The Century; a popular quarterly. / Volume 39, Issue 1; Nov 1889; p. 153

Shooting into Libby Prison.

IN an article on “Colonel Rose’s Tunnel at Libby Prison,” that appeared in THE CENTURY MAGAZINE for March, 1888, the author says, on page 780:

A captain of an Ohio regiment was shot through the head and instantly killed while reading a newspaper. He was violating no rule whatever, and when shot was from eight to ten feet inside the window through which the bullet came. This was a wholly unprovoked and wanton murder; the cowardly miscreant had fired the shot while he was off duty, and from the north sidewalk of Carey street. The guards (home guards they were) used, in fact, to gun for prisoners’ heads from their posts below pretty much after the fashion of hoys after squirrels.

The guard of Libby Prison at that time was the 18th Virginia Heavy Artillery, composed entirely of Virginia troops, and not home guards, and one company (E) was composed of veterans of 1861. This company, formerly known as Kemper’s Battery, had been engaged at Vienna on June 17, 1861, and at the first battle of Bull Run, July, 1861.

As to the shooting of prisoners, I was doing guard duty at the prison at that time and very distinctly remember the shooting case referred to. The officer who was shot was Captain Forsythe of the tenth Ohio regiment, and the man who shot him was a private in Company C, 18th Virginia Heavy Artillery, by the name of Charles Weber, and the shooting was accidental. I was standing within three feet of Weber when his gun was discharged, and he was standing in the rear rank of the guard that was just going on duty. Weber was to blame, as he had loaded his gun without orders, and he placed the cap on the nipple and was in the act of letting the hammer down when his thumb slipped and the gun was discharged. He did not have the gun to his shoulder aiming at any one, but it was resting against his right hip in the position of “ready.” He had been wounded in the right hand and did not have good use of it, and the morning of the shooting was quite cold, and I suppose these were the causes of his letting the hammer of his gun slip. He was arrested and held until the matter was investigated. The affair cast quite a gloom over our entire command, and Weber was generally blamed for his carelessness.

Since the war I have seen several men who were in the prison at that time, and when I mentioned the shooting of Captain Forsythe they told me that they were satisfied the shooting was purely accidental.

James M. Germond,
Co. E, 18th Virginia Heavy Artillery.

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