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tv   The Civil War Civil War PO Ws Libby Prison  CSPAN  October 23, 2022 2:00pm-3:11pm EDT

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good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. my name is caitlin. i'm the lead park ranger here at andersonville. historic site. welcome. i have the distinct pleasure of introducing our presenter today, so is the distinguished professor of and aaron fogelman research professor at lynn university in florida. he has published over 40 books, several of which won awards. and the latest, which is escape about libby prison in richmond, virginia, which will we be talking about today? so please welcome dr. robert watson and thanks, caitlin. so, first of all, thank you to andersonville national historic site and the national civil war, national prisoner of war museum. thanks, caitlin and charles and the entire staff today, september 16th, which is national. am i a recognition day, which is
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a day that is recognized? it established by congress third friday in september to honor those who served sacrificed suffered as well as those that have not yet come home. so it's fitting, i suppose, all together proper that we're here at andersonville to talk about one of the worst prisons in history on p.o.w. national p.o.w. and mia recognition day, andersonville course is the most infamous prison in american history. it was only open for around 14 months. february 1864, until the end april of 1865 of the civil war only open around months, yet approximately 45,000 union prisoners came through here and roughly 13,000 union prisoners here. do the math making the worst, most infamous, notorious in american history. absolutely. we're not talking about
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andersonville, but we're talking about another prison not as bloody, but perhaps more important even than andersonville politically to the civil war and to the future of this country. the war. first off, i don't know about all of you, but i love prison escape. i think we all do. right and i put some of my favorites up here. papillon, cool hand, luke great film, shawshank redemption, the book and film, absolute instant classics, the count of monte cristo might be my book and my favorite movie. so a lot of great prison escape movies. there's something about being in prison and escaping that makes it irresistible. our story today is even more so because it's folks who were probably that were innocent, i should say. we're innocent. and they escaped from a prison that was said to be escape proof. whenever they say a prison escape proof, someone's going to escape from it. here's a few. the most famous prison escapes in history to the top of the
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screen, i wrote father girard, his tower of london escape back in the late 1590s. he was a catholic priest, and at the time, britain going back and forth as they so often between the protestants and the catholics he was on the wrong side rule. he was a catholic. he was also very politically, very vocal, very popular, very charismatic. so he's arrested and he's put in the tower of london. he's in there for years, not is in the tower of london, but he's tortured, he's burned. they break hands one thing after another. he's so charismatic. however, the guards fall under his spell and they appear that they helped him to escape. they get word out to his supporters and they string rope actually down from the tower and across the river. and he escapes. before he escapes, he tells the guards, look, you need to escape with me. otherwise they're going to think you're complicit. and that's the end of so they escape with him and he eluded
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capture napoleon. his escape from elba. so the emperor after the napoleonic wars, europe is captured and is sent to an island. elba only napoleon would be able to negotiate, to be given an island rather than a prison for. his imprisonment, what did he at the island of elba? he reconstructs the island. he trains the locals infrastructure, builds ports, builds roads, takes over the island, essentially even has them build a port and build ships. and then after some, he hops on one of them and escapes. he returns to power. but after 100 days, he's defeated he meets his waterloo and he's sent back to prison exile. so 100 days, that's where we get the notion, the way of 100 days after president events, first hundred days, because in napoleon's 100 days on the left, i have picture of john dillinger arguing america's most notorious
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criminal dillinger, just a host of crimes across, the country he's imprisoned indiana. and he manages to escape by making a fake gun and overpowering the guards. now, if you're the most wanted person in the country and you managed escape. you lay low not dillinger. he went on a crime. he's eventually gunned down and killed. stalag luft three, that's on the right part of the screen. this was the great movie, the great that a lot of you have probably seen. if you're movie buffs, it's a true story. during nazi germany when 70 some allied managed to dig three tunnels under the prison and escape tragically all but about three were recaptured and killed. so it's a large prison break, a legendary prison break hours that we're going to talk about today was an even larger prison break. long before the great escape, and it was a similar type of
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escape that they would build a tunnel on the course escape from alcatraz, a famous film based on a real story, the anglin brothers and frank morris. the three of them escaped from alcatraz, which was said to be escape proof when managed to make some sort of primitive tunnel out and if anybody's been to alcatraz, it's in the middle. the bay around san francisco, water is cold, rough, shark infested. they were never heard of again. did they make it or not? we still don't know. so those are some great prison escapes in history. we're going here to talk about prisons. and prisoners of war in, the civil war. so, first off, some of vitals, the textbook number always given is that hundred and 20,000 americans perished in the civil war. that's a shocking number. recent scholarship. most civil war historians today are now pushing that number up around 700,000. so this is, if anything, a
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conservative estimate which accounts for about 2% of the population. if we extrapolate that today. that would mean millions of people dying in a war today just to give some comparative sense of that single battles gettysburg over 50,000 casual these in just three days and that small farming community and and southern pennsylvania over 50,000 casualties and just three days also for comparative purposes three southern states and four union states. alabama, the north carolina and virginia as well as illinois, ohio, york and pennsylvania. each of states loses over 30,000 of its sons. each one lost over 30,000, which basically means every family, every town knew someone that was lost during the war. so talk about it coming home in a powerful way and, number and a statistic, i guess an event that it doesn't make enough textbooks over 30,000 colored troops
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perished during the war, as was the case with virtually every war before it, including the american revolution, war of 1812, mexican-american more men died from disease than died in combat because of the primitive of medicine. at the time, the primitive state medicine and the prisons were just atrocious. i put some numbers up there just to show you the totals. the top line, the number that we lost in the civil war. the second line is world war two. the third line is world war one. so what you can see there is we lost more men in the civil war than we did world war one and world war two put together for comparative. the other lines are vietnam, the mexican war, all the way down the revolution, war of 1812, the gulf war. we lost more men in the in the civil war than we did all those early wars put together by a factor of several. in fact, more men perished prisons during the civil than
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total in combat all those other wars put together early wars in american history. the prisons charnel houses. this is the famous photograph from here in andersonville. we're doing the speech today. the prisons were charnel houses over. 400,000 soldiers were in prison. soldiers and sailors were in prison during the civil war. civil war? that's a shocking number, 400,000 of which 56 over 56,000 died in prison. those are numbers higher than our total casualties in korea, equal to vietnam, just in prisons during the civil. why was the prison death toll so high during the civil war? neither side was prepared. the civil war, therefore they weren't prepared for the number of prisoners they would get. both sides thought this thing would be over very quickly. prominent politicians in the north and south newspapers in the north and south said it would last about a month. the north said we have the
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advantage of what i call the three m's. more men money and manufacturing. therefore this thing will be over quickly. the south said we have the advantage a better generals, which they did. therefore thing will be over quickly. even lincoln at one point had a 90 day draft, assuming this war will be over in about three months, so neither side was prepared for it. therefore they did not have wardens trained prison enough prisons, medicine, food or anything else they would need. and of course it starts after manassas if from the south or bull run, if you're from the north all of a sudden hundreds and, thousands of prisoners are coming in and neither side was prepared for it. so the numbers were just shockingly high. a larger percentage of northern prisoners died in southern prisons than southern prisoners in northern prisons in because the south ran out food, ran out of medicine, ran out of clothing. if you don't have enough food and medicine for your your own
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troops and your own population, you're sure as heck not going to prioritize the prisoners and consequently here at andersonville and elsewhere, many soldiers died from i hear diarrhea and dysentery for a lack of health, but also simply neglect and starvation, which were found. and a number of prisons. here's an image of andersonville since we're here today, the image top is well known to anybody that's read about the civil war or had a class in american history. it gives you a sense of just how grotesque, overcrowded this place was started as of 16.5 acre prison built for a few thousand soldiers. they ended up having to expand it by several acres. 45,000 soldiers came through this, thousands at any one time or here basically, an arm's length of room per soldier, per prisoner. so just grotesque overcrowding. adding in the bottom is the recreation on the grounds of what this look like.
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so andersonville wasn't even a prison a lot of southern prisons were not prisons they were stock arcades that where you would put cows perhaps just a wall therefore the prisoners were subject to the elements the heat, the cold, the rain, insects, vermin and forth and so on. here's the prison we're going to talk about today, it was known as the libby prison technical name was confederate prison number one, not very exciting as the prisoners called it, the best steel of the confederacy. it was arguably the most high profile prison in the entire confederacy. why the bastion of the confederacy? it was located in richmond, which was the capital of the confederacy. the first capital was montgomery, alabama, but it was moved very quickly up to richmond, which made much more sense. richmond was bisected by several roads, several railways and an important river. the james river. so it was the bastion.
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secondly, the south centralized its prisoner population by that i mean, this any prisoner anywhere in the war was first brought to richmond and brought to libby from they'd be sent to other prisons in the process. so everybody walked through libby at one point or another. the prisoners also it the castle of despair or just simply rat hell or hell. why was it called libby? it had been owned by fellow named george libby from maine. and there was a sign hanging on the side of it. you can see the white horizontal in the middle of the prison. there it libby and son and when the confederacy made it a prison, they never took the sign down. so everybody just called it libby. the tent surrounded the tents for the the guards. the guards did not want to stay inside side or too close to the prison because of the smell of death, human feces and, everything else, just grotesque smell from the prison.
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you can see that it's three warehouses. it's connected. four stories tall on the water side, which is the back side, three stories, stories tall on. the land side behind it is the canal in, the james river. the james river runs miles or so southeast by williams byrd. access to the chesapeake bay, which means the atlantic and so on. here's the water side of the prison. it was built in 1852 by a fellow named john enders, and he wanted it to be tobacco warehouses as, of course, the tobacco, virginia, north carolina and this area of richmond today is known as tobacco row. so tobacco was a rich export. so this would be warehouses for tobacco took enders years to finish it right when he finishing it, he fell off of a ladder and fell to his death. so it passed these warehouses pass to the husband of his of
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his daughter. and then that man dies and quickly and in a passage, someone else who dies and someone else dies. so it gets the image of being cursed or haunted. so nobody wants to use this facility curse. they're haunted. so they sold it to a fellow from maine, libby, george and luther is george and his son. so came down and they operated it as a chandler array. a chandler is like a warehouse or for ships so if you're a boat pull up behind it as in the picture and they have tar sails nailed woods yeah wood masts whatever you need. so it was like a warehouse, a chandler for ships and luther libby operated it. luther and george operated it until the civil war started. then it was confiscated by the confederacy and they were put in prison. so i mentioned earlier that it was the central receiving for
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all prisons. here's actually one of the rooms. this is one of the rooms. so there were several rooms like this, about 100 and some feet by about 50 feet low. and as you noticed there were no bunks, no accommodation, no toilet, no nothing. it was just open warehouse space. so the men slept on the floor. they slept on the hard floor, the windows open, which meant when it rained or snowed or was cold, bugs came in. so they dealt with the elements that particular way it was crowded. you'd a thousand men in a room. it so crowded that the only way the men sleep without being piled on top of one another, there was enough room to lie down. what they would do is buy companies. they would lie side by side by side. spooning like newlyweds, and they would all spoon pots and kept them warm in the winter and. in every hour the commanding officer would yell, you know, okay, company, whatever, spoon
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left and. they'd all roll over an hour later, spoon again. it kept everybody warm. it allowed them to have space to lie down and they were down to skin and bones, literally skin and bones lying on a hard floor. so by rolling over it spared your body. it kept the blood a little bit. the guards yell at every hour or 3:00 and all's well 4:00 and all's well. and after they yelled at, the commander of each unit got up and okay, spoon left, spoon right. and that's the only way that they could sleep. when you are processed at libby, a couple of things happened. the trains or the wagons or whatever brought you to richmond. they would bring you to the train station. then you had to walk down a street, which was a gantlet, the main street to get the libby local folks would line up on either side and throw garbage professor x come up and sucker punch hit someone with a piece of wood as. the prisoners are walking down the street. there were yells to shoot everybody sight. so it scared the you know what
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out of the prisoners. plus if you were a union soldier in 1862. you heard libby and knew that if you went to libby, if you were an officer, there's only one way out and that's horizontal a box. so libby had this reputation of, like, you know, the boogeyman, i guess you could say, so that sitting around a campfire at night, you surely heard stories. so imagine the fear walking down that street, knowing where were going. and when you got the libby, you looked and in the windows you saw skeletal faces looking out at you. and some of the guards would say, there, that's your future, that's you. so you saw the skeletal faces staring at you when you arrived at libby three things happened. you were robbed. you were not fed, then you were beaten. so men that went upstairs, many did in that many didn't have a jacket. many were stripped down. so you were freezing and you had no possessions as the south ran out of clothing and all around
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rich men, everybody wore blue union jackets. so the first thing that was prized jackets, second boots, and later when some the prisoners escaped, one of the things they thought was a bit comical is if they did have any blue, they blended in because everybody in richmond wore blue because they were out of clothing, out of boots. i meanness, with all due respect, because written a book on the holocaust but you know, there were all these gruesome sayings on certain camps like work will set you free, right? sort of haunting. libby had a saying from inferno, all hope abandoned ye who enter here. so welcome to libby. so it was the first prison. there were several things in libby that that were alarming. one were the turner brothers are turner's. they weren't related but they both had the name the guy with the beard. on the left is -- turner. a big bear of a man. and guy on the right is thomas
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turner. the opposite? a very, very small, frail fellow. -- turner was the assistant, and he terrorized men because he was just so physically powerful. thomas turner, the little terrorized men because he was utterly devoid of any sense of humanity. he got his out of seeing man dead. he was known to with a boot crush, a man scowl or kick him in the head, things of that effect. and i put quotes up there from the union soldiers, and many of them said that one of the few things that kept them alive was dreaming of catching thomas turner alone one day. because what they were going to do to him. so the wardens were quite brutal individuals. here we go. that's -- turner in basement the dungeon. so these three warehouses was a dungeon and that's and there was solitary confinement down there. so that's him standing at the cell. so few did anything wrong or even at one of the turners wrong. you were in solid mary down there in the dungeon.
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now that may not sound too bad, but the dungeon was filled with rats, so many rats that the prisoners, of course, they don't have boots. they as you as if as they tried to through the dungeon, it was impossible to walk through the dungeon without stepping on every step. literally thousands to them. also, a sewage system by there. so it was often a couple of inches of raw sewage. so imagine the smell and feces and how unhealthy it was to be in the dungeon. two things about libby that set it apart that i thought were the two most alarming aspects this story. one is propaganda. all governments use propaganda. all cultures use propaganda, but the confederate government use libby as propaganda. they basically encourage the four newspapers in richmond and other papers around the south, the publish and write about how many men were dying and how horrifying it was. they didn't to hide it. they wanted to broadcast it. they thought his word got out.
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it would it would scare and therefore, union officers from wanting to fight against them. it was used as propaganda, plus libby was reserved for high officers, so enlisted folks would go to one prison. but if you're a major colonel, a general, you went to libby. so by having all these colonels and generals and libby, it gave the impression that the confederacy was winning the war. because look at all these generals and colonels that we have. so they use it for propaganda both externally to scare the you know what, out of the union officers and internally to give southerners the sense that they were in fact winning the war. it was also nicknamed libby zoo. they actually gave tours of the prison so prominent folks would walk through and they'd say, oh, there's colonel so-and-so from gettysburg and there's the famous general so-and-so from whichever. and the prisoners felt completely, you know,
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dehumanized and they were disgusted that they put like animals in a zoo by being laughed at and and held their. so how did men stay alive? if you look at the picture i have there, it looks different than the first picture. one of the things that confederates did and the union did in their prisons to prevent people from escaping, they would paint the bottom half of it white that way night. if you're walking along your you know, your shadow stands out anyways. these are some of the things men did to try to stay alive. one is the lice see them, you know, plato and aristotle created the academy and the lyceum. perhaps the first institutions of higher learning and western civilization. well, they had their version of the lyceum, but because there were so many lice inside it, they called the lice. see now because they were high ranking officers. there were university administrators and professors from harvard and elsewhere there
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were playwrights. there were actors, there were composers. all inside libby. so they put on shows, they reenacted shakespeare, they had classes in german, latin, greek, various languages. there were classes on theology, classes on everything in their new on the new art of photography, even though they didn't have cameras inside, they would explain it. so the prisoners would amuse themselves by all putting on classes and attending classes. the problem was they had to do it quietly. so they sang, but they sang in a whisper. they acted out. but everybody had to lean in because they were too loud. the guards would come up and bayoneted people or beat people. they produced their own newspaper called, the libby chronicle. if somebody managed to steal some paper and put it inside, they wrote really small. and then each man get up and read a section of it or. if you had news and nothing to write with or on, you would just get up and talk about it. so they had a newspaper fellow named beaudry canady and then to
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main, he was the editor of the newspaper, and when he was exchanged a prisoner exchange, they all the men collected all the papers that he had released and. they put him inside his undergarments and the guards didn't check him. so he left with all the papers and later them so we can read today the news from inside. they put on holiday musicals plays classes. one of the favorite things was to prank the guards and passers by. they would run to the window and throw a rock or or a brick or an old booted out the window at people and then hide back inside. they were bored. the way. the way they prank the guards was the guards had least two roll calls every day. so what they would do is when the guards would call out names, everybody would yell, present, and then the guards would have to start over again. or if they did a count, when the counted and they were about 347, everybody would yell 326, three,
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84, 370 and then the guards would get confused and have to start over again now that meant you had to stand at attention longer and it often meant that you were beaten, but it was worth it to the prisoners to prank the guards. the one thing they did if somebody had a hat when they were doing a head count, somebody would put the hat on their hand and hold it next to them. and the guards were always over counting. so that was the kind of things that they did to keep up their spirits. one thing that you find, including here at andersonville, where we give this speech, is some just literally gave up and perhaps understandably so, they just gave up and, waited to die. that also the case inside libby. so the other officers encouraged one another to participate. all this to keep their hopes alive. so the escape i'm going to talk about five folks. what was the plan it starts with the two top names, colonel thomas rose and maj andrew g. hamilton. so rose is from pennsylvania.
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he is a really big guy, a beard, a very big, powerful man. he grows up around philadelphia with the quaker community, which means he's an abolitionist his family were educators he's a teacher. he eventually out by way of near pittsburgh to become a school principal even though he's a teacher and a principal rose is a man of few words. he joins at the lowest rank when the war starts because he feels so strongly about abolition he rises up very quickly to be colonel. his men loved rose rose is one of those classic officers that led from the front. if they had a line and the confederates were punching a hole in the line, rose drew a sword inside arm was the first to run the field a line. he was at the head of the column. so one of those officers that by example the men loved him. he was a hero in multiple battles. rose captured at the battle of chickamauga in the fall of 1863, he was taken by a train to
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richmond. it's raining and it's night. so he jumps off the train. he's going to escape. he lands wrong and breaks a foot and ankle still manages to run on a broken foot and ankle and eludes the confederate guards for hours until they catch him. they beat him to unconsciousness, put him back on the train. they arrive in richmond. now they have to do what? the gantlet. they have to walk from the train station to the prison. the men are scared to death because they know where they're going. there's threats, there's to kill them. they're being hit. they're being spit on. they said that in front of them is rose. if somebody spit on rose or through something on it, he didn't even wipe it off. if somebody hit him, he didn't even flinch. he just kept walking. they thought he had lost his mind because he was walking. i guess we say today robotically what was doing was memorizing how many it was to the prison memorizing the name of every street, memorizing where street lamps were, memorizing where guards were he was putting a map
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of richmond on his head because. he was going to escape. he was already it when he arrives and he's stripped, robbed and beaten. rose doesn't complain, doesn't say a word because. he's measuring up all the guards to see who he can take and who we have. rose is planning his escape. in the beginning. made you andrew major. andrew hamilton was from kentucky. part kentucky was pro-union, part was pro confederate. a raid went through his community and confederate soldiers raided their own community. so he flipped and joined the union. he was a cavalryman on horseback. hamilton is sort of like macgyver and i'm hoping everybody is old enough in audience to know my reference to macgyver hamilton is really resourceful when rose and hamilton are digging tunnel. the problem is when they get so deep in the tunnel, they can't see. so hamilton is the one who steals matches and steals. now, the next problem is they can't keep the candle lit because they're so far underground. so hamilton gets a wide brimmed hat. he steals, he sows it, puts wood
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in it, and makes it rigid so he can fan air into the tunnel. the problem then, when you're digging dirt and rock, you have to back out because the tunnels too narrow to turn around, get rid of the rock and dirt and, then crawl back in. it's a waste of time. hamilton steals a spittoon and a knapsack, creates a pulley, ties it, throws his ankle rose pulls on it when it's full hamilton, takes it out, empties it, rose pulls it back in. so rose can stay underground around the clock digging and and digging. rose passes out once from a lack of oxygen. so. hamilton another he steals a clothesline ties another line around rose's ankle so he can pull him out if he collapses. so hamilton's very resourceful rose one night is ready to escape, and the confederate guards put scaffolding outside the window to repair a roof. it disguise opened up. it's pouring, it's light, it's it's thunder. and the guards ran inside to not get wet.
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so realizes they left the scaffolding up. they put bars in a window. rose goes over to the window. he sneaks overnight. he's big and strong enough. he might be able to break the bars. if so, he could jump out of the window under the scaffolding, go down to the first floor, and then escape way while he's at the window, trying the bars, he realizes he can't do it. lightning strikes and illuminates his face. and there's a face, his he and the other person. it's hamilton. they shake hands, introduce one another, and then they go back to their respective rooms. the next night, rose says, i need to get down into the dungeon. no one goes into the dungeon because of the rats and the sewage. if i can get into the dungeon he thinks i could dig tunnel into the sewer and escape through the sewer with feces and rats because no one would think of that. and then fall down in the james river and be gone. he watches rats by the thousands, in and out through the sewer. so he goes down to the dungeon.
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there's a bolted door. he's big enough. he can bust the bolted door. he gets into the dungeon, he's walking, stepping on rats through raw sewage, feeling his way the wall. and he bumps someone. they both gasp. it's they both run each other two consecutive nights. lightning strikes twice. so that's when they say, we're going to escape together the next night, they go to go down the dungeon. the guards realize door had been broken. so it has deadbolts on it. they have to a way to get out what they realize is in the mess where they eat. there's a of big cauldrons, big black, huge where they make stew for everybody. behind that is a fireplace that been used. so they go down to the kitchen at night. rose moves these giant cauldrons. hamilton then steals a jackknife and digs out the mortar around the bricks and the back of the fireplace. they cut through the fireplace, and that's their tunnel to the dungeon. each night they have to remove
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brick by brick by brick and come up in the morning and put brick by brick by brick and put the mortar between them. rose has to push the big cauldrons back in place. there's a couple other folks that help them. one is colonel abel straight. straight was a union raider, sort of like john morgan. if anybody knows that name, the legendary confederate straight would would attack supply areas, train stations, railways. so confederates hated straight. they caught him. so he was a very high profile prisoner. he was in a dungeon in solitary. so they had to confide in him because he could see what they were doing. so he from cell he helped them to escape. colonel frederick bartel said he had lost an arm continued to fight. he couldn't escape because of the one arm. he couldn't climb down into the dungeon and help dig. but he wrote he was a poet and he wrote poetry and wrote lovely letters to every all the prisoners. why daughters, mothers, girlfriends and helped everybody
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deal with it through his poetry, corcovado was from cuba. he was so livid with the idea of of slavery that he saw it as similar to what the spanish was doing to the cuban people. so he joined and fought for the union he was a balloon spy, i guess you could say he would float over the battlefield in a balloon and using semaphore flags or hand signals, or he would sketch it, come down in the balloon in a variety would take it to the officer. he would sketch the layout of the of the battlefield to tell the command where the confederates were and gettysburg when his balloon lands, he's captured and he's taken there and beaten severely. so he can't escape. he's too weak. but he's brilliant. he's an engineer, and he helps to design the escape. so those were what rose called his silent partners. now, that's obviously not the tunnel they used to escape. there are no images of the tunnel, but what i did after reading multiple diaries,
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everything i could for a i went through and tried to find image of a tunnel that i thought the most. like what they describe and this is it. so it's about the and width of it just wide enough for a man to go through. rose was so big. he often got stuck in it and his shoulders were always raw because they scraped either side of it rock and dirt. this is what they dug through. there were a couple other challenges. had i told about the kitchen fireplace, they had to dig brick by brick. they had a sewer cave in. one day rose is digging in the tunnel. hamilton's outside and rose, he's getting close. all of a sudden, sewer collapses and rose almost. and raw sewage, absolute horrendous. they had unexpected roll call. one night i put the name up there, captain isaac johnston rose and hamilton realized that the winter of 1863 to 64 was bitterly cold. there was a starvation
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atmosphere across the south, so they knew that they were going to die. it wasn't if it was when therefore if they don't get this tunnel built quickly, they're all going to die. so what they do to make it quicker, they bring a couple of other in to help them dig. one was johnston. if you have fresh hands digging around the clock, they can out earlier. johnston one day all of a sudden he's down in the tunnel. there's four other men in the dungeon and they a man comes running in and says they're starting the roll call. the other four men go running to their barracks, i guess you could say. johnston can't get out of the tunnel in time. and as he's getting out of the tunnel, confederate guards come walking in. so he's trapped in the dungeon. now there is a huge pile of straw in the dungeon that they for the bedding, for the guards. the prisoners got no bedding. and as rosen and hamilton to say, it seemed that the only purpose of this giant pile of straw now was for all the rats
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to bed under. so, john dives into the pile of straw and there's hundreds and hundreds of rats all over him. the straw tickles his nose. he's going to sneeze. and you know, you can't hold back a and confederate guards are walking around with a lantern and they put bayonets on the end of their muskets. he's holding back to sneeze and makes a muffled sneeze so. they start stabbing into the pile of straw. the bayonets are going all him, but don't hit him. but then the door opens up and they come in with a guard dog, a bloodhound. the dog races to the pile of straw. johnston's to come out with his hands up when rats run out, the dog barks and chases the the guards say -- rats and they leave now johnston is okay. but here's the problem because he wasn't at the roll roll call rose and hamilton and said he escaped. johnston couldn't come back up the next day or they would know something was going on. so he has to in a dungeon and sewage rats now rose and
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hamilton they get a little bit of food every day and a little water day. they have to save enough food and water to sneak down at night. so now two men are share and there's not enough to keep one man alive. i estimated each man was getting about two thirds of the caloric intake needed to live, so it's a slow death. now, two men with not enough food, two men are sharing it with a third. they were often put in solitary. they had something called the lottery of death or the libby lottery. the turner, the commandant would get six colonels and draw six straws. whomever gets the short one bang as a form of terror. you never knew when your name was going to be called. so that was those were some of the some of the challenges that they had the one thing that they did have to help was this woman crazy. bette, elizabeth van loo. so there was a union spy in richmond, the confederate capital, who had infiltrated all aspects of the confederate government and confederacy, spent the duration of the war
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trying to find out who on earth was. this spy turned out to be a woman. elizabeth van loo i love crazy bette. she was tough. her family was from philadelphia quakers, so she was an abolitionist as quakers were her father moves to richmond. that's her on the right. he's the wealthiest person in richmond. if anybody's been on the hill in richmond and looking down over the river, this is where the home was. so what she does is buy slave tvs and then freeze them. they called her crazy because she believed in women's equality, she opposed slavery and she was an older woman who never married. now, she used that her advantage in the genteel south back in the 1800s. nobody would expect a woman to be a spy. what she would do is she would go into the prison with fresh baked foods and everybody, even the guards, are starving. and she would offer the guards food. she had enough money, she could have food delivered. and if the guards she. i'll give you food if you let me give to the prisoners.
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the guards said, sure, because they were starving. she hid notes inside, hollowed out eggs. she had secret compartments under her pots and pans. she hid notes. she also general benjamin butler and ulysses sent her a codex. she knew how to encode and encode using a codex. so she was the intelligence, the eyes and ears for the union in richmond and she's the one who tells the prisoners how to escape when to escape and, so on and so forth. she had a room upstairs in her house where she would hide prisoners. then she would put them in a wagon, cover with straw, cover them with produce. and one of the former slaves would ride them to freedom. and if they stopped on the way, they would give out the produce but nobody would look under the straw. this is an artist's depiction of the place where she hid prisoners on the left on the right is actually her attic where lot of prisoners head so she saves lives. all right this is running a little short on time so this is
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the path they took basic hamilton steals a jackknife a part of a broken shovel a tray, a little bit of rope, a spade and they use all that to dig this tunnel. eventually they get three, five man crews digging around the clock. they dug 50, 53 foot tunnel. it's actually longer than 53 feet because it goes side by, up and down to go around. rocks or thick trees and they tunnel out over a series of 38 days and three attempts. they finally out the day of the escape is february 9th, 1864. so 1864 is the last full year of, the civil war. by february three it was freezing and the prison had run out of food. turner announced. eats so the prisoners, they were going to die. soro says it's to leave. they race two days before this roasted was all the way out. they turn and go upward. now they're going to break out. rose punches through crisp, cold
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night. he feels the cold air rush and dirt in his eyes. he rubs it puts his head up and there's a boot of a guard beside head. they tunneled up on side the wrong side of the fence. they were just a few feet shy. there's a guard there, rose freezes, and when he hears the guard yell to another guard, he pops down and the guards come and they stab with bayonets. they cut rose's, but he can't make a peep. the guards eventually say, must have been a rat digging another hole and it's cold. so the guards leave and go inside. rose takes off part of a boot. he had, like half of an old boot. he puts it up top, fills up the hole back in. he tells we came up on the wrong side of the other fence. the next day peeks out the to see where the boot was. so he knew how many feet he had to dig the night. then on february they break hope they break ground on the opposite side. 109 men go racing to freedom,
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rose announced to them. the underground railroad ode to god's country is open. the men vote that they're going to go in. teams of two and they all vote. of course, rose and hamilton are the first two. evers rose's idea. he did all the digging. hamilton was his partner there. first two to pop up and run. and after two by two by two, they run colonel abel straight the was a very large man. he got stuck in a tunnel like winnie the pooh. they're pulling him from the front, pushing him from the bottom, stripping down. they finally squeezing through the tunnel. he was so weak from it, he couldn't run. so they took him to crazy bets house and he hid upstairs long enough that he eventually escapes to freedom. so it's, you know, it's like an action movie. some are captured, some it, some live, some die. and they follow the james 60 some miles to williamsburg the union had taken over williamsburg crazy betty told them to go to williamsburg and hamilton is the first to arrive in williamsburg he runs for
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about a week hides by day runs by night now he and rose get separated. they turn a corner and there's several confederate guards. hamilton runs rose talks to the guards as, hey, who was that? yankee you to go get him? rose talks his way out of it. but there there are separated. hamilton makes it there. he's the one that warns the union. they're on their way. over a hundred men are on their way. so union sending men out on horseback to for the prisoners. hamilton makes it through this ordeal rose runs for a week. also on broken foot and ankle. at one point, he's almost captured. he jumps into a pond holding his breath. another point, he jumps into a hollowed out log, is almost caught a number of times rose gets to the outskirts of williamsburg and it's a long couple hundred yard open field. he's in the woods, the tree line and he can see the smoke from campfires in williamsburg. he can smell the bacon, he can hear the voices.
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but there's an open field. he knows the confederates have guards because if the union marches from williamsburg, these advance guards could race back to richmond and say they're on their way. so looking for the confederate guards, after hours starving, he's dying but he stays put for hours. and finally he hunkers down low and raises the field. he gets halfway across the field and in the tall grass, five confederate guards hop up. he gets into a fight with them. he beats the hell out of some of them. one of them busts him over the head with the -- of the gun, knocks him out, and they him and beating taking back to rose after all that the man who came up with everything and led escape is returned. turner puts him in solitary confinement over the next several days over hundred men are running as you can see here 59 managed to escape making this the largest prison break in american. now, right after the prison break, hamilton tells the union that turner threatened if there's a prison break like
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this, he's going to kill everybody. the prison he had slaves build trench around the prison, and they filled it with explosives. and turner was going light it. so the union decided they would have what they called the kill calvary named after the guy on the top left, the incompetent general judson kilpatrick, arrogant and incompetent, knew nothing about anything. he's going to race in with the calvary unit lightning quick. they're pulling horses behind. they're going to rush in, liberate libby, put the prisoners on the other horses, and race back out. he's so slow getting there. the confederates have eyes and ears everywhere. they're waiting for him. they annihilate the confederates, annihilate the calvary. now, his number two is the guy in the top, right. colonel rick green, a european. he's dashing tall, handsome, european, an aristocrat, a kind of a minor celebrity at the time he's captured the confederates. and what they do is they do it by him, around behind horses, up and down the streets, like ben-hur or something like that.
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then they hanging upside down in richmond. he had up a prosthetic leg. he had lost a in the war, but kept fighting that kind guy. they hang his leg up and him up and people would come by and spit on him and throw things on him as public humiliation, body, his corpse, the next day they go out to continue to desecrate the corpse. and they can't find it's gone. his legs are going crazy. that came down at night. cut it down, hit it. returns his body to his family after the war. so this is a disaster. now, the like, rose, have to endure this somehow. richmond falls early april of 1865 after grant's several month long siege of richmond and the war is basically over as the confederates are retreating. jefferson davis, lee and others, they burn their wonderful city of and lincoln wants to visit richmond. he wants to meet with confederate leaders and negotiate a peace. but they're all gone. lincoln wants to visit jeff
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davis's office, the confederate white house, which is still and lincoln has a big entourage and people following him up and down the streets. how careless mean he could have been killed easily. that's his young son, paddy, they're walking through the streets. he goes to jeff davis office and he sits in his and he can't resist saying, you this is an awfully little chair for a man. and thenort of that prodding, then he also goes to visit what libby wants to see. libby, it was so infamous. the crowd gathers and they all the story. so the chair, they're chanting we will tear it down. we will tear it down. and lincoln yells, no, leave it as a monument. we the preservation for the park service of andersonville here is just extraordinary. we need places to be a monument so we know, the horrors of war. so lincoln visits libby. what happens at the end? here's the five men i talked about, the big, burly guy on the left. that's rose. rose is put back in solitary
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confinement and beaten yet again. rose somehow lives, through all this, he is one of those people that you can't kill. rose stays in uniform, becomes general, spends his entire career in the service and military and a long life. the men beg rose to write a memoir. his remarkable heroism. he's so humble that. he won't do it. they finally beg him and he writes a very short where he just says the other men were great. and i managed to escape. but the good news is the other men that escaped with him were so angry at him for being so humble. it prompted them to all write their accounts, which survived. so i had multiple multiple primary sources. the handsome guy in the top right. it looks a bit like a with the stache that's hamilton young handsome guy hamilton i one the first to do so as i said goes back to kentucky it's tough for him after war because kentucky's dicey after the war. there's pro-union pro confederacy, there's uprisings
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one night after going back hamilton and some other veterans go to a pub to sit outside on a nice night and enjoy a couple of drinks with. other veterans, a couple of young hooligans come and they see hamilton and they shoot and kill him after the war. so we all that and was killed after the war the guy with the hat on his knee sitting in a chair that's able straight the famous raider who gets stuck in the tunnel they take him the crazy house after a week the confederates stop searching for the runaways. she put him in a wagon, covered him with food and straw. he escapes. he's the one who tells the main story and briefs grant lincoln and so on and so forth. the guy on the lower left you can see as one arm. that's frederick bartels son bartels son lost an arm continued to fight was a scholar and a poet. he as poetry kept men inspired
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his letters to all of their on their behalf to all of their wives and mothers and all that kept men inspired kept the families inspired. he lives through it. bartels stays in uniform. he's leading his men from the front. and in the final closing hours of the war, he shot and killed. it's a great loss when the other men heard about it, they were deeply disturbed by that. and the guy on the lower right that also looks a bit like a musketeer that's covert to the cuban who fought as did men from around the world who were against horrors of human bondage and covert. it goes to cuba and becomes like a jose marti. he's the leader of the cuban revolution, becomes a general, dashing fellow. i went to cuba, led a tour there a few years ago and covered a hospital, covered a street, covered a square. so he's almost the george washington of figure in cuba fighting against the spanish imperialists. calvados friendly with grant, benjamin butler and all these
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folks like rose strait. so covert is going to travel quietly by night by boat all the way to philadelphia and get funds and weaponry to bring back for the cuban revolution. somebody spills leaks cavort is captured. the spanish government imprisons him and, tortures him all the way up to ulysses. people wrote to spain, please release this great man and they tortured him and killed him. so provided doesn't make it through that i mean close by a couple of quick things here's one of bartle since poems bartle said didn't think he would make it so he gave his poetry to all the men course. countless letters were written to ones. so we have bartle since poems today. here's one of his poems about the guards yelling is well, every hour are is it so my fellow captive sleeping, where the bard window's strictest is keeping dreaming of home and wife and prattling child of the sequestered veil the mountain tell me when cruel shall break
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again will thou repeat the sentinels all as well? so, bartle, since poetry what happened to libby even though lincoln said leave it, they tore it down. it was torn down. a group of chicago investors bought it. they loaded it up. get this brick by brick or put it on a train and took it to chicago. the train derails thousands of bricks and cannons and everything all over. they load it up. it takes forever. they build it. but they don't rebuild, libby. they build it into a castle in chicago. talk about historically not very accurate. and it becomes too great libby prison war museum and it's a huge you know it's the disney of the late 1800s everybody goes because veterans are always there and everybody knew about libby. there's cannons, uniforms. it becomes a civil war. probably the first major museum. unfortunately it falls on hard times. it closes the owners of it told
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everybody, just take everything with you. people walked out with bricks, cannons, uniforms, hats. so where's libby today? part a barn in indiana. part of a house in iowa. it is. you know, there's a brick in a museum in ohio. there's a brick in richmond. there's a brick and, you know, it's gone here's the inside the museum. you can see remnants. libby unfortunately, the wood, the bricks, the cannons, the everything was taken all we have today is a photo. this is what's left. libby if you go to richmond, as i have many times, i love the city of richmond, you go to tobacco row, carrie and 20th streets. and that's where libby sat today. there's a huge storm wall. the keep the james river from overflowing. it's a large but the height of this room may be 12 feet high and a cut in the wall right where libby sat. and people that are jogging,
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walking and walking their dogs cut through the cut. i just out of curiosity i've gone there umpteen times and stood there and everybody that goes by with their dogs are jogging. i say, excuse me, have you ever heard of libby? no one ever said yes. you know what used to be here? nobody knew. i said, you know, under the ground here, the bones of, you know, nobody know. there's a sign i took this picture. so it's little bigger than a license plate. that's the remnants of libby. what's poetic is the ground was libby is now a parking and a building years. somebody bought the ground and built a building. guess what's on the site now? the virginia holocaust museum. how entirely appropriate that consecrating and hollowing this ground is another memorial to another horrible event in history so and i went over and i told the whole and everybody at the virginia holocaust museum guess what's under the ground nobody knew nobody had heard of it. so we've lost libby. here's the key from libby. and one of the barred windows.
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these in the virginia museum, virginia museum of history and culture in richmond, great museum. the barred windows are about four feet high and a key. so there's a handful of items. this is in richmond. there's a memorial, lincoln, that's his young son, teddy, who visited the site with him. and they have a quote from lincoln's second inaugural right before, his death to bind up our nation's right. there's two paintings of libby that are quite famous. here's one of them. it's a beautiful painting. the problem, of course, is it's completely the men are wearing new uniforms. they're happy, they're hanging out. they're well-fed. there's plenty of room and a high ceiling. so you need to make them half naked. the floor dying and piled up on top of one another. so this is not a very accurate painting. oops. i mean, i missed their last slide. this is another painting. i like this more because it has that old testament feel to it,
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doesn't it? you can feel the sense of it being a bit haunted. some men are clothed summer in various of dying on the ground. it's dark. the only thing i don't like about it, it's not nearly crowded enough. it is extreme high ceiling. so even the paintings, you know, we get a false depiction it and i'll just end by with a shameless plug my book proceeds to my kids tuition both of them so you know war out the best in us and the worst in us, doesn't it? and the civil war, and in particular, libby, places like andersonville, i think, especially poignant. and there's lessons here because the mistreatment every every country, every period history, we've mistreated one another in the most inhumane ways. every war has the most unspeakable stories of what we do to prisoners. you know god bless anybody who's been a prisoner but what the civil war in places like libby and andersonville particularly
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do. it was brother against brother countrymen, kin in many ways who were doing this to one another. so there's lessons that i think we have yet to learn, but lessons from places like andersonville and libby. and with that, thank you. thank you. okay. sure. any questions. we have a minute. yeah, sure. how many prisoners libby in came to andersonville? could any of them live? yes, yes, and yes. we don't an exact count. so libby was open until the very end of the war. and ironically, -- turner, the deputy warden, the big guy with a beard, he was captured and put in libby. talk about poetic justice. but some of the prisoners now andersonville mostly for enlisted men. libby was majors, colonels and generals. but a few of them were taken. remember, andersonville was planned, shot january of 1864, at the end of the war, when the
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city and the confederacy was out of prison space. so they were moving out of richmond. so some of them were sent there and some of them did live. we had what makes libby interesting is there's always men that die in prison and men that live because these were high ranking officers. they were very well-educated. they were literary. and they wrote their accounts. i so many accounts that i in the book i even say what they ate on a particular tuesday. i mean, everything is documented. the other advantage to this, a lot of the men from andersonville were so weak that when the war ended, they died weeks or months later, and they would never recover from that. secondly, a lot of them were marginally literate and while they wrote accounts, it which we can read here at this magnificent facility, it's not like publishers were going to publish some half literate farmers account who survived. but a general libby they all published their accounts. so we have a lot of accounts.
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it so yes, some were moved prisoners from all around the region were to andersonville because it was so away from anything in the middle of nowhere, especially then. so yeah, good question. a lot of men died. we don't have an exact count. thomas turner, the warden. when the war ended, he destroyed the papers. so we have newspaper. hundreds of newspaper accounts. dozens, dozens of books. by prisoners who were in there, plenty of primary source information. but thomas turner destroyed the war records, so we don't know how many died. i would guess a thousand. and that's per day over the number years, how many people they said perished. thomas turner then goes on the run. by the way, he's never captured. he joins general early, one of lee's, i think tougher generals used to call is bad old man early was a tough and they race to texas they cross mexico.
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thomas says i'll never live in the united states if the union is governing so but he hates mexico. he goes to cuba, hates that goes to canada, hates that goes to your hates everywhere he is finally, president johnson after lincoln starts pardoning senor confederates. so he comes back, moves to tennessee and lives out his life. tennessee and under a pseudonym. a lot. the former soldiers were always looking for him. the prisoners, but they didn't find him. he dies peacefully in tennessee, but we don't have the details on how many died here because he destroyed all the records. perhaps 1000, which is, you know over four years. yeah, that's. so there are those known or are buried in richmond. yeah. so choctaw cemetery. there's a cemetery in richmond where a lot of the prisoners were buried. and again, like andersonville, mass graves for fortunately this which is the story is here with
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andersonville. some of the former officials and prisoners had records of who was in there. they found a lot of those records. because a lot of these were senior union officers. their families were fluent members of congress newspaper editors. everybody moved heaven and earth to. get these bodies and bring them back. these shock to various name cemetery around libby. they also contain hundreds, if not thousands of black slaves who mass interned and buried there. we don't know their names, have their record for obvious reasons. tragically. but yeah, there's there's there were bodies buried under what is was libby which is now the holocaust museum. in fact, some of the prisoners, they were told they had to make the caskets. they suspected that the prisoners being buried. so what they did is they put marker on the casket and that same marker kept coming back. so what the guards doing was just dumping the bodies outside
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in a deep hole or next to the prison to be picked over by vultures and dogs. and so. so, yeah, mass burials. darn gruesome. there's a room where they kept the caskets and bodies. they called it the dead room. and one man escaped from the dead room. he was so weak that they him and threw him on top of a bunch carcasses. a bunch of bodies. corpses. and when the guards to bed that night, he got up and walked out. he was still alive. but he was so weak. they. he was dead. he walked. so all sorts of amazing stories of survival. know it's for us in this day and age of leisure. plenty and comfort to imagine the grit that northern and southern had to survive these kind of ordeals that they all had. they all wrestled with. so yeah with at the end the guards pardoned at the end, yes.
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lincoln. magnanimity. you know, if you go to appomattox court house, the surrender grant, lincoln's son robert is only his oldest son, rather, and joshua chamberlain and others. lincoln gave them orders. tell grant to take his sword and firearm and just go home. lincoln grant did tell lee rather. i'm sorry. lee tell lee to take his horse sidearm. you know, just go home. grant lincoln did not want to see lee dragged through the streets in chains at go home and became president of a college. and lee then told his fellow southerners surrender, it's over. and most senior confederates pardoned. turner, the commandant would have been tried, i think, if they caught him as the commandant of here. wirtz was tried, hanged after the war. he would have been, but he escaped. -- turner, the deputy warden,
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was put in libby. but afterwards, they pardoned him and let him go. they pardoned the guards and let them go. you know, lincoln, to not just win the war, but try to win the peace, reconstruction, one country, you know lincoln even sang both sides drew the sword. we were both guilty let us work together. so yeah. and again, some of some of the former prisoners they spent years later trying to find the whereabouts of turner. thomas turner. and i think some of them might have gone and him if they had caught him because of what he did. same with worse if he had not been put death here at andersonville. so where was robert e lee from? africa. he was from virginia. levers of virginia. west point grad, you know. and that remains a point that scholars discuss today. you know, lee was a great soldier a hero in the mexican-american econ war, an absolute hero in the mexican-american war. and the battle of chapultepec to
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take what is today mexican, mexico city. so the argument was, you know, lee being west point grad, you know, an officer, a gentleman, why did he join the confederacy? lee considered himself a virginian. first and foremost. you know, one thing we need to remember if if could take a time machine, let's say, and go back to 1776 and meet thomas jefferson, ask him about his country. he would say virginia. so that way of looking at it. yes. so and grant had much respect for, lee, and so did lincoln. the one they didn't like was jefferson davis, who was said to be more cold than a reptile. davis was a monstrous human being. it's hard to say anything good about the guy. and lincoln even wrote, if davis should run away and flee the country. i won't stop him. you know, let him go. davis, dressed in disguise as a woman and gets caught. so that was of an embarrassing comeuppance for him. but then he again would be
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eventually pardoned as well. so have president andrew johnson. most everybody around 1868, and then they come back. so was vmi called vmi. back in the day. sure was. in fact, none other than one of the greatest generals in american history, stonewall jackson, was one of the professors there. and the cadets from vmi actually fought bravely, impressively in more than one battle. so they were taken out of class. i guess you could call a practicum or a lab and fought stonewall jackson races there for the battle of manassas in the north you call it bull run and was arguably one of the greatest generals who shot and killed one of his own man a century. and lee and others always bemoaned loss of the great stonewall during the latter part of the war, when the union, under general david hunter, they called him black. david hunter for his deeds, kind
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of a derogatory phrase. burns, vmi and the confederacy was because vmi held almost like a west point type of aura about it. yeah. so vmi was around back then and still there today. still cowardly and still called vmi. virginia military institute. i went to virginia tech. so i visited vmi. i played football at virginia tech occasionally used to play them don't they don't really anymore. so they did a campus and all that. so yeah, good. everybody, i'd like to thank you for attending and enjoy the rest of your day at andersonville. and let us all remember today as national p.o.w. mia recognition day. you. thank you. thank you. sure.
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i'm a.d. and digger halperin, the senior mellon postdoctoral fellow in
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