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 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 Rockettsformerly 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 capitola 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
Libbey, 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 allthree 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 Belle Isle. All these apartments have bare, unplastered, white-washed
beams and walls.
"The Officers Quarters"
"Two of the four rooms allotted to them are partly
used as kitchensa 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 sufficientin point of quantity, quality, or
varietyto 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 butterall 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-comers of the prison, the remaining of the officers sleeping on the floor in
their blankets, only two of which are allowed to each man. There are 18,9000 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 of the law, a debating-club, and a weekly paperThe
Libby Chronicletake 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 bedseach a straw palliasseand 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, Mississippiwhere he was captured some five months
sinceto 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 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 rolling-stock also of other roads. The
stations, however, were filled with engines, but slightly out of repair, which they were
unable to mend. Every bridge throughout the South was well guarded, especially so in North
Carolina and Virginia; the principal manufactories of war material out of Richmond were in
Georgia and Alabama, now within easy raiding distance of our armies.
"The absence of not only luxuries, but even the
conveniences of life, seems to have given the whole people a semi-barbarous air, and the
almost total extinction of the genus citizen made this all the more apparent. We saw no
slave who was not anxiously waiting to be free; no man whose interests would allow it who
did not wish to be back in the old Union. Many would come and tell us, as we waited for
the trains, how the wave that swept over the South in 61 carried them along with it,
and how earnestly they would rejoice at peace. All this, too, at a time when their arms
flourished and they were exultant. Now they are downhearted beyond conception. Let not our
Copperhead friends pour too much of their faith into the Confederate tub, for the bottom
will be out of it ere they are aware."
Captain Wrigley is now at home.