From the St. Albans (VT) Daily Messenger, 8/25/1902, p. 3, c. 1

Mutilates Valuable War Relic.

The recent attempt of some unknown person to secure a relic of Libby prison from one of the show cases in memorial hall museum has created considerable indignation among the citizens of Rutland, says The Herald. The unlawful souvenir hunter appears to have had no scruples regarding either public or private property for in order to get at the relic, he or she broke the glass in one end of the show case in which is kept the collection of Libby prison mementos, most of them owned by Gen. E. H. Ripley, of New York, and cut out a fragment of the large emblem of Libby prison with which the case is draped.

The cutting was evidently done with a pocket knife, as the ragged edges show, and that the deed was done quietly is proven by the fact that the pieces of glass broken out were laid carefully inside the case under the folds of the flag. The flag which was thus mutilated has a most interesting history wrapped in its dingy folds. It was the official banner of the famous Libby prison at Richmond and floated over that grim hostelry during most, if not all of the years of the Civil War. It was captured as a trophy of war by Gen. Edward H. Ripley, brother of Gen. W. Y. W. Ripley, of Rutland, who commanded the first brigade to enter the Confederate capital, April 3, 1865. Many hundred Union prisoners were released on that day and their places were taken by the rebels, General Ripley’s brigade acting as a garrison to the city after its entrance.

Several other interesting relics are shown in this case, among them the headquarters flag of the 1st brigade, 3d division, 24th army corps, Bvt. Brig.-Gen. E. H. Ripley commanding, which was the first brigade flag carried over the rebel works and into Richmond. There is also shown the key to the main entrance of Libby prison, a formidable looking affair some eight inches long.

Here, too, is an odd kind of infernal machine which closely resembles a large piece of coal. That is what it was intended to represent, but in the top of it is a hole large enough to be filled with powder or some other explosive.

A Confederate silver certificate for $1,000, a map of Richmond, and a facsimile of the great seal of the Confederacy, with a book giving its history, are also shown. Another relic of unusual interest is the order and correspondence book of Libbey prison, from January 1, 1862, to December 15, 1863, This book contains the signature of the infamous Wirtz, who was hanged for his inhuman treatment of Union prisoners; also the signatures of the equally infamous Winder and Turner, also commanders of the prison.

There is, apparently, no clew to the identity of the person whose sacrilege of this valuable collection has aroused so much feeling. A story is current, although it cannot be verified, that the person who mutilated the Libby relic was a Union veteran, who had himself endured the tortures of confinement in the famous prison, of which it was the emblem.

Go to top