From the National Tribune, 6/2/1892
and Divided Among Comrades Without Detection.
EDITOR NATIONAL TRIBUNE:
In 1863-’64 the lower east room in the old tobacco
warehouse known as Libby Prison was occupied by about 70 Union prisoners of war
(all wounded), of whom the writer was Commissary - that is, he divided the
cornbread as equally as he could. It was baked about half an inch in thickness,
and I gave each man a piece two by four inches, as near as possible. Capt.
Calhoun was my messmate. While we were eating our pieces of cornbread he
suggested that, after the prisoners were asleep and quietude prevailed, we take
up the floor over the stairway that led to the cellar or basement and go down in
search of something to eat. We had noticed a few weeks before some barrels being
put in there, and about 11 o’clock that night we commenced to take up the
floor, and with the aid of a piece of an ax we succeeded in getting to the
cellar in a short time. We were, from the result of gunshot wounds, both walking
We found some barrels in the cellar, and, after smelling
around the chimes of one of the barrels we detected the smell of the flour it
contained, which set us both frantic, for we had not tasted wheat bread for many
months. As we rolled the barrel to the bottom of the stairs we were very much
frightened by a noise at the back end of the basement, being afraid that we had
been apprehended in our undertaking. We were too weak to endure a cell two by
six feet for six to eight weeks. It may be rats, we thought; but it was
Streight’s men tunneling out.
We could not lift the barrel, so we called on Lieut.
Massie, who had only a slight wound, an had only been in prison two days, and by
his aid we succeeded in getting the flour upstairs into the room. What would we
do with it now was the question, for we could not conceal the whole barrel of
flour, consequently we decided to divide it among the inmates. We commenced at
the north end of the room and woke them up two at a time. Many of them would
tear off their shirt-sleeves, tie up one end and fill them with flour. After it
was divided, we broke up the staves, put them in the stove and burned them, and
washed up every particle of flour that happened to drop on the floor. It was 4
o’clock a.m. when we had our work completed. Flour at that time was worth
several hundred dollars in Confederate money in Richmond.
Now, if Lieut. Massie, Capt. Calhoun or any of the
prisoners of war who shared the barrel of flour should see this, let us hear
from them. The writer was shot in the instep. - N. W. HAYES, Lieutenant, 34th
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