From the Richmond Dispatch, 2/11/1888, p.8, c. 3
LIBBY PRISON SALE.
SO FAR AS CAN BE SEEN NOW IT WILL BE CONSUMMATED.
Expressions of Opinion as to the Removal from Richmond and Chicago People – Varying Views.
As has been stated before, Mr. William H. Gray, of Chicago, is the leading spirit in the mammoth undertaking of raising money to buy the Libby and remove it to that city. He projected the enterprise, and through him has been conducted the correspondence with Messrs. Rawlings & Rose, the Richmond real estate firm who negotiated the sale.
On the 5th instant these gentlemen wrote Mr. Gray a letter in which they informed him that the thirty days’ option on the building cost $50 and that the abstracts of deeds, &c., cost $50 more, all of which they had paid. In this letter was also given the terms of sale, which are as follows: One third cash; the balance in six and twelve months, with 6 per cent added to deferred payments; or $13,300 cash, the purchasers to assume the obligation to pay the lien of $10,000 now on the property (as was seen by abstracts sent); or they could pay the entire purchase-money cash.
MR. GRAY’S LETTER.
In response to this Messrs. Rawlings & Rose on Friday received a letter from Mr. Gray in which, after acknowledging the receipt of the favor of the 5th instant and noting the fact that he enclosed a check for the $100 as per agreement, he says: “What is the sentiment there (Richmond), as I suppose you are in a position to hear it? Would they like to retain it in Richmond? There is no doubt in my mind but what I will close the matter up unless some arrangement is made there to the contrary. The matter has been received exceedingly favorably in our city.”
RICHMOND PEOPLE WILL NOT BUY.
In reply to the above the following was written and mailed yesterday: Your letter of the 8th to hand with enclosed check for $100 in compliance with terms for advance money, abstracts, &c. There is of course much surprise here at the sale of Libby Prison and the immense undertaking and novel idea of moving it. But there is not the slightest objection from fair-minded men. * * The present owners have no objection, and we think, as do most of the people with whom we have talked on the subject, that there is money in the scheme, and that you and your associates will be successful in your enterprise. There is certainly no chance of getting up a company to buy and retain it in Richmond. Our Mr. Rawlings has conversed with our best mechanics, and they all agree that the buildings can be successfully moved. We can sell the lot for you at a good price when the buildings have been moved. Railroad-men have been to see us in regard to removing, and there are two lines who will compete for the hauling. You will be able when you come here to buy many valuable war relics from the many battle-fields around our city. We will gladly do all in our power to aid you when you come on to settle up finally. We mail you several of our papers. Yours very respectfully,
RAWLINGS & ROSE.
IN THE AGENTS’ HANDS.
About the sale of Libby Prison Colonel Palmer, president of the Southern Fertilizer Company, said yesterday that personally he did not know whether the transaction would be consummated or not; the property was in the hands of his agents, and the Chicago people had been given an option of thirty days, which had not yet expired. No money had yet changed hands and no papers had been signed except the option. If bought the property was deliverable by July 1st. He had no reason to suppose that the sale would not be made unless the parties are deterred by what some of the newspapers say.
Mr. John Latouche, of this city, who was adjutant at Libby Prison during the last seventeen months of the war, yesterday expressed the opinion that the project of moving it was to make political capital; to keep up the enmity of the North against the South, and that it had its encouragement among the extreme Republicans of the North.
But Mr. Latouche did not believe that the prison would ever be taken to Chicago. To his mind the scheme was not practicable. One basement of the building is granite, and there are three stories on one street and four on another, and it would be no easy job to tear down, pack up, and transplant such a structure. He says there were over one thousand officers at one time confined in the prison after the cartel had been stopped by the North, and some of these stayed there over a year.
Mr. Latouche was a lieutenant and detached from Company B, of the Twenty-fifth battalion.
Now Richmonders May See How the Chicago People Look at It.
The Oil City Derrick is astonished and shocked at the idea of removing old Libby Prison to Chicago. It says:
“What is there about that old tobacco-ware-house that any one in his normal mind would care to gaze upon? Does the pursuit of happiness include the contemplation of that which has no associations except crime, cruelty, misery, suffering, oppression, persecution, and death? A taste delighting in such scenes denotes an unspeakable depravity; sensationalism run mad. Anything that can recall the terrors and abominations of a rebel prison should never be permitted to be removed from the soil that it cursed. Instead of preserving such mementos of the wrongs and outrages committed upon loyal and patriotic unfortunates, it would be better that they razed to the ground, their sites ‘ploughed up and sowed with salt as a token of utter desolation.’ Their sites may be remembered as American abominations, but the edifices never as objects of prurient and misdirected curiosity. The wretched old pile of bricks is harmless where it stands; the kindly hand of nature is gradually removing it from human view. There is no cultivation of the good, the beautiful, or the true in an effort to preserve it for any purpose whatever.”
The Derrick should not be envious of the lifting powers of Chicago. It is an Archimedean lever that has lifted miles of massive brick and stone buildings. It has lifted the whole Northwest territory so far out of the mud that its good old mother, Virginia, would not know it. It has lifted many a man out of his boots, and many other men into fortunes. The removal of old Libby will be but a bagatelle – not half as expensive as an obelisk from Egypt to New York, and much more instructive and profitable. We have no special interest in Rameses the Second and his hieroglyphics, but we have in those other barbarians who commanded Libby when it was crowded by dying and starving soldiers. There are yet living up this way many who have a special interest in Libby – General Stiles, for instance, who will never go to see it. We propose to bring Libby to them. Perhaps under the influence of the lake breezes it may take on new airs. Possibly it may expand and spread itself into a very temple of liberty – this grimy, gloomy old prison. In other days and other hours it may become our Faneuil Hall, and under its smoky, dingy rafters may gather the grandchildren of those who died in Libby a hundred years ago. What glorious reunions they will have there, deciphering the names cut there with pocket-knives in rude letters by men who little thought they were inscribing on the pinnacle of fame such as the republic will not willingly let die.
It is not the intention to buy with the building the men who were the governors of Libby during the war. They would not keep in this climate. Nor is it intended to remove the tunnel, nor the hole old General Streight – God bless him! – got stuck in when trying to burro out of Libby. There are many things that cannot be brought up with Libby any more than Belle Isle, the danger line, the trenches where piles of bones are rotting now. All that is disagreeable and horrible we will try to leave in Richmond, but the fact as to Libby is:
You may move and rebuild if you will,
But the scent of its horrors will hang round it still.
The Tunnel at Libby Prison.
The March Century will contain the story of “Colonel Rose’s Tunnel at Libby Prison,” told by one of the 109 officers who escaped on the night of February 9, 1864. The successful construction of this tunnel, dug from a dark corner of the cellar of the prison through fifty feet of solid earth – the only tool being two broken chisels and a wooden spittoon in which to carry out the dirt – was one of the most remarkable incidents of the war.
Colonel Rose, to whose perseverance the success of the scheme was due, is now a captain in the Sixteenth United States infantry, and of the fourteen men who assisted him in digging the tunnel eleven are still living.
The narrative in the Century is to be illustrated and forms on of the untechnical papers supplementing the war series.