Brev. Brig. Gen'l
- Feb 14, 2012
- Central Pennsylvania
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.