up on the hill stands the Confederate capitol—a plain, unpretending building, very similar to the ordinary American church, as seen in its full glory in some of our country villages. Comparatively few people are seen in the streets, an able-bodied man without a uniform being a rara avis of the first class; and the few ladies who walk out appear to be living, as it were, backwards on the finery and fashion of other days.

"The name Libey, generally spelled 'Libby,' which is applied to the military prison, is derived from the proprietors, Messrs. Libey & Son, ship-chandlers and grocers, who formerly carried on there an extensive business. It is really a row of three buildings, three stories high, and having each one room on a floor, each room being 105 feet in length and 45 feet wide, making nine rooms in all —three in each story. On the first floor, the west room contains the quarters of the Confederate officers and the offices connected with the place. It is in this room that the prisoner first enters; and from it he is ushered to his future dreary abode. The east rooms of the first and second floors form the hospital of the building; the three upper rooms, together with the west room of the second story, communicate and form the officers' quarters; the two remaining ones are used to receive temporarily, for the night, small squads of captured prisoners, previous to sending them over to Bello Isle. All these apartments have bare, unplastered, white-washed beams and walls.


"Two of the four rooms allotted to them are partly used as kitchens—a portion of the room being partitioned off, and large cooking stoves, of a huge, square pattern, set up in them. The cooking is all done by the officers themselves; they form messes of whoever may be agreeable to each other, and take their proper turns in preparing the meals. The tin plates and cups taken from our captured soldiers are given to them in sufficient quantity to allow two messes to eat at one time. Many, however, purchase their own dishes, and are more independent. Two bath-tubs are placed in these rooms, and five faucets supply all the water for bathing, cooking, and washing. The ration allowed is eighteen ounces of bread and a quarter of a pound of meat per day, together with a little rice; vinegar and salt at intervals.

"Although a hearty man would not perish with this amount of food, it is not sufficient—in point of quantity, quality, or variety—to prevent a gradual disorganization of the system, and consequent total unfitness for duty.

"Most all of the officers have money with them, and, if they desire, purchase in the markets, through the Confederate steward, vegetables, fruit, eggs, meat, and butter—all these commodities, nevertheless, being enormously high: this is compensated for, however, by the value of gold and United States notes, they being worth, respectively, 14 and 11 to 1 in Confederate money.

"A few bunks in the upper west room are occupied by the first-corners of the prison, the remainder of the officers sleeping on the floor in their blankets, only two of which are allowed to each man. There are 18,900 superficial feet of floor in all these rooms; deduct 2900 for kitchens, sinks, mess-tables, etc., and it leaves but twenty-six superficial feet per man. No outdoor exercise is allowed. The place is infested with vermin of all kinds, beyond all power to drive them off.

"Our officers, even in the face of these discouraging facts, keep up good heart; earnestly hoping, however, for a speedy release. Classes in Spanish and French, the study the law, a debating-club, and a weekly paper—The Libby Chronicle—take up all spare moments, and the ability displayed by many in these matters is truly gratifying; and if the officers there are a fair sample of our army generally, we may well be proud of the effect of our republican institutions.

"The hospital is the best conducted part of the prison. It contains 120 beds—each a straw, palliasse—and pillow, sheets, and comfortable, on a wooden cot. The fare is a shade better. The surgeons (three in number) are really skillful men, and do all in their power to alleviate the condition of the sick in their charge. Stimulants of all kinds are difficult to obtain, but are furnished by the Confederates to the fullest extent of their capability. They will not, however, allow our Sanitary Commission to send any thing of the kind.

"Gold or Confederate money will alone be received by the Commissioners and handed to the prisoners; all boxes of clothing, or delicacies of any kind, will also reach them in safety.

"The writer had the pleasure of a trip through the Confederacy, from Jackson, Mississippi—where he was captured some five months since—to Richmond. If the people of the Northern States could but know and appreciate the total exhaustion of the South in this struggle, they could not fail to bend every effort at this time to trample out the few remaining embers of the rebellion.

"Their railroads and rolling-stock are in the most dilapidated condition, and they are without the men to repair them. Eight miles an hour was the average of the mail-trains on which we traveled. Locomotives of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad we saw near Atlanta, Georgia; and a rolling-stock also of other roads. The stations, however, were filled with engines, but slightly out of repair, (Next Page)




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