From the National Tribune, 4/30/1903

Libby and Belle Isle.

EDITOR NATIONAL TRIBUNE: I can fully corroborate the statements of Capt. Beecham and Comrade J. W. Rodgers, 123d Ohio, regarding the horrors of Libby and Belle Isle. I was one of the party with Comrade Rodgers who smashed the locked door of Libby Prison and liberated the prisoners who were in imminent danger of losing their lives in burning Richmond. The scenes were harrowing in the extreme. The helpless inmates of the prison were apparently forsaken - all hope gone. Serving in the 3d W. Va., I was captured, April 8, 1864. My experience was similar to that of others - marched through rain and mud, with little to eat and broken rest at night. It is the same old story of suffering and indignities endured. In Libby we were stripped in the presence of old Gen. Winder. While the other boys were undergoing the stripping process, I backed against the office door and surreptitiously abstracted the key and slipped it into my pocket. Of course, the key was useless to me. I simply wanted to annoy old Winder and his myrmidons. When they raised the trap door of the second floor preparatory to ushering us into the presence of those prisoners who “had gone before,” we were greeted with the cry, “Fresh fish!” The stench coming from that hole was sickening and overpowering. When we entered it was dark, the solid windows being nailed down. The place was so crowded that I could scarcely find room to lie down.

When transferred to Belle Isle I came in contact with the “wicked old Doctor,” At “sick call,” the unsympathetic Esculapian gruffly asked, “What’s the matter with you?” I told him that I had fever. “Nothing of the kind,” said he; “there’s nothing whatever the matter with you.” Of course, I knew I was sick, if that adamantine “practitioner” didn’t.

One Summer day a smooth-faced boy, so sick that he ought to have been in the hospital, sat with me all day long by the stockade, without a mouthful to eat, the fierce rays of a hot sun beating upon us the while. About sundown a gentlemanly officer approached us and said: “You sick boys must go to the hospital. The boat is waiting. Come along.” The mere presence of that gentlemanly fellow had an exhilarating effect upon our depressed spirits. He was an infinitely better physician than the “wicked Doctor.” When we were near the other shore, several shots were fired, apparently at us, from an old mill. Letting the boat drift toward the shore, the officer turned and fired a few shots at the window whence he supposed the hostile shots had come. When we landed some young girls met us and with inquiring eyes viewed our “ragged regimentals.”

I witnessed the “bread riot” in Richmond. A red-headed woman marched in front of the crowd, crying “Bread or blood!” That woman and her followers were aware that in a great warehouse on Ferry street, within sight of Libby Prison, were stored immense quantities of provisions, while the poorer citizens and the soldiers were  in a state of semi-starvation. When the city was being evacuated and pandemonium reigned supreme, the whisky stored in the warehouse was emptied on the street, filling a cellar and flooding the sewer. - WM. H. SHRIVER, CO. C, 3d W. Va., and Co. F, 6th W. Va. Cav., Randall, W. Va.


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