Libby Prison, The Fifty Feet To Freedom

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
canal st james river towing co libby.jpg

From an LoC stereoview, not one of the more striking or clearer images of Libby Prison, Cary and Canal Streets, Richmond. It just happens to be one inclusive of The James River Towing Company, building on the right. That's 50 feet between buildings even if the camera's perspective makes it look less. Events transpiring there Feb. 9th, 1864 make this an awesome image despite all the discolorized fuzz.

Behind this building, between James River Towing Company and Kerr's warehouse existed a fenced-in storage shed. Behind that fence, the morning of Feb. 10th, 1864, baffled, frazzled and astonished Confederate authorities discovered a hole.

tunnel top.JPG

It's ok, it's from one of the numerous ' Escape ' books published at the time, safely public access. And here's the fireplace, left of middle, above what was known as ' Rat Hell '- you can see a stove in the middle of the floor.
tunnel fireplace.JPG


Came across a description of the famous Libby Prison escape, ' The Great Escape ' until the Steve McQueen movie ( also a favorite ) made the first fade into another war's background. This one is from a Richmond newspaper- there were several, unsurprisingly. What you have to love is the rather shocked admiration- and why not? The whole thing really was awesome.

It'd be futile and a little silly trying to do more than what's out there on the uber-famous Libby Prison escape of Feb. 9th, 1864. Between books and blogs by historians and genuine researchers, how could anyone do a thing more? Ran into an excellent summary/website by someone whose relative was among the escaped Union officers though, if anyone is interested. Fair warning, you'll be there for awhile. Author has compiled mini-bios and stories, you'll get sucked in.

https://bigfamilytree.weebly.com/libby-prison-escape.html

The thing is, in ' Period Photos And Examinations ' the examination part is always awfully valuable. We're incredibly lucky to have access to LoC, for one, National Archives, another and the plethora of public access sources where History is not only preserved, we may see it. Libby Prison images are a terrific example, following a Richmond ship's chandlery through incarnations as business, prison housing Union officers, a building standing in the rubble of riots and fire, prison housing Confederate prisoners and finally a war museum.

SO just one- at least for now. Must have every narrative printed at the time by every escapee and witness somewhere in my files. This is Richmond. Feb. 11th, 1864.

news richmond 1.JPG
news richmond 2.JPG

news richmond 3.JPG
news richmond 4.JPG


news richmond 5.JPG
news richmond 6.JPG
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
Interesting. Thanks for posting


The thing with this escape is that no matter how many books you read, beautifully researched websites and terrific articles there's always something more to find. It really was astonishing, over 100 men escaping from a brick warehouse inside Richmond, Virginia, in 1864. That around half made it is even more astonishing.
 

Robert Gray

First Sergeant
Joined
Jul 24, 2012
View attachment 362318
From an LoC stereoview, not one of the more striking or clearer images of Libby Prison, Cary and Canal Streets, Richmond. It just happens to be one inclusive of The James River Towing Company, building on the right. That's 50 feet between buildings even if the camera's perspective makes it look less. Events transpiring there Feb. 9th, 1864 make this an awesome image despite all the discolorized fuzz.

Behind this building, between James River Towing Company and Kerr's warehouse existed a fenced-in storage shed. Behind that fence, the morning of Feb. 10th, 1864, baffled, frazzled and astonished Confederate authorities discovered a hole.

View attachment 362320
It's ok, it's from one of the numerous ' Escape ' books published at the time, safely public access. And here's the fireplace, left of middle, above what was known as ' Rat Hell '- you can see a stove in the middle of the floor.
View attachment 362321

Came across a description of the famous Libby Prison escape, ' The Great Escape ' until the Steve McQueen movie ( also a favorite ) made the first fade into another war's background. This one is from a Richmond newspaper- there were several, unsurprisingly. What you have to love is the rather shocked admiration- and why not? The whole thing really was awesome.

It'd be futile and a little silly trying to do more than what's out there on the uber-famous Libby Prison escape of Feb. 9th, 1864. Between books and blogs by historians and genuine researchers, how could anyone do a thing more? Ran into an excellent summary/website by someone whose relative was among the escaped Union officers though, if anyone is interested. Fair warning, you'll be there for awhile. Author has compiled mini-bios and stories, you'll get sucked in.

https://bigfamilytree.weebly.com/libby-prison-escape.html

The thing is, in ' Period Photos And Examinations ' the examination part is always awfully valuable. We're incredibly lucky to have access to LoC, for one, National Archives, another and the plethora of public access sources where History is not only preserved, we may see it. Libby Prison images are a terrific example, following a Richmond ship's chandlery through incarnations as business, prison housing Union officers, a building standing in the rubble of riots and fire, prison housing Confederate prisoners and finally a war museum.

SO just one- at least for now. Must have every narrative printed at the time by every escapee and witness somewhere in my files. This is Richmond. Feb. 11th, 1864.

View attachment 362322View attachment 362323
View attachment 362324View attachment 362325

View attachment 362326View attachment 362327

A clearer view of the stereo image.

896.jpg
 

Robert Gray

First Sergeant
Joined
Jul 24, 2012
View attachment 362318
From an LoC stereoview, not one of the more striking or clearer images of Libby Prison, Cary and Canal Streets, Richmond. It just happens to be one inclusive of The James River Towing Company, building on the right. That's 50 feet between buildings even if the camera's perspective makes it look less. Events transpiring there Feb. 9th, 1864 make this an awesome image despite all the discolorized fuzz.

Behind this building, between James River Towing Company and Kerr's warehouse existed a fenced-in storage shed. Behind that fence, the morning of Feb. 10th, 1864, baffled, frazzled and astonished Confederate authorities discovered a hole.

View attachment 362320
It's ok, it's from one of the numerous ' Escape ' books published at the time, safely public access. And here's the fireplace, left of middle, above what was known as ' Rat Hell '- you can see a stove in the middle of the floor.
View attachment 362321

Came across a description of the famous Libby Prison escape, ' The Great Escape ' until the Steve McQueen movie ( also a favorite ) made the first fade into another war's background. This one is from a Richmond newspaper- there were several, unsurprisingly. What you have to love is the rather shocked admiration- and why not? The whole thing really was awesome.

It'd be futile and a little silly trying to do more than what's out there on the uber-famous Libby Prison escape of Feb. 9th, 1864. Between books and blogs by historians and genuine researchers, how could anyone do a thing more? Ran into an excellent summary/website by someone whose relative was among the escaped Union officers though, if anyone is interested. Fair warning, you'll be there for awhile. Author has compiled mini-bios and stories, you'll get sucked in.

https://bigfamilytree.weebly.com/libby-prison-escape.html

The thing is, in ' Period Photos And Examinations ' the examination part is always awfully valuable. We're incredibly lucky to have access to LoC, for one, National Archives, another and the plethora of public access sources where History is not only preserved, we may see it. Libby Prison images are a terrific example, following a Richmond ship's chandlery through incarnations as business, prison housing Union officers, a building standing in the rubble of riots and fire, prison housing Confederate prisoners and finally a war museum.

SO just one- at least for now. Must have every narrative printed at the time by every escapee and witness somewhere in my files. This is Richmond. Feb. 11th, 1864.

View attachment 362322View attachment 362323
View attachment 362324View attachment 362325

View attachment 362326View attachment 362327

I believe the James River Towing Company also appears in this photo.

ReesLibby1.jpg
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
in this photo.


Thank you! That's even better because it was taken while Libby still housed Federal prisoners, pretty sure the LoC stereoview is one of the 1865 or post war images. What's always amazing to me is how photographers could set up photographs of Canal Street and manage to just miss the canal itself. That also makes me wonder about several other images - some seem to indicate a building fronting awfully closely to the canal and we can see it didn't.

This one indicates a much better idea how far a distance is 50 feet, snipped from one of the larger shots across the river.

across james crop.jpg
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
A clearer view of the stereo image.


Do you know if the photographer was taking photographs for any particular reason that day? It's always driven me a little crazy. Must be the same person, same day, as the Cary St. shots and a crowd of people standing in front of Libby. It's a shambles so post-riot but they seem to be looking at something further down Cary, not at the prisoners at Libby's windows ( who would now be Confederate ).

Sorry to side track, thought maybe you'd know? It's this one- just looks like some general confusion until you get into it. I'd had an idea it was a crowd gathered because maybe to see relatives that had just been consigned to Libby but they seem to be giving attention elsewhere. Look like civilians.
lib cary1.JPG


lib cary5.JPG


lib cary7.JPG


lib cary8.JPG
 

Virginia Dave

First Sergeant
Forum Host
Joined
Jan 3, 2019
Location
Waynesboro, Virginia
Thank you! That's even better because it was taken while Libby still housed Federal prisoners, pretty sure the LoC stereoview is one of the 1865 or post war images. What's always amazing to me is how photographers could set up photographs of Canal Street and manage to just miss the canal itself. That also makes me wonder about several other images - some seem to indicate a building fronting awfully closely to the canal and we can see it didn't.

This one indicates a much better idea how far a distance is 50 feet, snipped from one of the larger shots across the river.

View attachment 362690
One of my ancestors spent a little time in Libby Prison. I am still trying to find out exactly why he was there and what happened after his release. He had also been captured and spent time in a prison in Newport News, Va.

I am at Newport News. I was in prison on the 14th. The 15th not well. On a flat piece of land with a high plank fence building around. It is guarded by Negroes commanded by white officers 15th 16th) In prison at Newport News 17th) ditto I am mending I was searched on the 17th 18th) I am tolerably well ? 19th) I am not well had bacon and beef for the ? 20th) to soap and quilt

release from Libby.jpg
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
One of my ancestors spent a little time in Libby Prison. I am still trying to find out exactly why he was there and what happened after his release. He had also been captured and spent time in a prison in Newport News, Va.

Yes, I can never figure out why prisoners were moved around so much! Why would it be odd your ancestor was there, wasn't he an officer? Read somewhere privates were sometimes kept in Libby's basement although that may have been before Belle Island was set up or as some temporary measure when they were en route elsewhere.

That's a stunning piece of family history to have. Love to know what " to quilt and soap " meant. Prisoners issued both?
 

Virginia Dave

First Sergeant
Forum Host
Joined
Jan 3, 2019
Location
Waynesboro, Virginia
Yes, I can never figure out why prisoners were moved around so much! Why would it be odd your ancestor was there, wasn't he an officer? Read somewhere privates were sometimes kept in Libby's basement although that may have been before Belle Island was set up or as some temporary measure when they were en route elsewhere.

That's a stunning piece of family history to have. Love to know what " to quilt and soap " meant. Prisoners issued both?
He wasn't an officer. I am still researching, but haven't had much luck so far.
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
He wasn't an officer. I am still researching, but haven't had much luck so far.

I know one of the officers who'd been in Libby and later wrote one of the many war memoirs states privates were indeed housed there- like I said, in the basement, wish I could remember for how long. Considering Libby escaped being destroyed in the riots and fire, surely those records are somewhere. Those dead-ends in research can drive you a little batty! We have one- I'm ready to go buy a fake mustache and hire a psychic.
 

Virginia Dave

First Sergeant
Forum Host
Joined
Jan 3, 2019
Location
Waynesboro, Virginia
I know one of the officers who'd been in Libby and later wrote one of the many war memoirs states privates were indeed housed there- like I said, in the basement, wish I could remember for how long. Considering Libby escaped being destroyed in the riots and fire, surely those records are somewhere. Those dead-ends in research can drive you a little batty! We have one- I'm ready to go buy a fake mustache and hire a psychic.
I know the feeling very well.
 

Similar threads

Top