The Libby Chronicle, 9/4/1863

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The Libby Chronicle



VOL. I.                              LIBBY PRISON, RICHMOND, VA., SEPTEMBER 4, 1863.                              No. 3.


Encore. Yielding to a pressing demand from those who heard- and from many who did not hear the poem entitled "Castle Thunder," we reproduce it this week. We are certain that the uproarious laughter caused by this facetious article, also by the "Libbyad," has done more good in Libby than cartloads of Confederate medicine. Let the poets be encouraged. We will erect monuments to their praise.

Scissors. The editor wishes it to be distinctly understood that he is not to; be held responsible for the sentiments expressed in any of the articles which may appear in THE CHRONICLE, except his own. Correspondents must also expect the free use of the scissors and the eraser, especially, in, the case of some articles, before they can appear.

Bone Fair. One week from to-day; immediately after the reading of THE CHRONICLE, all who desire to exhibit their worked bones will have an opportunity to do so. A committee of three will act as judges and award prizes. We suggest the following names: Cols. Cesnola, Tilden and Cavada. A preliminary meeting should, be held as early as possible to perfect the arrangements.

Phonography. On Monday next at 10 A. M. the editor will organize a second class in phonography. This is to satisfy the urgent demand made on him by those who wish to begin with the elements. A short lecture on this subject will be delivered in the middle room
below to-morrow morning at 9 o'clock.

"All's well.'' We very gladly call the attention of the many officers now confined in Libby to the union prayer service held every evening for one hour, in the middle upper room. These exercises are characterized with great fervor and have resulted thus far in much benefit to the participants. The following incident in the meeting last evening will not soon be forgotten. The Rebel guards around the prison were crying out, as is their wont every half hour throughout the night, "Post No. 1, all's well; Post No. 2, all's well, etc.," when one of the chaplains arose and said: "Brethren, you hear those sentinels crying out, 'all's well.' Are we able to do the same ? Each one of us represents a post of responsibility, a spiritual bastion, where we are commanded from Heaven to stand guard as watch and ward. Can we take up the cry, 'Post No. I, all's well,' throughout our entire line? Oh, brother and comrade, is it well with thy soul?" This sally had an electrical influence upon the meeting.

Plucky Judge. Judge Willits, who presides over the case of Capt. John Teed in the Mock Trial says, that he was never in better spirits and expects to hold out to the close.

No. 3.

There is no sound that creates such an excitement and rush, as that which is occasionally heard in Libby-perhaps on an average of once per week - namely, "The Mail! the mail! "Whatever men are doing is instantly laid aside, and a scramble takes place generally to the upper west room, where one of our officers, perched upon a high beam above the crowd, reads aloud the addresses, and then flings the missive in the direction of the anxious response to the name. Every one hopes for a letter from the loved ones, a brief yet precious memento. Eagerly each listens for the calling of his name, though only a few out of the crowd are ever gratified with a message. The bustle of distribution over, each man regains his accustomed place, and an unusual quiet reigns throughout our dolorous abode. The disappointed are communing with their own thoughts, while others are busy with the words of their loved and distant ones. As we pass from ward to ward we easily learn, without inquiry, what kind of news has been received. Here a countenance glows with rapture over words of love and pleasant intelligence; there, hidden away as far as possible from the crowds, sometimes with face against the 'dirty wall, is one whose flowing tears fall upon the page that tells of ominous sickness or sorrowful death. Fain would he retire, as Joseph did from his brethren, to weep alone, unseen by any save Him who gives and takes away, and on whose bosom alone can tears be wiped from weeping eyes.

Grateful are we for the privilege we enjoy of writing occasionally to our friends, though the letters must necessarily be very brief and wonderfully limited in the range of the topics treated. They are carefully read in the Rebel office before they are forwarded to their destination. The same is true of incoming letters.

Scarcely less exciting than the mail is the cry of "Fresh fish." The arrival of a new batch of prisoners is a great event. Old comrades rush upon them to seize their hand and hear the news. They are really the only means of correct information about the state of things along at least a section of the lines of battle. They are besieged with questions, arid well-nigh suffocated by the rush around them. Most of these freshmen, however, stand this sort of "hazing" with plucky heroism, and are soon thereafter initiated into all the rights and privileges of Libby life.


I think of thee when morning light
    Comes struggling e'en to me,
When waking thoughts mar visions bright,
    I think of thee, I think of thee.

I think of thee when noon-tide bells
    Resound o'er wood and lea,
Sore pining in these prison cells,
    I think of thee, I think of thee.

When grim night's sable garments fill
    The azure, land and sea,
When the great pulse of earth is still,
    I think of thee, I think of thee.

As true as magnet turns to pole,
    And sparks toward heaven flee,
When seeks its rest my weary soul,
    I think of thee, I think of thee.

How sweet the bliss these thoughts afford,
    For thou dost think of me!
Naught can e'er break this two-fold cord,
    I think of thee, I think of thee.


The observance of due courtesy by those with whom we associate tends much to enhance the pleasures of social intercourse. It mitigates many of what may be termed the "small evils of life." It is indispensable that all persons should cultivate courteous manners, as it will be much more agreeable to themselves, than when they exhibit a rude, clownish, vulgar course of conduct.

But of all persons in the world who should cultivate a courteous spirit there are none upon whom it is more incumbent than upon military officers. Nothing is more revolting than to witness the owner of shoulder straps playing the vulgarian - indulging in any kind of obscenity. All such should be dismissed the service without benefit of clergy.


Loyalty is a principle which should be found in its perfection in the heart of every soldier. Citizens may feel the sentiment, and in quiet, peaceful life, may make great sacrifices in its behalf. The fathers and mothers and wives who lend their loved ones to the nation, and read, trembling, the sad list of the dead which follows a battle; the merchant whose life-time labors are in a moment lost by the convulsions of a state which wrestles with treason, but who has no sigh for his misfortune if only the country he saved, these furnish us lofty examples of loyalty. But to the soldier, in a more especial manner, is confided the glorious task of crushing the enimies of his country; and in the soldier the world expects to see a loyalty unspotted by any taint of treason-patient, self-sacrificing, unshaken in reverses, shining bright in defeat as in victory, meeting every calamity with calm, unchanging front. And to the end that the world be not deceived in its expectation, a soldier should devote himself exclusively to his profession of arms.

There is true philosophy in the feeling of contempt with which great armies have ever regarded mere traders. In the accumulation of wealth by bargain, there are many incidents which though honest, have a dubious appearance of trickery, at which a true soldier's mind revolts. In order to keep bright the standard of loyalty, which is his animating principle, he must avoid any pursuit which tends to lower the dignity of his profession, and must carefully exclude all motives of action of an order lower than this passion of loyalty. The trader works for gain, the soldier for glory and his country's welfare. Both are commendable, but essentially distinct. The one finds his highest duty in the battle-field, the other at his stall; and when the bugle summons the soldier to the fight, the blast is a knell to the hopes of the trader.

Nor is this all. The loyal soldier not only evinces courage, resolution, and even carelessness of life, if his duty requires its sacrifice, he must also have a sense of responsibility as the guardian of his country's honor so keen, so constant, that his vigilance would take alarm at the slightest approach of an enemy. No foe, however crafty, should be able to take him unaware. No guise of seeming friendship, no specious words, no covert overtures should for a moment lull into fancied security the guards that watch in the citadel of a soldier's honor.

Now, while there is no doubt that among the officers in Libby may be found many soldiers, who, if opportunity served, would display qualities of virtue and gallantry as bright as any among the heroes whom the world delights to honor, yet it is equally unquestionable that among, us have been found men who have lost - if they ever possessed - "The stuff of which heroes are made."

One young surgeon, whose loyalty was not sufficient for his needs, wrote a letter to the editor of the (Richmond) Sentinel, imploring him to "help a fellow-creature, who in turn would solemnly pledge himself to find and cherish the editor's Rebel song until (God willing) he could be restored to his father's home." And the chief surgeon of our hospital says, that this same officer was poltroon enough to offer to leave the Federal army if the Confederates would do something for him. But the Rebels didn't want the poor Judas, and he finds he has eaten dirt without advantage.

In a less reprehensible degree, but still with weakness that is inexcusable, an officer is found willing to testify to the "Kind and courteous treatment we have had from all the officers (Rebel) of this prison." Another hastens to express "the general sentiment of satisfaction which is entertained toward all the presiding officers of this prison." And two other Federal officers, speaking for themselves, added their meed of praise by "fully endorsing" the words of the others. When we consider that it is well established both in law and equity, that the principal is responsible for the acts of his agents, it is difficult to see how these expressions of esteem can be thought at all appropriate to the studied insolence and scorn with which the inspector (Dick Turner) treats Federal officers. It is hard to realize that the "urbane and attentive commissary" is the same who occasionally sends up ulcerated beef for prisoners' rations. But more wonderful than all is the spectacle of Federal officers hastening to lend to the numberless affronts, by which Rebels have shown their spite; the justification of a soldier's approval!
Then we daily see a Federal officer acting as lackey to Mr. Ross* (the hateful prison clerk), dressing the ranks, or adjusting the files for roll-call - in all respects evincing a desire to gain the favor of a very insignificant little Rebel, and by doing this, prostituting his abilities, and consenting to lose the respect of his follow-prisoners, who are thus outraged by the sight of a Federal officer voluntarily doing menial work for his jailors. And what is his reward? The Rebels must despise him, and he is simply doing gratuitously that which no money, nor privilege, not even the priceless boon of liberty could even tempt a loyal, high-minded, gentleman-soldier to do.

Oh! fellow-soldiers, let us be loyal, not only to our country, but to the grand idea of heroism which has come down to us through the ages! And be assured that the spirit we complain of had no hold on the hearts of those who fought at Thermopylae, or of those who gathered around Arthur's table, or who gave up friends and home and wealth to follow King Richard in his Crusades, and thought themselves repaid when counted worthy to die near Palestine! We can easily hate and crush the cowardly traitor-we must be more upon our guard against the spirit of faction in our midst, a spirit most insidious, and fatal to that unblemished honor which is the soldier's greatest glory and his chief reward.

* " Little Ross" was burned to death, with others, in the Spotswood house, Richmond, in 1873. 


Lieutenant Henry, from- Kentucky, relates that a few hours before the first battle in which his regiment was engaged he had a strange presentiment. He felt that he would be wounded during the battle, and putting his finger on his hip at the very spot indicated, he said to his comrades, " Boys, we are going into action, and I shall be struck right here:" Many made light of his remark, and took it as an indication that he was badly frightened or was joking. However, in the first volley from the enemy's musketry, a bullet came crashing through the very spot pressed under his finger tip. He shows the ugly scar to his fellow-prisoners.


God is love ! 'tis written plain upon the flowrets fair 
That shed their rich aroma upon the summer air; 
'Tis written on the giant oak, on the fragile flower, 
And mountain tops proclaim it as heavenward they tower.

'Tis written on old ocean's breast, on the river's tide, 
And on the verdant valley, extending far and wide; 
'Tis written on the azure clouds in heaven's dome above; 
The calm stars upon their throne proclaim that God is Love.


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