From the Charleston Mercury, 9/20/1864
MAKING YANKEE PRISONERS USEFUL.
Last fall Major John C. Maynard, Quartermaster of this post, having need of a great number of shoes for the negroes employed in his department, determined to utilize some of the Yankee skill lying idle in the Libby. He fitted up a shoe shop at the Government stable yard on Navy Hill, and procuring forty odd shoemakers from among the Yankee prisoners at the Libby, who were willing to practice their trade during their captivity, set them to work. These men have made all the shoes and boots required by the Quartermaster’s Department in Richmond, and done besides a vast amount of work for our army and for citizens. The quality of work turned out at this establishment is very superior to any done in the Confederacy. The Yankees here employed are so delighted with their condition as to be unwilling to be exchanged; they desire nothing better than to live as they are till the end of the war. They are well fed and comfortably lodged and clothed. The report of their happy condition having spread among the prisoners at the Libby and on Belle Isle, the artisans of all kinds among them have become anxious to be similarly employed at their respective trades.
The question presents itself, could not this disposition on the part of these prisoners be turned to the advantage of our cause? We want men in the field, while thousands of our best troops are detailed to perform necessary labor in our workshops. Cannot the mechanics among the prisoners be put in the places of our detailed artisans in a number of trades, and the detailed men sent to the field? The Yankee prisoners, feeling now that all hope of an exchange has been extinguished by Butler’s letter, will be more anxious than ever to be relieved from the life wearing idleness and monotony of prison life. The subject is worthy the serious attention of Government.
Major Maynard’s experiment demonstrates that they can be employed to good purpose and without danger. During the ten months that he has had forty at his shoe shop, a relief of only three men has been required to guard them, and no case of misconduct has occurred. The threat to send them back to the Libby has proved sufficient to keep them in order.
We may mention in this connexion that Major Maynard, with the assent of the authorities, has it in contemplation to enlarge his establishment and increase his number of Yankee workmen to one hundred or over. Should this plan be carried out, it is to be hoped that a good deal of work will be done for citizens. The rates now charged for shoes by shoemakers in this city put these absolutely necessary articles beyond the
reach of the poor.