Libey & Sons, Ships Chandlers, Richmond Or, Libby , The Most Photographed Prison Of The ACW

JPK Huson 1863

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libby carriage men.jpg


Confederate photographer Charles Rees, of ' Little Miss Bonnie Blue ' fame caught an amazing shot of Libby in 1863. You'd be forgiven for not understanding the warehouse's necessary proximity to the river nor for the fact Richmond was thigh deep in war. Well, looking more closely those are not tobacco warehouse employees clustered by windows. They're Union officer pressing through barred windows.

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April 7th, 1865. Union forces now in Richmond, Confederate prisoners are the men now pressing through barred windows.

Not long afterward Rees's 1863 shot Libby was given it's now iconic white band of paint on the lower floors. Any prisoner who found a way to defeat those bars would not escape detection highlighted against those white walls. So the prisoners went underneath the prison or in one case, committed to sewing a uniform for a Confederate officer. He then put it on and left by the front door.

Between 1861 and 1865 there's a long history. Some is told in photos, some merely bring stories to life. Thread is about all of it and them- those who were there.


In this forum " Period Photos And Examinations " it seems convoluted to do the examining portion without being as comprehensive as it's possible to be. Libby photos tend to be sequential, most taken April, 1865 surrounded by the rubble of April 3rd that month when Ewell's fires and the attempted destruction of speculators' long hoarded liquor created a combustion that leveled parts of Richmond. Libby and Castle Thunder miraculously escaped despite being somewhat central to the conflagrations, food riots ( also a result of speculators' hoarded goods brought to the notice of an under nourished population ) and various explosions.
lib cary7.JPG
Snipped of close up from April 1863, on Cary Street looking further up. These Richmonders are gathered outside Libby Prison but most seem intent on some action transpiring elsewhere, not the prisoners at those windows.
crowd ap 7.JPG


The South's tobacco warehouse prisons were numerous but one especially became the kinda tobacco warehouse prison spokesperson for all of them. It's possible between a Richmond location and a plethora of officers whose educated status tended to ensure documentation, Libby Prison makes the top 5 list of ' well known Civil War prisons '. I just made that up but it seems safe. Also safe seems the claim ' most photographed '. No idea why but you just don't see on, much less a dozen shots of any prison.

' Mesrs Libey and Sons ' fade from history after renting space in which to run a ship's supply and grocery store in a one of Richmond's many brick tobacco warehouse. Early photographs show their sign still in place to be replaced with various signage proclaiming the building's new status as Libby Prison. Like the barred windows weren't a clue except which one? On Cary Street, Libby's former location now appears so innocuous as to have never supported the prison through which passed 50,000 Union men- quite a few passed not to another prison or parole or war's end but to burial spots around Richmond. The alley slash parking lot where Libby Prison once stood is indistinguishable from the alley slash parking lot 1/4 mile away. There's just nothing much there.

What was there could be accessed by water, ships picking up and tobacco and delivering wares when Mr. Libey and his adult children were selling groceries and ship supplies. What supplies there were for prisoners were delivered the same way, a small wharf nearly outside Libby's back door.

lib sp.JPG

It wasn't as close as it looks here- there was a wide street and wharf. This image frequently claims it's a photo of supplies being shipped to prisoners but unsure that's been verified so please don't source it here. It may be, who knows, from the day Rees was there in 1863. I could also be from when the libey family ran their store.
waterfront libby early.jpg


Intent of thread is Libby tobacco warehouse history in photos, first, and stories because what on earth else is any photograph, from birth to death in Chicago of all places. It'll get long. Just ask the woman waiting to get in that door, April, 1865. Bet her husband or son is one of the men at those windows. She thought it had been a long war at Libby Prison already.

lib shp women.JPG


libby clip.JPG

Men at barred windows, women watching them. North and South, it was an awful war. Libby is one of our best testimonies to how awful- and we only have a parking lot and these photosgraphs to remember it all by.

TBC-


.

lib shp f.JPG
 

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Michael W.

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Another interesting piece of Libby history: After the war, the Libby warehouse was torn down, and was reassembled for some type of macabre display at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. After the fair, the structure was dismantled with no more apparent use or interest. A farmer from LaPorte County, Indiana ( located in the Northeast part of the State) purchased the timber beams and used them to erect a large barn on his farm. That barn was still standing up until the late 1970's or early 80's when I believe it was destroyed by a tornado. One of the beams from the barn is now on display at the LaPorte County Historical Museum. The first time I visited the museum in the 1990's, seeing that beam came as quite a shock, when I was trying to figure out how a timber beam from Libby Prison wound up in LaPorte County, Indiana.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Another interesting piece of Libby history: After the war, the Libby warehouse was torn down, and was reassembled for some type of macabre display at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. After the fair, the structure was dismantled with no more apparent use or interest. A farmer from LaPorte County, Indiana ( located in the Northeast part of the State) purchased the timber beams and used them to erect a large barn on his farm. That barn was still standing up until the late 1970's or early 80's when I believe it was destroyed by a tornado. One of the beams from the barn is now on display at the LaPorte County Historical Museum. The first time I visited the museum in the 1990's, seeing that beam came as quite a shock, when I was trying to figure out how a timber beam from Libby Prison wound up in LaPorte County, Indiana.

Yes, it was an amazing, incredible venture though- I mean really? Dismantle brick by brick and put the whole thing back together? Apparently when they said ' museum ' they meant it- I'd thought we'd see a museum to Libby Prison, it was a museum to the war. Wondering if maybe they'd have done better with it had they stuck to prison exhibits? Well, and perhaps not encased the whole thing in a castle.

So timbers were bought for someone's barn?? Wow, that is disorienting. Read the bricks were sold as keepsakes, which is unsurprising given our ancestors' tendency to reduce anything famous to thread and rubble and take it home. The thing is, that was a LOT of bricks! Where are the now? Pitched one by one as households broke up, in various dumps around the country? Ouch.

museum.JPG

Can't find photos of it inside the castle walls- wonder what they did with the hill?

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=loc.ark:/13960/t5x63xs5n;view=1up;seq=3

Pamphlet ( we loved our pamphlets ) on the museum, 1899.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Confederate officers lived here, apparently first floor, west building. You'd have to think it wasn't a terrific assignment- the prison section was awful, how do you make a tobacco warehouse livable when you want to? prisoners were taken in through there, officers routed elsewhere inside Libby, enlisted shuffled off mostly to Belle Island.

Of course Currier and Ives had a print- they had several, one inside Libby prison, early in the war. Their version makes prison life look almost pleasant- and loveeeee the shovel!! One man indicates despair, maybe the company's nod to war, prisons and the misery we imposed on each other.

lithograph prisoners.jpg


lib cary5.JPG

Another of the crowd outside Libby, April 1865. Rubble in the foreground. Seeing Richmond in ruins, you just cannot imagine how this building escaped. I'm not sure the unorganized rioters chose targets and fire sure doesn't- an Alm's house blew up that night killing everyone inside. This crowd may be watching either more unrest or cleanup efforts- papers state officials began pulling down ruined walls April 22nd.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Great pictures. Been to Richmond several times also. So much to see in that area.
I really want to get there again. It's been years and now have a list as long as all our arms. There's just so much there! Paying respects at Cary Street is on The List, visiting Shockoe, and JPK's brother there too.
 

Robert Gray

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If anyone knows, thought you would- didn't someone track down who the man and little girl were? Came across a whiff somewhere they'd been identified?
The men in the foreground are thought to be William D. Turner, Erasmus Ross, prison clerk, Richard Turner, jailor and Thomas Turner, Commandant. Now, since most of the pics only show three men, this kind of makes it hard to differentiate who's who. The little girl would, presumably, belong to one of them.
 

Michael W.

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Yes, it was an amazing, incredible venture though- I mean really? Dismantle brick by brick and put the whole thing back together? Apparently when they said ' museum ' they meant it- I'd thought we'd see a museum to Libby Prison, it was a museum to the war. Wondering if maybe they'd have done better with it had they stuck to prison exhibits? Well, and perhaps not encased the whole thing in a castle.

So timbers were bought for someone's barn?? Wow, that is disorienting. Read the bricks were sold as keepsakes, which is unsurprising given our ancestors' tendency to reduce anything famous to thread and rubble and take it home. The thing is, that was a LOT of bricks! Where are the now? Pitched one by one as households broke up, in various dumps around the country? Ouch.

View attachment 296693
Can't find photos of it inside the castle walls- wonder what they did with the hill?

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=loc.ark:/13960/t5x63xs5n;view=1up;seq=3

Pamphlet ( we loved our pamphlets ) on the museum, 1899.
I didn't know about the selling of the bricks. What an amazing profit venture! I would have bought one too had I been around then. Yes, the timbers (at least part of them) wound up in a barn near LaPorte, Indiana. One of the beams is on display at the LaPorte County Historical Museum. That museum in and of itself is an amazing place to visit. Most County museums are pretty limited of their displays, but LaPorte has a very large collection spanning the County's history. It has an impressive Civil War collection, as well as one of the largest weapons collections in the State. But the star attraction is the Belle Gunness exhibit. Belle was one of the first serial killers in U.S. history, killing for profit. Living in LaPorte County, she killed unknown amount of men and probably children. She apparently faked her own death by having her house burned down - with her family inside. She was never apprehended.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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I didn't know about the selling of the bricks. What an amazing profit venture! I would have bought one too had I been around then. Yes, the timbers (at least part of them) wound up in a barn near LaPorte, Indiana. One of the beams is on display at the LaPorte County Historical Museum. That museum in and of itself is an amazing place to visit. Most County museums are pretty limited of their displays, but LaPorte has a very large collection spanning the County's history. It has an impressive Civil War collection, as well as one of the largest weapons collections in the State. But the star attraction is the Belle Gunness exhibit. Belle was one of the first serial killers in U.S. history, killing for profit. Living in LaPorte County, she killed unknown amount of men and probably children. She apparently faked her own death by having her house burned down - with her family inside. She was never apprehended.

OK, the downside of belonging to a history forum is never getting anything done. DRAT it, a never apprehended, female serial killer? I work for myself or would call in sick to spend a day tracking down more information. Wonder if I'd believe me, may try it.

Yes, bricks! I'm not sure I'd have bought one- enough stories out there about early tourists at Gettysburg bringing home rocks from there and sending them back. Letters attached always described the horrendous series of bad luck events that followed them around ever since picking it up, attributed to that rock. IF such a thing were possible as awful energy following you around from a place drenched in misery, it'd be an ACW prison. A brick would be expensive to mail, and to where?
 

DBF

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What an interesting read. thank you for posting and researching. In your original post, the 3rd picture up from the last - what is that hanging out the window? It looks like someone being dangled by their ankles. And I wonder why the ship that is tied up at the dock still has its’ sails up. The stories these pictures tell.
 

Michael W.

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OK, the downside of belonging to a history forum is never getting anything done. DRAT it, a never apprehended, female serial killer? I work for myself or would call in sick to spend a day tracking down more information. Wonder if I'd believe me, may try it.

Yes, bricks! I'm not sure I'd have bought one- enough stories out there about early tourists at Gettysburg bringing home rocks from there and sending them back. Letters attached always described the horrendous series of bad luck events that followed them around ever since picking it up, attributed to that rock. IF such a thing were possible as awful energy following you around from a place drenched in misery, it'd be an ACW prison. A brick would be expensive to mail, and to where?
Just look her up on google, plenty of info on her, probably the museum website, as well (Sorry for going off topic).
 


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