Guide to the Libby Prison Inmate Letter, 1864 MS 113
Libby Prison (in which the letter in this collection was written) was a prison in Richmond, Virginia for Union captives, noted for the harsh conditions under which its inmates lived, both from periodic overcrowding and from the growing shortage of provisions available in Richmond for civilians and inmates alike as the war progressed and fresh waves of Union prisoners continued to pour in. The prison was housed in three brick buildings (formerly part of a tobacco factory), one building of which had been leased in 1854 by Captain Luther Libby for his company, L. Libby & Sons, Ship Chandlers; the prison received its name from the company’s sign, left behind after the buildings were hastily commandeered for prison and hospital use shortly after the Battle of First Manassas (Bull Run) of July 21, 1861.
This anonymous letter, written December 18, 1864, by an inmate of Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia and addressed to United States Senator William Wright of New Jersey, is an urgent plea for the senator’s intercession in obtaining the inmate’s exchange for a Confederate officer imprisoned for an unknown offence in West Virginia and for whom he himself is being held hostage, and his release from prison. The writer describes his failing health after several months as a general prisoner of war followed by the deprivations of close confinement, and his fears that without release he will not survive; he closes ‘With Great Respect,’ but his signature is missing from the torn lower edge of the page.
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This material is open for research.
Restrictions on Use
Permission to publish from the Libby Prison Inmate Letter, 1864, MS 113, must be obtained from the Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University.
Libby Prison Inmate, Letter, 1864, MS 113, Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University.
The Libby Prison Inmate Letter of 1864 was purchased and received in 1972.
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