View Full Version : Chickamauga/Libby Prison letter

06-21-2007, 07:15 PM
A very detailed letter from Asst. Surgeon Abraham H. Landis, Butler County, Ohio, 35th Ohio Infantry. No date of when it was written, but he wonders about the prisoners surviving the winter at Libby after his release, I would say it was pretty fresh. Landis was captured at Chickamauga, and writes of the field there after the battle. He also speaks well of General N.B. Forrest after meeting and talking to him. Landis would be wounded by a shell fragment in the leg at Kennesaw Mountain. As a side note to history, he would name his 6th son Kennesaw Mountain Landis. To those of you that follow baseball history, Kennesaw Mountain Landis would become baseball's first commissioner, "the man who cleaned up baseball".

A History and Biographical Cyclopaedia of Butler County Ohio, Western Biographical Publishing Co., Cincinnati, Ohio, 1882

The letter was said to be in the "Hamilton Telegraph" newspaper, no date given.

Pages 222,223,224

"On Saturday, September 19th, soon after the comencement of the battle of Chickamauga, I was ordered by the medical director of my division to the division hospital. It was on Cloud's farm, and at that time nearly two miles north of the left wing of our army. Early on the Sabbath morning, in consequence of repeated flank movements on our left by the rebels, our hospital became exposed to a fire of shell and solid shot.

"About eleven o'clock a line of rebel skirmishers were seen to emerge from a wood about four hundred yards distant, followed by a large force of Forrest's cavalry. All the ambulances we had were loaded with wounded and sent to Chattanooga, and many of the slightly wounded were sent on foot. The enemy continued to advance until they ascertained it was a hospital, when a squad of them rode up, and for the first time we were in the hands of the rebels.

"Soon afterward Granger's forces approaching from toward Chattanooga, the rebels fell back, and we saw no more of them until the following morning, when they took us into custody, and from that time on we were prisoners. Generals Forrest, Cheatham, and Armstrong honored us with their presence. General Forrest told us to go ahead and attend to our wounded, and we should not be molested. He also told us that our wounded yet on the field should be removed to the hospitals and receive precisely the same treatment that their wounded received; also that parties had been detailed to bury the dead on both sides. In a conversation I had with Dr. Fluellan, medical director of Bragg's army, the following day at Cheathams division hospital, he made the same promises. These promises may have been in good faith, but from observation I know-and every other medical officer who fell into their hands knows-they were not realized.

"I was over a portion of the battle-field threee days after the battle, and the rebel dead were buried and ours unburied, and nearly all of them were stripped of their pants and shoes. Their appearance was most revolting, having been exposed for three days to a September sun; they were so swollen and changed in appearance that recognition was impossible. I found also at least three hundred of our wounded, all suffering from the gnawings of hunger. Every last wounded rebel had been removed. Some of our men were in cabins, some had gathered in groups and laid on the ground, and some were still in the fields and woods, where they were wounded, in the immediate vicinity of the dead bodies of their comrades. To the credit of the rebels, they did furnish them some rations the following day. Some of these poor fellows remained in this condition for eight days.

"The question might be asked, Why did we not have them removed to our hospital? We had no ambulance, no wagon, no vehicle of any kind, and the rebels refused to furnish us any; in addition, we had a contract already at one hospital of such magnitude that our energies were taxed to their utmost. Our provisions ran out at our hospital two days after our capture, and then starvation stared us in the face. Finally, after two days' entreaties, we were furnished with fresh beef, hard bread, bacon, and corn meal. The bacon and hard bread were good in quality, but very deficient in quantity. The beef was of Pharaoh's lean kine, but we were glad to get it. Some of the corn meal was musty and scarcely fit for the swill barrel.

"Monday, September 28th, General Rosecrans sent us rations, and from that time, as long as we remained at Chickamauga, Uncle Sam was our commissary, and we fared sumptuously.

"Friday, October 2nd, our wounded having been paroled and sent through the lines, we were taken, eighty in number, seven of whom were surgeons and the remainder enlisted men, to Chickamauga Station, seven miles distant, where we took the cars for Atlanta. We reached Atlanta the following evening, and were lodged in the prisoners' barracks. These barracks consist of about two acres of ground, inclosed by a board fence twelve feet high. The few blankets the privates and non-commissioned officers had were taken from them on entering that filthy hole, and those poor fellows, while they remained there, were without blankets or overcoats, and spent the cold frosty nights with the the earth for a bed and the sky for a blanket.

" There were two board shanties in these barracks, in which were about forty of our wounded, all of whom were lying on the floor with but a single blanket, and all of them suffered terribly from cold during the night. Dr. Ashman, one of our surgeons, repeatedly asked the surgeon in charge for straw, and in response received some glorious promises, but the straw never came. Major Morely, of Tennesse, was in the barracks, and had a fifty pound ball and chain for his bed-fellow. He was at the time, dangerously ill with typhoid fever, and finally died. Surgeon Young, of the Seventy-ninth Illinois, who remained several weeks in Atlanta with our wounded, told me that the major had to wear the ball and chain until within twenty-four hours of his death. Two days after our arrival at Atlanta forty surgeons, captured at Chickamauga, and several hundred other prisoners arrived.

"October 6th, all the surgeons but those who remained with our wounded and enlisted men, numbering in all three hundred, were put aboard the cars for Richmond. We passed through Augusta, Georgia; Hamburg, Branchville, and Columbia, South Carolina; and Salisbury, Raleigh, and Weldon, North Carolina, and reached Richmond, Sabbath, October 11th, and all the surgeons were lodged in Libby Prision.

"Libby is a substantial brick building, one hundred and fifty feet long, and one hundred and ten feet wide, and three stories high besides the basement. The upper two stories are each divided into three rooms, and in these six rooms, before our release, were over one thousand prisoners, all commissioned officers. The following sign is on the outside of the Building: LIBBY & SON, SHIP CHANDLERS and GROCERS.

"Each room has a sink, immediately contiguous to it, and the stench coming therefrom is almost unendurable. The windows were all unglazed when we arrived, and at times we suffered terribly from cold. The most of them were still open when we left, and as the murcury may fall to zero any day in Richmond during the Winter, no one knows what tortures the inmates of Libby may have to endure the coming Winter. Three days before our release the officers in charge of Libby were so obliging as to furnish two stoves for each room, but strange to say, we suffered with cold just as we did without them, for the simple reason that we were not furnished, with a single stick of wood, and such will probably be the case through the Winter, as they sometimes refused to furnish us a single stick of wood to cook with for nearly a whole day at a time.

"At one time some of our soldiers, who had been wounded at Chickamauga, were quartered in one of the lower rooms of Libby, immediately under one of the rooms occupied by us. Through a small opening in the floor they told us they had been without food for twenty-four hours, and implored us for something to eat. We had little to spare, but what we had we divided with them. Captain Turner, officer in charge of the prison, heard of it, and arrested three officers and reprimanded tham severly, and ordered that the men should go forty-eight hours longer without food for the crime of talking to officers. Weather this order was enforced or not we never could learn, as the boys were removed to other quarters. Some of our soldiers came to one of the lower rooms of Libby daily after rations. Some men were barefooted, some bareheaded, and I noticed one poor fellow barefooted, bareheaded, and without a shirt. We never were allowed to ask them any questions in reference to their treatment, but the mere appearance of their faces told us starvation and exposure were closing the work of death. November 20th, I saw twenty of our boys at work on the street, and nine of them were barefooted.

"I will here mention an act of brutality that occurred at Augusta, Georgia. When we reached Augusta we had with us a wounded man, who had become so ill that his surgeon, Dr. McGarvin, of the Twenty-sixth Ohio, proposed to Lieutenant Bass, officer in charge of us, to leave him in the hospital. Lieutenant Bass presented the case to Captain Rains, commandant of the post. The captain refused to receive him into the hospital, but told Lieutenant Bass to knock him in the head.

"I might extend this communication of infinitum, and relate some of the horrors of Belle Island, the terrible mortality among our men at Richmond, the manner in which we were tortured by the lice in Libby, also the quality and quantity of our rations. But this is unnecessary, as those facts are all embraced in a report, adopted unanimously, and published by the surgeons released from Libby Prison. 'Sparta knew the names of the men lost in her cause at the pass of Thermopyae,' but Amercia will never know how many of her noble sons perished in the dens of Richmond.

"The manner in which most of us were swindled out of our money at Richmond makes theft and highway robbery honorable. There is no state-prison in North Amercia that can belch forth a more infamous pack of liars and thieves than the officers in charge of Libby Prison. When we entered the prison we were told by Captain Turner that we must hand over our greenbacks and gold and silver, if we had any, and should we need money while in prison we should have Confederate money at the rate of seven dollars for one, and when released or exchanged our money should be refunded in kind; and if we refused to hand it over, we would be searched, and if money was found it would be confiscated. This proposition was so fair that about nine-tenths of us deposited our cash in the Libby Bank. When we left, November 24th, they commenced paying us off in Confederate money. A few who had small sums deposited received greenbacks, but a large majority had either to take Confederate money or nothing.

"Of the cleared land we saw traveling from Chickamauga to Richmond, a distance of nine hundred miles, I do not think more than one acre in twenty was tilled this year. What little was tilled was in corn, except a few cotton fields. I do not think the corn would have yielded over five bushels to the acre."

06-21-2007, 08:18 PM
Thanks for posting. I had read that before,but it is a such a good letter I'm glad you brought it back to my attention.