The Libby Chronicle, 8/28/1863

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The Libby Chronicle



VOL. I.                              LIBBY PRISON, RICHMOND, VA., AUGUST 28, 1863.                              No. 2.


Felicitous. We are glad to know that THE CHRONICLE is without competition in the field. The patronage accorded to our first number is ground for hopefulness in our work. From all sides we hear the cry : "God speed thee !"

Scribblers. Contributors to our columns have been doing a commendable amount of thinking and scribbling as their articles will testify. We invite discussions on a wide range of subjects. As we make our appearance promptly at ten o'clock every Friday morning, all articles for insertion that day must be in the hands of the editor Thursday evening, at the latest.

Secrets. We call special attention this week to our article from Castle Thunder, which was brought to our hands through secret channels. The denizens of Libby will be grateful, we are sure, to all parties concerned in the preparation, conveyance to our sanctum and appearance, of this poem. (The name of the author is not at this writing known.)

The Lyce-I-see-'em. We invite attention to the discussions and meetings of the Libby Lyce-I-see-'em Association, which take place in this room every Tuesday, at 10 o'clock, A. M. Subject for discussion next week: - "Resolved, that men ought not to shave their faces." By order, H. Rees Whiting, Secretary, Chaplain Beaudry, President. All members are expected to prepare themselves for the discussion. The discussion this week on the question, "Resolved, that the Fear of Punishment has a greater influence upon mankind than the Hope of Reward," was opened by Lieut. S. H. Ballard and Lieut. James Burns as chief disputants, seconded by Lieut. Col. F. F. Cavada and Lieut. H. B. Chamberlain. As many as fifteen persons participated in the spirited debate, which elicited no little amount of general intelligence, oratorical ability, wit and humor. With the President's decision, choice of next week's question, appointments and miscellaneous business, the parties dispersed, feeling that their time had been admirably spent.

Origins. It may not be generally known that with the Libby Lyce-I-see-'em originated the project of the THE LIBBY CHRONICLE, and for this alone, if for nothing more, this Association is worthy of patronage.

McCabe. We gladly announce that next Sabbath at 10:30 A. M., in the upper west room, the Rev. C. C. McCabe, Chaplain of the 122d Ohio Vols., will preach. Those who have been often attracted and entertained by Chaplain McCabe's excellent singing, will not fail to hear him sing and preach next Sabbath morning. Preaching every Sunday morning, in the same place, the nine Chaplains confined in Libby taking turns.

Lecture. Next Wednesday evening at 7 o'clock, Chaplain Beaudry will deliver a lecture in this room. Subject: "Paul and, Silas in the Philippian prison."

No. 2.

The earliest skirmishers have not finished their bloody task before' you hear much pounding and grating, and no little rumbling and rattling. You need not wonder; the cooks have commenced their work. The stoves fairly groan under their loads of pots and kettles for soup and coffee, while their ovens are pregnant with the accustomed hash and toast. Glad as we are to have our scanty rations brought to us in gross, thus furnishing us needed employment both in cooking, and in cutting and carving the bones, there is, nevertheless, great annoyance, these hot summer days, from the extra heat of the stoves. There is pounding on the floor for water from below, when the faucets have been closed; there is haste to secure the best pots, kettles. and pans for public and private uses; there is gouge game and grab game from head cools to young apprentices, and from those who are not cooks at all, while selfishness and profanity mingle too frequently in shameful confusion.

As the inmates of each room are divided up into messes, each bearing its own number, and as each man in a mess has to take his place in rotation as cook, our culinary arrangements display very much regularity. Two long tables are stretched across the upper middle room, where, at a given signal, one mess after the other : appears for its refreshments. But how heart-rending to contemplate the supply of spoons, knives and forks or other utensils for table use! Happy is the man who can secure even a rusty or broken piece of tin for a plate, or the half section of a canteen ! Some are compelled to eat la Turkie, that is, with their fingers, and when it comes to soup, their scanty mess is gulped with rough wooden spoons, carved out with dull jack knives. And yet all this would be considered a royal assemblage of table furniture, if there were only food enough to satisfy the tithe of your hunger!

The morning meal dispatched, we greet the "General," a colored prisoner whose chief employment is to disinfect the rooms by means of his. "union smoke," as he calls his fumigations made from burning tar, carried here and there in a small iron skillet. Groups gather around the "General," enjoying his spicy Union talks quite as well as his disinfectant. - Editor.


On Cary street, in Richmond, there is a mongrel den 
Of thieves, sneaks and cowards mixed up with gentlemen.
Oh what a living shame to huddle in together
Men and beasts, wild and tame, like birds of every feather!
The Reb. authorities scared up this greatest wonder,
Made it a prison, and named it Castle Thunder.
Here they tumble in characters of every hue,
Reprobates steeped in sin with the Christian and the Jew.

Conscripts by the dozen, at daylight and after dark, 
Come pouring in the Castle, like animals in the ark; 
Some are small, some are great, some show pluck, some white liver, 
Some from Mississippi State and "Goobers from Tar river. 
Substitutes and deserters come in in sorry plight, 
And sub-gents also are here quartered for the night. 
Blockade runners are here shut up, they say, for a warning, 
But seldom leave as promised, early the next morning 
While on Potomac's banks both parties try to nab 'em, 
If they escape the Yanks, Old Jeff is sure to grab 'em.

So-called spies are castled here, who think it real hard luck, 
They are all from Yankeedom, excepting one Kennuck. 
Disloyalists are here, and one for being a guide 
The boys call "Doodlebug," for he piloted Burnside. 
Here's an oyster man, who the officers discover, 
Is Union on the York, but Secesh on James river. 
Part first tells you where the Castle is, and who are there, 
And part second will disclose the manner of our fare.


We've a dozen rooms or more, and in some two or three, 
The "boys" wear handcuffs, balls and chains, Confederate jewelry; 
Some rest on cots, on boards, with blankets, some without them, 
And when they get asleep the big bugs often rout them;
They never sleep in peace, though ever so much drowsy, 
The vermin are so big the lice themselves are lousy.

We have eighteen kinds of food, though 'twill stagger your belief, 
Because we have bread, beef and soup, then bread, soup and beef; 
Then we sep'rate around with 'bout twenty in a group, 
And thus we get beef, soup and bread, and beef, bread and soup ; 
For dessert we obtain, though it costs us nary red, 
Soup, bread and beef, (count it well) and beef and soup and bread.

The bread we daily get 'is of a very good sort. 
True, it's the staff of life, but our staff is rather short. 
Our beef's so lean and dry, that, swallowing, it will bound back, 
Unless ate recollect afore to grease the hollow track 
It is too tough and strong for our noses or our knives, 
The cattle were so poor and thin, were killed to save their lives. 
The hides are made up into shoes, the sinews into strings, 
The marrow into soup and the bones in pretty rings. 
Our soup is much too weak to please a very high liver, 
'Tis made of beans, bugs and rice with extract of James river.

Now I've told you what we eat, whether we're well or sick, 
What we drink is never strong, though sometimes rather thick. 
We rarely drink river water, except to save from death, 
And then for want of whiskey we smell Reb. officer's breath. , 
Meat and drink are now so scarce as to raise a serious doubt, 
Whether the Confederacy is not about played out. 
Part one and two you have heard, and now in division third, 
I will say a word about the way we are officered.


Military officers of the very meanest stuff, 
For every local post, are considered good enough 
In officering Richmond they varied not this general rule, 
So we've a drunkard, a tyrant, a coward or a fool. 
It is plainly to be noticed that in a little while, 
When Satan scoops his jewels up, Richmond will give a pile:

At the head of Richmond post they've placed a Marylander, 
Lo ! like the devil in regions lost, there's General Winder. 
He snaps and snarls, he rips and swears, whether sober or tight, 
The old villain's heart is as black as his head is white. 
All through this vicinity they hate him as hard as they can, 
Nor ever slander him with epithet of decent man. 
However mean, he's a patriot, let that be understood, 
For when he left the Yankee land, 'twas for that country's good.

We come to Major Griswold, who is our Provost Marshal, 
He's a little prejudiced which makes him rather partial. 
But when compared to Winder, he seems no virtue to lack, 
As green or blue is almost white by the side of jet black.

And there's judge Baxter who also is a queer old case, 
He has so large a centre he can hardly change his base. 
He says whiskey's a dangerous thing to have about the town, 
So with all his might and main he's for putting whiskey down. 
Whiskey is fifty cents a drink, and of the meanest sort, 
The Judge to get his money's worth swallows it by the quart. 
I will slyly tell you, boys, (if your money you begrudge), 
Just how to get your whiskey, cheap, step up and tap the Judge.

In the door of the Castle like a stopple in a jug, 
To shut the prison's mouth they've stuck a "Baltimore plug;"
It's Captain Alexander who is so cross and spunky, 
He's certainly not fit to command an oyster pungy. 
The Captain is such a case, boys, as may be often seen, 
Who thinks he's very smart, but is invisible green; 
He is a thundering blower, but would not dare to fight, 
As dogs that bark the loudest are seldom known to bite. 
Yet he has streaks of good as well as mean, mixed for relief, 
The first are scarce and thin like fat in Confederate beef. 
He also came from Maryland, mean as Nick can make him, 
The reason we keep him is because the devil won't take him.

Allen is a smooth old rat, this is truthfully said, 
He shines with black from boots to hat, his face shines with red ; 
He pours down whiskey double-quick, there is no doubt of that, 
Sometimes he thinks he's sick, but it's a brick in his hat. 
Old Allen is a villian of the very darkest stripe;
He'll go home to purgat'ry even before he's ripe; 
If he does not blow off steam and soon shut down the brakes, 
In a dream delirious he'll find his boots are full of snakes. 
He has an oily tongue and face full of deceit and evil, 
Should Old Nick miss that scape-grace, there's no need of a devil. - Private.

By Lieut.-Col. N.

It is with much regret that we announce the fact to the readers (hearers) of THE CHRONICLE that there are those among the officers now confined in this delectable (?) locality, ycleped Libby, who are uttering curses, "not loud but deep," against our government for permitting them to remain here so long. These officers evince more the spirit of spoiled children than that of manly courage and intelligence which should characterize the actions of the American soldier.

The officer who utters complaints against our government for his continued incarceration shows that he does not understand the principles involved in the controversy in relation to the exchange of prisoners, or else he is prompted by motives altogether selfish and unpatriotic. The exchange of prisoners was suspended in consequence of the unfair proceedings of the Rebel authorities about the first of June last, in retaining certain officers in an unjust and arbitrary manner. Among those thus retained were Colonel Streight and his officers, Captain McKee of the Fourteenth Kentucky Cavalry, and Lieutenant Conn of the Second Virginia Cavalry. Our Commissioners on discovering this injustice respectfully informed the Rebel Commissioner that all exchange of officers would be suspended until the Rebel authorities would exchange officer for officer and man for man according to rank and date of capture.

The Rebels at that time were anticipating a series of successes which they have not realized, though they persist with a dogged obstinacy in the unjust course which they had marked for themselves. Instead of removing obstacles which they had thrown in, the way of the cartel, they continue to increase those obstacles by high-handed acts of injustice and cruelty, and thus make the affair more complicated. All that is necessary is for them to return to the cartel and proceed as formerly. When the Rebels do this, our government is ready to exchange, but until then it acts properly in refusing to do so. A partial or special exchange would leave many an unfortunate prisoner exposed to even worse insults and indignities than now. Should partial exchanges be made, a portion of the officers would be held as hostages, confined in wretched cells and reserved for hanging or shooting for the recreation of the so-called chivalry. Such exchanges would add to the comfort of some, but would increase the sufferings of others. What officer among us is so devoid of humanity as to be willing to accept his personal liberty at such expense? If there be any such in Libby, they had better tender their "immediate and unconditional" resignation, as soon as possible, and retire to their own place. But in the language of Holy Writ, let us "endure hardness as good soldiers," trusting in the God of battles to deliver us. We may be assured also, that we are not forgotten by Father Abraham who is evidently doing all that justice and mercy can prompt him to do for our relief. While it is well for us to invite the aid of our influential friends in the North in this matter of exchange, it is equally proper to bide our time with patience and manly fortitude.


Beauty is not confined to nature, to trees, to flowers and to the material world. It is the prime element of spiritual life. It manifests itself in its highest and most- sublime forms in the nobler traits of human character and conduct. The only really substantial beauty in the world is truth, mercy and love. The natural rose soon fades, but the roses of moral conduct and spiritual life bloom forever.

The highest type of beauty this world ever saw, is contained in the life and death of Jesus Christ. There is beauty in the heavens, the stars, the clouds and the arch of blue; in the wide waste of old ocean, in the hills, plains, mountains and valleys of the earth. But there is nothing in these to compare with the beauty of the feeblest effort for the elevation and welfare of the down-trodden and oppressed, the poor and despised, the ignorant and unfortunate, the erring and lost of the human race. What beauty in a fault forgiven, in a tear dried, in an error corrected, in a want supplied!

There is sublime beauty in Niagara, but sublimer in the widow's gift of mites, or in the heavenly mission of Florence Nightingale. There is more beauty in the refusal of Moses, than in the pomp and glory of Pharoah; more in the and ragged and despised Lazarus, than in the purple and fine linen of Dives ; more in visiting of widows and orphans in their affliction, than in the glory of vain princes. Such are the beauties of the soul, which reflect the brightness of heaven, and span the earth with the bow of promise. Such beauties beam forth with the rays of eternal life. - Capt. S. G. Hamlin.

We have received the following from the special correspondent of THE LIBBY CHRONICLE at Havana:
Senor Redactor del "LIBBY CHRONICLE:" Por el procsimo vapor por via de Nueva York, enviare a vd. diez mil tobacos superiores para el use de los prisioneros Federales en la carcel de Libby. Su seguro servidor 

que sus manor besa, JUAN SNOOKS.


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