“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Shockoe Bottom in Richmond, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)

Libby Prison

“Hope was all that sustained many.”

Libby Prison CWT Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Bernard Fisher, September 19, 2010
1. Libby Prison CWT Marker
Inscription.  Near this site, from about 1845 until 1889, stood the building that housed Richmond’s famous Libby Prison. Originally built as a warehouse by wealthy Richmond businessman John Enders, Sr., a portion of the structure was leased prior to the Civil War by Northern-born Luther Libby, who sold groceries and shipping supplies here. When the war began Libby was evicted by the Confederate government, which used the building as a prison for Union officers captured at battlefields throughout the South.

Later in the war nearly all Union prisoners in Virginia came though Libby before being distributed to other facilities such as Belle Isle here in Richmond, or Andersonville in Georgia. On Feb. 9, 1864, 109 Union officers escaped from Libby through a 50-foot-long tunnel; only 48 were recaptured.

After the war Libby Prison was carefully dismantled and moved to Chicago, where it was reconstructed as the “Libby Prison National War Museum.” It was demolished there about 1898 to make room for a coliseum.

Many prisoners felt inspired to record their experiences at Libby Prison. Pennsylvanian Clarence
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Wilson remembered lying down at night “dovetailed together like sardines in a box, on the bare floor, without anything to cover us. I came out weighing 90 pounds.” The overcrowding affected Libby Hospital as well: Ohioan George Peet wrote of being jammed into one room with 110 other patients. From their mats of straw the men fought daily battles with maggots and filth, while “every now and then some poor fellow would get delirious and would shriek out; others were groaning horribly.” Andrew Hamilton, who escaped from the building in 1864, recalled “great, gloomy rooms” in which nearly 1200 men sat, watching “the inexpressibly slow passage of time.” “Hope was all that sustained many,” he concluded.
Erected by Virginia Civil War Trails.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: War, US Civil. In addition, it is included in the Virginia Civil War Trails series list. A significant historical month for this entry is February 1821.
Location. 37° 31.848′ N, 77° 25.603′ W. Marker is in Richmond, Virginia. It is in Shockoe Bottom. Marker is at the intersection of East Cary Street and South 20th Street, on the right when traveling east on East Cary Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Richmond VA 23223, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within
Libby Prison Markers image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Bernard Fisher, September 19, 2010
2. Libby Prison Markers
walking distance of this marker. Libby Prison CSA (here, next to this marker); a different marker also named Libby Prison (within shouting distance of this marker); Early Quakers in Richmond (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Oldest House (about 500 feet away); Edgar Allan Poe Pedestal (about 500 feet away); City of Richmond Bicentennial (about 700 feet away); To Honor (about 700 feet away); Chesapeake & Ohio Railway (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Richmond.
More about this marker. On the top center is a photo of “Libby Prison as seen from the back, with Canal Street in the foreground. Three separate buildings joined together to make the prison, and the joints are readily visible in this photograph. Note how the building was taller in the back than in the front.”

On the bottom center is “A photograph of the prison, surrounded by sightseers, taken just after the fall of Richmond. Both the canal and the James River can be seen in the background. The Stars and Stripes flutters from the roof.”
Also see . . .  Libby Prison. Civil War Richmond (Submitted on September 19, 2010.) 
Richmond, Va. Side and rear view of Libby Prison image. Click for full size.
3. Richmond, Va. Side and rear view of Libby Prison
Library of Congress [LC-B811-2726]
Libby Prison, 1865 image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mathew Brady, 1865
4. Libby Prison, 1865
U.S. National Archives [NWDNS-111-B-119]
Floodwall Plaques image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Bernard Fisher, September 19, 2010
5. Floodwall Plaques
Credits. This page was last revised on February 1, 2023. It was originally submitted on September 19, 2010, by Bernard Fisher of Richmond, Virginia. This page has been viewed 2,249 times since then and 14 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on September 19, 2010, by Bernard Fisher of Richmond, Virginia.

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Feb. 23, 2024