From the Richmond Dispatch, 7 February 1888
Has Been Purchased by a Western Syndicate.
TO CHICAGO IT GOES.
It Will be Pulled Down and Re-erected in the Lake City.
To Carry It Out $200,000 to be Subscribed.
A FAMOUS BUILDING.
Interesting Historical Incidents in Connection With It.
ESCAPE OF COLONEL STREIGHT’S PARTY.
Removal of the Prisoners at the Time of the Evacuation, &c., &c., &c.
Libby Prison is to leave
Root and branch, roof and floor,
it is to be plucked up and carried to Chicago, there to be made the gaze and
show of the people of the West.
Brick by brick, timber by timber,
nail by nail, it will be taken down, and as this is done each piece will be
numbered, and the whole vast mass of material of this four-story structure
transported to Chicago, there to be re-erected. The undertaking is one of the
greatest on record, and Richmond loses one of her chieftest objects of interests
for northern tourists.
A Dispatch reporter some
years ago interviewed a number of hackmen as to what it was in Richmond that
most tourists first wished to see. The answer from nearly all was “Libby
Richmond has the finest
monumental pile of bronze and granite in the world; it has the oldest American
capitol and the oldest State records; it has within her limits the graves of
Chief-Justice Marshall, Monroe, Tyler, A. P. Hill, Stuart, and Pickett; it has
the church where Patrick Henry made his speech, “Give me liberty or give me
death”; it has the house where President Davis lived while he waged on of the
mightiest of modern wars; it has a thousand other important things that ought to
interest the man of mind – but the northern and western tourist above all wished
to see Libby Prison.
Hereafter they will not come to
Richmond – they will go to Chicago to see it.
HOW IT ALL CAME ABOUT.
Mr. Gray, who originated the
scheme, gives a Chicago reporter the following account of it:
“Last November,” said he, “when I
was traveling through Eastern Virginia with Judge Moor, of Toledo, we met on the
road to Old Point Comfort and Richmond Colonel Barnes, a former officer in the
Confederate army and at present engaged in the business of fruit growing on a
large farm near Richmond. In the course of a conversation on the events of the
war reference was made to the old Libby Prison, and it occurred to me that it
would be a good idea to purchase the building and transport it to Chicago. I
took Colonel Barnes into my confidence and asked him to ascertain if the
property could be purchased. Shortly after my return I received a letter from
Rawlings & Rose, real estate dealers in Richmond, stating that the old prison
was now the property of the Southern Fertilizing Company, and that it could be
purchased for $23,000. At my request Mr. John A. Crawford, the general
superintendent of the Chicago Towing Company, went to Richmond and looked over
the ground and investigated the possibility of moving the building. He returned
full of optimism for the enterprise. Some further correspondence with the real
estate firm mentioned resulted in their obtaining for me, an option for thirty
days on the property. The option cost just $50.
“The building is built out of red
brick, is three stories high, and is covered with an old-fashioned gable roof.
It fronts on Cary street and runs back almost to the dock, the first story in
the rear being the basement in the front. It was built in the good old-fashioned
substantial manner, which is a distinguishing feature of the plain architecture
of the South, and is as solid to-day as when erected over fifty years ago. It
contains about 600,000 bricks, stone caps, and sills, and is surrounded on three
sides by a stone sidewalk. I have consulted with the architects and they inform
me that it can be taken down, removed to this city, and rebuilt just as it
stands. We – that is, the company – propose to number every brick; stone and
shingle. The building will be taken down in sections, and the material will be
boxed up and transported by rail to Chicago. We will carefully draw every nail
that has not rusted away; we will bring on the mortar and use it as far as
possible in the rebuilding. Every beam, joist, door, and window will be set in
“What will the enterprise cost?”
“About $200,000. We will surround
it with another building 200 by 100 feet, with a glass roof, and on the wall
opposite the rear of the prison we will have painted a panoramic view of the
James river and the country beyond.”
“Where do you intend to place
“We have not determined. Some of
the exposition people favor tearing down the conservatory at the south end of
their building and giving us a site that will be convenient to the center of the
city and easy of access. We estimate that the cost will be divided in this way:
For the building, $28,000.
For tearing down and boxing, $10,000.
For freight, $10,000.
For reconstruction, $23,000.
For the site, $60,000
Inclosing building, $75,000
“If we cannot buy the lot in
Chicago we will lease. It is our intention to make an elaborate collection of
relics of the rebellion; in fact, make it a perfect museum. We will have
panoramic views of the engagement between the Monitor and the Merrimac and other
well known events of the war.”
“When do you expect to get to
“The contract for building will
be closed this month. We hope to get early possession of the old store of Libby
& Son and have this portion rebuilt in time for the Republican National
Convention next June. As soon after as is possible we will complete the
rebuilding of the remainder of the prison.”
“Will the Richmond people allow
you to move the building? Do they take any local pride in it?”
“I am informed that up to two
years ago, when the property came into the possession of the Southern
Fertilizing Company, the Richmond authorities had to keep a guard around it to
keep off the relic-hunters, who would have torn it to pieces. I am informed that
some of the Richmond people may kick, but it will do them no good.”
Josiah Cratty, one of the
corporators, in talking of the scheme, said: “It should be understood that there
is no idea of waving the ‘bloody shirt’ in this. It is simply a business
speculation for what there is in it.
THE REAL ESTATE AGENTS.
Messrs. Rawlings & Rose said
yesterday afternoon that the above statement is correct as far as they know. The
building is the property of the Southern Fertilizing Company, Colonel W. H.
Palmer president, and is now chiefly used for storage of fertilizers. It fronts
132 feet on Dock street and runs all the way back from Cary street to Dock
street – the latter being its tallest and chief front as, owing to the sloping
ground, it shows only three stories on Cary street, whereas it shows four
stories on Dock street.
Dock street separates it from the
dock – that is, the upper harbor of Richmond into which vessels are lifted from
James river by means of locks.
The only payment so far made is
$50 as an option, but Messrs. Rawlings & Rose have inquired into the
responsibility of Mr. Gray, and are satisfied that the sale is certainly made.
Negotiations were opened January
and were closed January 30th, but the Richmond agents felt in honor
bound to keep them a profound secret until Mr. Gray gave them liberty to reveal
The only person who has visited
Richmond is the Mr. Crawford who is mentioned above. He made no secret of the
purpose of the purchase.
The purchasers pay $23,300 for
the whole property – i.e., the lots of land and building thereon. The machinery
in the building is not sold. It comprises a complete outfit for manufacturing
Mr. Gray is the general manager
of the Knights Templars’ and Masons’ Life Indemnity Company of Chicago.
Messrs. Rawlings & Rose have
received a telegram closing the sale and asking that the titles be verified.
The novelty and greatness of this
undertaking is such that not a few people here find it difficult to believe that
the project can be a real one. Messrs. Rawlings & Rose, who are experienced
business-men, however, have no doubts at all about it, and the Chicago agent of
the Associated Press, who knows all the men in the syndicate, in his dispatches
yesterday gave full faith and credence to the statements of Mr. Gray and
Libby Prison is on Twentieth
street, east side, between Cary and dock.
Chicago is 950 miles form
Richmond – a pretty distance to move a four-story warehouse.
The warehouse known as Libby
Prison was erected about 1845 by John Enders, father of the present John Enders.
They may have been first used as tobacco-factories; subsequently the corner
house was occupied by Haskins and Libby, ship chandlers (Richard O. Haskins and
Charles Libby). Mr. Haskins was a prominent local Democrat, and Libby gave his
name to Libby’s Hill.
The Confederates used it mostly
to confine commissioned officers and for the reception and registration of
privates destined for Andersonville, Salisbury, and Belle Isle. In this way some
40,000 or 50,000 prisoners probably crossed its threshold. The office of the
commandant was at the northeast corner. From this prison in February, 1864, 109
prisoners, led by Colonel Streight, managed to escape. They got into the
basement and tunneled under the east wall into the premises adjoining used for
stable and storage purposes. More than half of them were recaptured.
When the Federals possessed
themselves of the city in April, 1865, they caused the arrest of a great number
of “obnoxious” Confederates and kept them confined in the Libby. Colonel Robert
Ould, Confederate Commissioner for the Exchange of prisoners, and Major Isaac H.
Carrington, Confederate Provost Marshal of the city, were two of the prominent
officers thus confined, and there they formed the co-partnership in law of the
afterwards famous firm of Ould and Carrington.
Two regiments of Local militia,
Colonels Thomas J. Evans and ______ Danforth, and the Twenty-fifth battalion of
local troops (in which was the company of Captain L. L. Bass) guarded the Libby
Prison, Castle Thunder, Belle Isle, &c.
The commandant of the prison was
Major Thomas P. Turner and the adjutant was Lieutenant John Latouche.
Removal of the Prisoners at the Evacuation.
A recent writer, who signed
himself “Carter,” and who was connected with one of the flag-of-truce boats,
recently contributed the following, descriptive of the events of Evacuation Day,
to a city paper:
That there was something wrong
was evident to a casual observer; so after a late breakfast, I sauntered into
the office of the Exchange Bureau to learn if there were any orders for us. I
asked no questions, as the officer gave me no time, but intimated that I would
do well to get to my work, and that “pretty d. q.” Hurrying past the Libby I
found the inmates were being quietly filed out, while in front of the building
there stood in line a body of some 500 prisoners just brought over from the
Petersburg lines. Their speedy transit back to their own lines must have been a
surprise to them; indeed they were not for one hour regularly prisoners. Their
bright uniforms contrasted strangely with the thousand or more of their
compatriots who had for many weeks or months known the luxuries that a prisoner
of war had to put up with.
* * *
There were in all perhaps some
sixteen hundred officers and men, although no rolls were furnished.
Of this large body the William
Allison (Captain Gifford) took some thirteen hundred, while a smaller craft, the
W. W. Townes, commanded by Captain Cunningham, received the remainder. [These
two boats then comprised the entire force available for transportation, the A.
H. Schulta, commanded by Captain D. J. Hill, having been blown up some few weeks
before by one of our own torpedoes as she was returning from Coxe’s wharf, where
she had landed three hundred Federal prisoners, but luckily brought back no
Confederates in return.]
On our boat, the Allison, were
some fifty or more Federal officers, from lieutenants to major-generals. I was
repeatedly asked by persons of this party the reason why no paroles had been
exacted of them. Not considering it my duty to ask questions or answer them, I
replied in each case that a new system of exchange had been adopted by which the
entire body would be paroled after landing.
Our little fleet landed at
“Boulware’s” or “The Graveyard,” and a small force of colored cavalry were soon
alongside. Through their officer communication was soon established, and General
J. E. Mulford, the Federal exchange officer, came on board, repairing to the
captain’s room, where he was for some time closeted with Judge Ould and Captain
Hatch. During this interview we were quietly marching our passengers ashore, and
in a very short time all were landed without the slightest mishap and were soon
on the march for the camp of their own army, perhaps one mile away.
The day was waning. The guns from
the Howlett-House batteries were “lumbering,” but knowing the sacredness of the
truce flag we felt no uneasiness and yet this heavy firing gave proof enough
that something “out of common” was afoot, as never before had the bellowing of a
gun been heard while these exchanges were in progress.
* * *
Our prisoners were all ashore and
en route for “the haven where they would be.” Hauling in our slight plank, we
cast off, and headed for Richmond, the red artillery from the Howlett batteries
still heavily booming. Within six hours their heavy guns were dismantled, their
implements cast down the bluff, while the gallant garrison had commenced its
weary retreat, ending with Appomattox.
Just below Drewry’s Bluff, in
fact almost abreast of Chaffin’s Bluff, lay our three ironclads – the
Fredericksburg, the Virginia, and the __________. On our downward trip they were
quiet enough, and no sign was given to any one of our hostile passengers that
the end was at hand.
But returning the scene had
changed. Moored as they were forward and aft they had succeeded in breaking out
their anchors, and having cut away all their outriggers (fixed to repel hostile
drifting torpedoes) these three ponderous “rams” were, with their utterly
insufficient engines, doing their best against a strong ebb tide to work their
way up to the formidable river barricades at Drewry’s Bluff, at which point they
were to be blown up. Only one, the Fredericksburg, got that far, and she by the
aid of a hawser sent from our boat.
Turning her adrift, we steamed
straight for Richmond. Night had shut down on us, but the gibbous moon lent
ample light; for, be it remembered, we had then no regulation lights, no channel
buoys; indeed, nothing to us up the deadly perils of James river save the level
head and steady eye of such as Gifford and Cunningham. *
[Dispatch, March 27, 1883.]
The name of “A. D. Streight,
Indianapolis,” appeared upon the register of Ford’s Hotel Saturday night and
denoted the presence here of a gentleman who created a great stir in Richmond
during the war, for he was the leader of the band of officers who in February,
1864, tunneled out of the Libby, but less than half of whom, after overcoming
great difficulties, reached the Federal lines.
Colonel Streight (now General
Streight) stayed here till yesterday morning, when he left for Washington. On
Sunday he was busy renewing his acquaintance with Richmond localities. He
visited Miss Van Lew’s residence, and the old Libby and other places of interest
to him, and was full of talk of his recollections of Richmond in other and to
him less favored days.
The Streight movement from the
Libby was executed by the prisoners getting into the basement of the building
and tunneling under or through the eastern wall. After that they had only to get
out of the old warehouse adjoining.
The matter of the greatest difficulty was to escape
out of the Confederate lines and many were recaptured and returned to the
Colonel Streight is about fifty
years of age and has grown quite stout. His face is round and his appearance
that of a man who has a good-natured and popular sort of bluffness. This visit
to Richmond was the second of his life. His first was when he was brought here
from Rome, Ga., where he was captured and incarcerated in the Libby.
He was fortunate enough not to
fall into the hands of the newspaper-men, but he was chatty enough with others.
It seems that he and others had
been told by some one who was allowed access to them that if ever they got out
of the prison to enquire at the house of a certain named colored woman in the
neighborhood and she would guide them to friends. After getting out of the
Libby, Colonel Streight and three brother officers sought for this colored
woman, but having misunderstood their direction they lost their way, and had to
come back nearly to the place from which they started, and started over again.
When they at last found the woman she promptly went off and brought to them a
lady (now and for a long time employed in a department at Washington), who
undertook to pilot them to a place of safety. This was about 10½
o’clock at night. Going up town – the fugitives walking two and two – they
passed by a saloon where there were some twenty Confederate soldiers drinking
They walked past the door at a
pretty good pace, but not quite quick enough for one of the men, bareheaded, ran
out and caught the Colonel by the arm. The Colonel admits that his heart went
down to the region of his boots. But to his great relief, the soldier said:
“Mister, can’t you go in there and make them give me my hat?” With as much
unconcern as he could muster, but with trembling lips he replied that he was in
a great hurry, and that he would rather give him half a dozen hats than to be
stopped, and so he walked off. The soldier had probably taken him for a
SECRETED IN RICHMOND.
Having reached the place of
safety which the lady had provided, they went into retirement, and so remained
for seven days and nights.
They had long been in prison,
were sick and weak, and this rest was as welcome on that account as to allow the
excitement in the city over their escape to subside.
These friends provided them with
food and revolvers, and they left Richmond late on night, and with full
information as to the route they should follow, departed by way of the Brook
turnpike, and subsequently followed the Fredericksburg railroad as closely as
they dared. Their purpose was to reach the Potomac, secure a boat, and cross the
river into their own lines.
THIRTEEN DAYS ON
This object they accomplished
after thirteen days of privation and suffering.
The man who owned the boat did
not wish to take them across, but they threatened him so that he was compelled
to furnish them with the aid they required.
At that time there was a good
deal of blockade-running across the Potomac, and the Confederate cavalry were
scouring the country to break it up, and on one occasion they came near
capturing these fugitives.
A NEW STORY.
This story of their escape from
Richmond is somewhat different from the one that has long prevailed here. The
Colonel gave as the party who sheltered him one whose name has never heretofore
been mentioned generally among Richmond people in this connection – [a Mr.
Quarles, a northern man, since deceased, who lived on Twelfth street, in easy
stone’s throw on President Davis’s house.]
Colonel Streight is now largely
engaged in the lumber trade in the West, and having business in Washington he
concluded to come over the Chesapeake and Ohio railroad via Richmond, intending
to revisit the scenes of his imprisonment; of his escape from the hatless
soldier; of his seven-days’ confinement in the house of friends, and of his
setting forth on his journey on the Brook road – all of which he was no doubt
able to do satisfactorily on Sunday.
A Union Agent
in Libby Prison.
[Colonel D. D. Parker, July, 1883.]
“Miss Van Lew got young Ross, a
nephew of Franklin Stearns, the rich Unionist of Richmond, appointed to an
office in Libby Prison. Ross helped a great many of our officers to escape from
that horrible place, and so well did he play his part that not only was he not
suspected by the Confederates, but the most of our boys in the prison who did
not escape considered him one of the most brutal of their jailers, and when the
end came would have been very glad to put an end to him. Several years ago I met
Captain Lounsbery, who had been confined in Libby, and he asked me about Ross,
who died several years ago. [He was burnt up in the Spottswood Hotel.] Lounsbery
said that one afternoon Ross came into the prison as usual to call the roll,
cursing the d- Yankees, and as he passed him said in a low tone, ‘Be in my
office at 9:30 to-night.’ Lounsbery did not know what to make of this, but he
determined to find out what it meant. To his surprise he had no difficulty in
getting to the office past several guards. Once there he found Ross, who
gruffily said : ‘See here, I have concluded to try you and see if you can do
cooking. Go in there and look around. See what you can find, and I will see to
your case after awhile.’ Lounsbery went into a back room, where he found a
Complete Confederate uniform hanging over a chair. He took in the situation
instantly, and donned the uniform as speedily as possible and walked back into
the office, which he found vacant, and stepped out into the street. The guard
did not stop him, and he had walked only a few steps from the door when a black
man accosted him and asked if he desired to find the way to Miss Van Lew’s
house. He replied that he did, and was guided to her residence, on Church Hill,
where he was secreted until an opportunity was found to get him out of Richmond.
He got off safely and came into our lines.
Colored Guides for Escaped Prisoners.
“Miss Van Lew kept two or three bright, sharp
colored men on the watch near Libby prison, who were always ready to conduct an
escaped prisoner to a place of safety. Not all of them were secreted at her
house – for there were several safe places of refuge in Richmond supported by
her means. When Colonel Streight, of Indiana, and his companions dug their way
out of Libby, he and several of his comrades were secreted for several days in
the house of a man named Quarles, which was situated across a ravine only a few
hundred yards from and in full view of the mansion occupied by Jefferson Davis.
But Miss Van Lew was the guiding spirit, and she it was who took upon herself
the dangerous duty of providing means of maintenance and escape for such of our
men as were so fortunate as to escape from the horrible walls of Libby.”
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