Samuel H. Root letter (24th Mass.) from USAMHI

Libby Prison
Richmond, Va
May 14th 1865

My Dear Wife.

Yours of the 7th inst was received a few days since but as I had written one letter that was then near to you thought I would wait over a short time. The events of the past few days have been of unusual interest to us & you may have seen in the papers that Dick Turner or Capt. Turner as he was called by the Rebs had left our domicil; he escaped from confinement the night of the 11th during a violent thunder shower & is supposed to be concealed in some house in the city by his friends. Libby stands on a side hill the basebement [?] is the whole above ground on the rear side of the building & is cut through by partitions into long rooms extending across the whole house (viz)

 

  The basement here shown in diagram is divided from front to rear into 3 rooms the center one has double cells with an alley between each cell is about 7 ft by 10 ft & can be used as one 14 by 10 or as 2 single ones. A window accomodates the 2 single cells & comes up by the side walk across the open window as there is no sash is strong 1 1/2 inch iron rods with some 4 in space between. Walking in front of the cells was a sentry in the basement & a gas light burning through the night, at either door on the side walk above on Cary Street was at each a sentry walking to wit at 5 & 6. Some time in the storm & the darkness of the night Dick Turner took out one of the iron rods & slipped through up on to the side walk & made off to parts unknown. The whole romance of the matter is that the rod he actually removed was wooden & white washed imitating the rest & he cut it off at the bottom. Among all the officers that have come, out of the hundreds that have visited the prison, none had known of this secret to tell us. The cell was at one time fixed for escape by our officers while here in confinement & this wooden rod put in, in place of an iron one removed & white washed after it was in place by the skill of some of our men, but [several words missing] their use of it as a way of escape [several words missing] remained until Dick in a lucky moment used his knife upon it. This was put in while Dick was in charge of the establishment & unbeknown to his scrutiny. Of course there was great consternation in the morning & sly glances cast by every detective in the city, but no tidings yet by Dick. He has been fed on very simple diet lately bread & water only & it thought that he cannot be able to bear great exertions in getting away. The officers here confined in the contiguous cells had dug a passage or tunnel from each to meet together under the alley so as to pass from other double cell, but had not got it to connect at the time of leaving, as will be seen by No. 7. No. 8 in the spot dug down & mined by the rebs to blow up the building if the cavalry raids made by Dahlgren & Kill Patrick should by chance get into the city. No. 9 is the opening of the famous tunnel hole made across under the street out into the yard under a shed where 130 of our officers passed out one night & 90 succeded in getting away to our lines. Hundreds visit these spots to view & take away some little memento of the place or building. The officers were confined on the 1st floor in the middle room & took up the brick fire place some 15 ft. back from No.6 & digging down passed through the brick partition into the basement landing in the outside room, then began the hole, carefully covering the earth removed under bales of hay & forage that was then in this room until the distance after many weeks was traversed & ready for use, then they passed out one at a time, letting the sentry just turn about to march back while they peeped out & as one fellow came to view he had just sung out 12 o'clock & all is well. We have a few more yet in charge & we look sharply to them since this escape. No crying of affectionate female friends will avail to let them in to visit them. I enclose you some rebel papers left in the building. Recipts given for money taken from the men & the promise given to calm their minds that it should be refunded when their

[Note: the obvious remainder of this letter not included].

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