Ward, George Washington, History of the Second Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery..., 1904.

Wilson, Clarence H. page 213




of disease greatly contagious in character caused by decayed food, by filth, by vermin, by malaria and by cold, to die in wretchedness and despair, not only, among strangers but among enemies too resentful either to have pity or show mercy. These are positive facts. Thousands of helpless men have been and are now being disabled and destroyed by a process as certain as poison, and as cruel as the torture of burning at a stake. This spectacle is daily beheld and allowed by the rebel government. The conclusion is unavoidable, therefore, that these privations and sufferings have been designedly inflicted I by the military and other authority of the rebel government, and not by causes they could not control."

Senator Howard, in May, 1864. took this Sanitary Commission's Report and read it and spoke on it in the Senate and endeavored to induce the Senate to take action upon the order of the government, stopping the exchange of prisoners.

Stopping the exchange was the means of keeping myself ten months in prison, and many others over one year. Those that survived the strain and are living to-day, have no constitutions left to stand anything. If I was obliged to earn a living for myself and wife I could not do it and have not been able to do so for years.

Libby prison in 1864 grew over-crowded. The commonest comforts were denied. Scurvy was prevalent on account of the utter absence of vegetables, and no salt in Durford. Even one sweet potato per day (and they grew in abundance in the South), would have prevented this malady.

Personal cleanliness was out of the question. No adequate effort made by the authorities to preserve proper sanitary conditions, and the floors of Libby became covered with vermin and filth. When I entered Libby Prison I had only three pieces of clothing - pants, shirt and a thin blouse. I came out at the end of the war with what was left - ragged, dirty and lousy beyond description. My clothes were never washed nor did I get a bath. My blouse and shirt were worn through to the skin, which turned dark and became callosed from lying on the hard floor. We would lie down at night dovetailed together like sardines in a box, on the bare floor, without anything to cover us. I came out weighing about 90 pounds.

Of all the winters in the State of Virginia the winter of 1864-65 was considered as the coldest. The windows were all broken out and iron bars added. Richmond is not very far South and cold rains, sleet and snow were quite frequent that bitter cold winter. The food was so bad our stomachs refused to assimilate it, and diarrhea attacking us, our bodies were not nourished to any degree of warmth.

During the time I was at Libby, the sanitary conditions were bad enough. There being no water closets, horse-troughs were there on each floor for our use. Those with diarrhea were obliged to stand in line a long while in agony, waiting their turn to get at the troughs. The stench from the congested condition of these troughs was something terrible. Waterspouts were provided at each trough and were supposed to turn on a stream to relieve the troughs, but, notwithstanding this, a negro would have to come in to clean them occasionally.

During the last few months of my experience in Libby rations grew more and more scant. Prisoners would lie down to sleep and dream of home comforts, and awake only to feel that horrible gnawing and craving for food magnified.

Go to top