From the Charleston Mercury, 9/20/1864
Last fall Major John C. Maynard,
Quartermaster of this post, having need of a great number of shoes for the
negroes employed in his department, determined to utilize some of the Yankee
skill lying idle in the Libby. He fitted up a shoe shop at the Government stable
yard on Navy Hill, and procuring forty odd shoemakers from among the Yankee
prisoners at the Libby, who were willing to practice their trade during their
captivity, set them to work. These men have made all the shoes and boots
required by the Quartermasterís Department in Richmond, and done besides a vast
amount of work for our army and for citizens. The quality of work turned out at
this establishment is very superior to any done in the Confederacy. The Yankees
here employed are so delighted with their condition as to be unwilling to be
exchanged; they desire nothing better than to live as they are till the end of
the war. They are well fed and comfortably lodged and clothed. The report of
their happy condition having spread among the prisoners at the Libby and on
Belle Isle, the artisans of all kinds among them have become anxious to be
similarly employed at their respective trades.
The question presents itself,
could not this disposition on the part of these prisoners be turned to the
advantage of our cause? We want men in the field, while thousands of our best
troops are detailed to perform necessary labor in our workshops. Cannot the
mechanics among the prisoners be put in the places of our detailed artisans in a
number of trades, and the detailed men sent to the field? The Yankee prisoners,
feeling now that all hope of an exchange has been extinguished by Butlerís
letter, will be more anxious than ever to be relieved from the life wearing
idleness and monotony of prison life. The subject is worthy the serious
attention of Government.
Major Maynardís experiment
demonstrates that they can be employed to good purpose and without danger.
During the ten months that he has had forty at his shoe shop, a relief of only
three men has been required to guard them, and no case of misconduct has
occurred. The threat to send them back to the Libby has proved sufficient to
keep them in order.
We may mention in this connexion
that Major Maynard, with the assent of the authorities, has it in contemplation
to enlarge his establishment and increase his number of Yankee workmen to one
hundred or over. Should this plan be carried out, it is to be hoped that a good
deal of work will be done for citizens. The rates now charged for shoes by
shoemakers in this city put these absolutely necessary articles beyond the
reach of the poor.