By a survivor of Andersonville
April 20 1904 Morris ChronicleLANDED IN LIBBY PRISON
The particular manner of the calamity which resulted in our capture we never clearly understood. No doubt history throws light upon the subject. The battle is recorded as that of Weldon Crossroads, June 22d, 1864. The whole number of prisoners taken by the Confederates that day amounted to nearly 1,600, some sixteen of whom were of Co. C., 152d Reg. N. Y. infantry, most of whom were from Morris. Later, on the same day, we were afterwards told, the fortunes of the Union changed and our people captured numbers to exceed the loss of the morning.
The explanation current with us relative to our capture was that it was the result of some official blunder. A gap was left in our line of connection with the Sixth Corps, which on being discovered by the enemy was taken advantage of, by throwing a force in our rear, which owing to the wood and brush covered ground was easily made possible and doubtless done. As soon as we were captured we were hurried to the rear of the Confederate line where we were coralled under a strong guard in an open field where we passed the remainder of the day and the ensuing night. Fortunately we had in our haversacks two or three day's rations or I fear for that length of time we should have had to fast, as no provisions were issued us by the Confederates until the third day after our capture.
One the morning after the first night of our captivity a rebel officer with a squad came among us while we were yet in the corral in the field to collect our rubber blankets, but when we found what his purpose was we tore them in strips rather that they should afford comfort to our enemies. Later in the day we were formed in line and marched through the streets of Petersburg to a better locality in a grove by a small stream of water, where we remained for three or four days. When we were marching through the town the inhabitants all turned out to see the Yanks and seemed to feel much elated at the exhibition, as 1,600 in a well drawn out line makes no mean procession. They greeted us with a steady fire of banter, asking if we were the whole Yankee army; if General Grant was in the procession, etc. We answered there were a few not in line and that General Grant would do himself the honor of visiting them later. Our first rations from the Confederate commisary were issued to us in our new camp, and consisted of a limited supply of hardtack, or sea biscuit, and a little bacon. It seems we were only held here awaiting transportation. That now being provided we were put aboard first-class hog and cattle cars and after a short run arrived at the capitol of rebeldom, Richmond, where we were conducted under military escort to our hotel, the celebrated Libby Prison.
I recollect the outside appearance as of a large cheap wooden building without paint, two stories in height, across the face of which in large letters I read the sign, "Libby & Sons Warehouse." At a little distance beyond on the opposite side of the street was Castle Thunder, where Union officers were confined. Some six or eight rods in the rear of the Libby flowed the James River, down which a little distance and nearer the opposite bank lay Bell Isle. These three places right there within sight of each other in the suburb of the very capital were scenes of the greatest sorrow and suffering to the unfortunate Union captives who had before fallen in rebel hands and bore names of terror to us in that day.
Little time was given us for outward observation. We were counted off in companies to suit the capacity of the different rooms to which were to be assigned. That with which our party as numbered was crowded into a large room on the second floor some thirty or more feet in length and perhaps fifteen feet in width. It was sealed in wide planed and matched pine boards, lighted and ventilated by two small barred windows at either end. Our view in one direction was a meager portion of the street from which we had entered the building, a poor and uninteresting prospect. From the opposite window we could see the James river, a noble stream, bordered with green fields, and in the distance groves of timber amid which a glimpse of what seemed to be fine plantation or suburban residences, a beautiful view if we had only had the heart to appreciate it. Down the river some half a mile distant we could see Bell Island, to which later we shall pay a brief visit, another scene of deprivation and suffering experienced in the earlier history of the war by unfortunate Union prisoners.
But to return to our room for a brief time. It was bare and plain as a pine box; not an article of furniture, and hot as a oven. We were compelled to divest ourselves of every article of clothing to the last garment, and then the perspiration flowed from every pore, a condition none of us could have survived more than a few days, packed as we were at this hot season of the year. It was not a very restful position, to sit or lie upon a bare floor, neither of which could be done without resting partially one upon another and leaning against the sides of the building. Our rations still consisted in meagre quantities of sea biscuit and bacon. Our amusement in berating the Confederacy and bemoaning our sad plight and prospects, and occasionally reading the name of some poor fellow who had been imprisoned there earlier, placed there perhaps with date of death's release by the hand of some surviving comrade. There were many such inscriptions. In fact the walls were covered with these testimonies of earlier occupants. It was I think on the second day of our entering the prison that a rebel officer and squad came into the room and stated that a search of the prisoners was to be made but that those who had money or valuables on their persons might surrender them willingly and receive some credit. Stating that if this was done goods would be restored at close of term of imprisonment.
[CONTINUED NEXT WEEK]