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Libby Prison Inmate Letter

Identifier: MS 0113
Finding aid note: Stored onsite at the Woodson Research Center.

Scope and Contents

This anonymous letter, written December 18, 1864, by an inmate of Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia and addressed to United States Senator William Wright of New Jersey, is an urgent plea for the senator’s intercession in obtaining the inmate’s exchange for a Confederate officer imprisoned for an unknown offence in West Virginia and for whom he himself is being held hostage, and his release from prison. The writer describes his failing health after several months as a general prisoner of war followed by the deprivations of close confinement, and his fears that without release he will not survive; he closes ‘With Great Respect,’ but his signature is missing from the torn lower edge of the page.


  • Creation: 1864


Restrictions on Access

This material is open for research.

Conditions Governing Access

Stored onsite at the Woodson Research Center.

Restrictions on Use

Permission to publish from the Libby Prison Inmate Letter, 1864, MS 113, must be obtained from the Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University.

Historical Note

Libby Prison (in which the letter in this collection was written) was a prison in Richmond, Virginia for Union captives, noted for the harsh conditions under which its inmates lived, both from periodic overcrowding and from the growing shortage of provisions available in Richmond for civilians and inmates alike as the war progressed and fresh waves of Union prisoners continued to pour in. The prison was housed in three brick buildings (formerly part of a tobacco factory), one building of which had been leased in 1854 by Captain Luther Libby for his company, L. Libby & Sons, Ship Chandlers; the prison received its name from the company’s sign, left behind after the buildings were hastily commandeered for prison and hospital use shortly after the Battle of First Manassas (Bull Run) of July 21, 1861.


0.1 Linear Feet (1 letter)

Language of Materials



Letter written during the Civil War by an anonymous Union Army prisoner- of-war, dated December18, 1864, and addressed from Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia, to United States Senator William Wright of New Jersey, describing his worsening health while held in close confinement in the prison as hostage for a Confederate officer imprisoned in West Virginia, and urging the senator to intercede on his behalf to secure his exchange and release.


The Libby Prison Inmate Letter of 1864 was purchased and received in 1972.

General Note

This collection is available online at:" title="Libby Prison Inmate letter">


Guide to the Libby Prison Inmate Letter, 1864
Joan Ferry
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Repository Details

Part of the Woodson Research Center, Rice University, Houston, Texas Repository

Fondren Library MS-44, Rice University
6100 Main St.
Houston Texas 77005 USA