The Libby Chronicle, 9/11/1863
TO FACTS AND FUN.
EDITOR- IN- CHIEF, LOUIS N. BEAUDRY, CHAPLAIN FIFTH N. Y. VOL. CAVALRY.
PRISON, RICHMOND, VA., SEPTEMBER 11, 1863.
NOTES AND NOTICES.
Found. Found lately at table No. I, a piece of pencil-rubber, which the owner can have by calling on the subscriber, or at the office of the THE CHRONICLE, and identifying property. S. H. Ballard.
Advice. The editor would advise the above sufferer to take care of his own spoon, if he ever finds it. If there be no better place for it between meals, it would seem as if there might be room enough for it in his own empty stomach. But if our friend cannot keep his spoon, let him be grateful that somebody else is evidently making good use of it.
Ostensibly to curry favor with the Rebel authorities some of our number have presented adulatory addresses to some of them. We are glad to say that these cases are rare. The "fact" department of THE CHRONICLE presents the following array of incidents which show where the truth lies.
This couplet received ample illustration the other day when one of the guards fired into the body of one of his own comrades, killing him almost instantly.
LIGHTS AND SHADES IN LIBBY.
Occasionally we are visited by gentlemen from the city of Richmond, some of whom have shown us slight favors. The most notable case of this kind was the visit of Rev. Dr. McCabe, who was doubtless attracted to Libby by his name's sake, the chaplain. Through the kind influence of Dr. McCabe a channel was opened to the bookstores of the city, and Libby prison has become one of the best literary institutions of Dixie. Only a few days after the advent of books classes were formed in higher arithmetic, algebra and geometry; also in philosophy, history, theology and medicine, while the languages, namely, Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish and French number their students by the hundreds. Army tactics, especially cavalry, are also taught by Col. Cesnola. Our curriculum is by no means meager. But the star study is phonography, which can boast in its first class alone of at least two hundred students. No books on this subject could be secured from Richmond. Chalk crayons, however; were obtained, and on a blackboard formed with a piece of rubber poncho the, simple though apparently mysterious characters are delineated, and easily learned by the eager students.
Scant as is our supply of books on any subject, owing to the high prices put upon them, the few we do possess are putting new life and hopefulness into all our hearts. Readers hasten to devour the contents of one author, and then pass the book to other hands, while awaiting their turn to still other subjects. Sometimes a book is owned by a club of at least fifteen or twenty individuals. This will not be thought strange when we remember, for instance, that the only Spanish lexicon in Libby costs forty-five dollars in Confederate currency. Singing books have also been .secured, and a fine choir is rehearsing for the religious services, and doubtless for a concert which will eclipse, we opine, everything of the kind in the Rebel capital. Every night, or nearly so, after the union prayer meeting, a singing circle is formed, when English, French, German
and Irish songs are rendered, attracting immense crowds of listeners. At times not a few of the Rebel guards and passers-by group themselves on Cary street to hear us. It may seem to these outsiders that advantage is taken by us of their presence to make the old walls echo and re-echo with our best patriotic airs. Oh, walls, tell the tale to your cruel owners and repeat it to future generations! What if those Rebels hiss and curse
at the sentiments of our songs, especially such as
their curses fall harmless upon our loyal souls, or are lost amid the loud and jubilant union acclaims.
Cutting and carving bones is an occupation in which , many display great dexterity. There are produced napkin rings, finger rings, miniature books, brooches, boxes, crosses, etc., in great variety and beauty. When we consider that the only utensils for this handicraft are dull jack-knives and table knives, with edges cut or serrated into saws by striking them carefully with the edge of another knife, we may think Punch correct when he speaks as follows of the Yankee's offspring: " A Yankee baby will creep or fall out of his cradle, take a survey of it, invent a new style and apply for a patent before he is six months old." - Editor.
THE ANDERSONVILLE POST OFFICE.
[The following touching lines are attributed to G. H. Hollister, Esq., of Litchfield, Conn. The editor of THE CHRONICLE cannot now recount how they came into his possession.]
THE MOCK TRIAL.
Thursday, August 2o, 1863, will long be remembered by the denizens of Libby for the fun and general mirth occasioned by the opening of the trial at a mock court of one of their number. About eleven o'clock the exciting affair was announced by the stentorian voice of the quasi sheriff, "Hear ye! hear ye! hear ye! the honorable court for the county of Libby and State of Imprisonment is now opened. All ye who have business therein, draw near and ye shall be heard."
A motley crowd at once assembled at the call, in the upper east room, and there beheld a solemn-faced, greyheaded cavalry captain, who was to play the role of judge. He was seated upon a lofty arm-chair made for the occasion of a partly broken barrel. His mock dignity, professional air and shrewd humor were calculated to convulse the court and lookers-on with laughter at any moment of the proceedings. To the right and left of him were seated on inpromptu benches of broken boards, sticks of wood, or, on the floor, the district attorney, sheriff, undersheriff, counsels, sergeant-at-arms, clerks, etc.
The, impaneling of
the jury was rendered amusingly difficult and farcical to correspond with the other movements. Foreigners with the longest and worst sounding names had been selected for the bench from among the French,
Germans and Hungarians, some, of whom could scarcely understand a word of English or spoke it very brokenly. The foreman when called up to be sworn feigned that he could not understand the questions of the judge and responded in French. Every word filled the audience with merriment, and seemed to puzzle the court. The prosecuting attorney at last interposed his objection, arguing the impossibility and illegality of employing for juryman one who did not know the language of the court, and thus the Barbarian was ruled out. Meanwhile a bystander interrupted proceedings by vociferating that the fault was not the juryman's, but rather that of the court, as these professional gentlemen ought to be able to understand him. The judge thereupon ordered the arrest of the offending interrupter for "contempt of court," and the sergeant-at-arms cleverly executed the order. The next juryman questioned was as deaf as an adder, and the third was a Dutchman who carried out the figure most charmingly, and for a long time kept the room in an uproar of laughter and applause. At length a jury was duly impaneled, and then a grave-looking prisoner (Capt. John Teed) was brought before the bar, charged with having disturbed the peace of the neighborhood by seeking to enjoy the raptures of a clandestine bath at an hour and in a manner offensive to the laws of the people.
The respondent listened to all these personal jokes with excellent good temper, and no one seemed to enjoy more than himself the comical buffoonery of lawyers and witnesses. Notwithstanding the artful pleadings of his counsel, a verdict of guilty was rendered, and he was sentenced by the court to imprisonment for forty-eight hours in the sink. This punishment was afterwards commuted to a public promise of future good behavior. He also entered into a recognizance to treat the judge, jury and counsels whenever they should get out of Libby, which promise will undoubtedly be kept. - Clerk Ballard.
LIBBY PRISON, Richmond, Va.,
Sir: - I take the liberty of addressing you on behalf of myself and fellow prisoners in relation to our situation.
About six hundred of us are confined here with an average space of about twenty-eight square feet each, which includes our room for cooking, eating, washing, bathing and sleeping. Our rations consist, as nearly as I can judge as to quantity, of about one-fourth pound of poor fresh beef, one-half pound of bread and one-half gill of rice or black peas for each man per day. This amount has been found insufficient to sustain life and health in our close prison confinement. Scorbutic diseases have already appeared, proving fatal in one instance, that of Major Morris, and impairing seriously, if not permanently, the health of many others.
Our sanitary condition would have been much worse than it is now but for the large purchases of vegetables and other provisions, amounting to nearly one thousand dollars [Confederate] per day, which we have been allowed to make. But as nearly all our money was taken from us when we entered the prison, the daily expenditure of this large sum has at length about exhausted what was left us. We have also been notified that we would not be allowed to receive any portion of the money taken from us here, nor to receive such sums as have been sent us front home since our imprisonment, though before writing for these moneys we were expressly assured by your officers having us in charge that we would be allowed to receive them.
It will be perceived from the above statement that our immediate prospective condition is, to say the least, that of semi-starvation. The rations furnished by your government may be as good and as much as it can afford under the circumstances, but in that case it does seem as if we should be allowed to purchase the necessary amount to sustain us. It cannot possibly be that it is intended to reduce to a famishing condition six hundred prisoners of war. Humanity cannot contemplate such a thing without feelings of the deepest horror. Saying nothing of our rights as prisoners of war, even criminals guilty of the blackest crimes are not, among civilized people, confined for any length of time on insufficient food.
I wish further to state to you that previous to my surrender I made a stipulation with General Forrest, to whom I surrendered, that all private property, including money belonging to my officers and men, should be respected. This stipulation, in the handwriting of General Forrest, over his own signature, is now in the hands of General Winder, having been taken from me here. Notwithstanding this, my officers (ninety-five in number) have been notified, with the balance, that their money has been turned over to Confederate authorities.
For the purpose of avoiding further loss of money or misunderstanding, and if possible to obtain relief from the unhappy situation in which we are placed, you are most respectfully requested to state in your answer to this communication the manner in which we will be allowed to obtain the necessary food and clothing to render us comfortable.
It is not likely that the Rebel Secretary of War will condescend to answer Col. Streight's letter. The cry of famishing prisoners cannot enter such delicate ears! - Editor.
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