Libby Prison Breakout

Written Accounts
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Libby Prison Breakout

The great escape from Libby Prison occurred on the February 9, 1864. 109 prisoners escaped through a tunnel dug from the building under a vacant lot to the east. The following articles and accounts detail the event. For information on Libby Prison in general, please visit the Libby Prison page.


Cross-section diagram of the escape tunnel, from Century Magazine, March 1888.
Overhead diagram of the escape tunnel, from Century Magazine, March 1888.

Written Accounts

Richmond Examiner 2/11/1864; good description of the "great escape" from Libby Prison. Castle Thunder mentioned.
Richmond Enquirer 2/11/1864; good description of the escape
Richmond Sentinel 2/11/1864; Libby Prison escape notice
Richmond Whig 2/11/1864; Libby Prison escape notice
Richmond Enquirer 2/12/1864; Description of the Libby prison breakout and list of escapees re-captured
Richmond Examiner 2/12/1864; 22 Libby escapees re-captured and description of the breakout
Richmond Whig 2/12/1864; list of Libby escapees that have been recaptured, and list of men still at large
Richmond Enquirer 2/13/1864; Recapturing Libby escapees, and list of re-captured prisoners
Richmond Whig 2/13/1864; more escapees have been captured; rumor that Streight has been recaptured
New York Times 2/15/1864; Libby Prison escape notice
Richmond Examiner 2/15/1864; recapturing Libby escapee anecdotes
Richmond Whig 2/15/1864; recapturing Libby escapee anecdotes
Richmond Sentinel 2/15/1864; list of escapees recaptured
Charleston Mercury 2/16/1864; description of the Libby Prison escape - includes a very good description of the physicality of the escape
Richmond Enquirer 2/16/1864; Two more Libby escapees re-captured
Richmond Examiner 2/16/1864; No more escapees from Libby have been captured.
Richmond Examiner 2/20/1864; Major General Scammon and staff brought to Libby; 58 escapees have been recaptured
Richmond Sentinel 2/20/1864; details on status of escaped Yankees
Franklin Repository 2/24/1864; "The Libby Jail Delivery"
National Tribune 5/14/1885; excellent account by Col. Thomas Rose of the organization and completion of the Libby Prison tunnel
The Camp, the Battle Field, and the Hospital... ca. 1866; by Linus P. Brockett; excerpt (by John F. Porter) describes the author's part in the famous Libby Prison escape and subsequent journey to Williamsburg
Beach, History of the Fortieth Ohio... 1884; letter (J. M. Wasson) describing arrival at Libby after capture at Missionary Ridge and subsequent escape through the Libby Prison tunnel
Century Magazine, March 1888, pp. 770-790 3/1888; Moran, Frank E. "Colonel Rose's Tunnel at Libby prison." Excellent account of the tunneling effort and subsequent escape of 109 Libby prisoners
The Century Magazine 11/1889; explanation of the shooting episode given in "Col. Rose's Tunnel at Libby Prison" article from former guard.
National Tribune 3/27/1890; excellent description of the tunneling effort at Libby Prison by one of the tunneling party (W. S. B. Randall, 2nd Ohio Inf.) - slightly different from Moran's account
New York Times 3/1/1891; part four of serialized account of life in Libby. Notes that 1864 began poorly - the Confederates cut off supplies from the North in order to compel the US Government to resume exchanges; author went to Belle Isle to help distribute last batch of supplies; mentions Castle Thunder; he was glad to be in Libby rather than Belle Isle - notes on the "dog-slaying incident" and confirms it. Further notes the presence of negroes on Belle Isle and their negative treatment by their fellow prisoners. Describes Gen. J. H. Morgan's visit to Libby and begins description of the Libby tunnel and says he was one of the diggers.
New York Times 3/15/1891; part six of serialized account of life in Libby. Description of the digging and escape through the Libby tunnel; notes that he was one of the ones who raised the cry of "guards!" to get the crowd to thin out. Further relates his overland journey towards the Chickhominy and encountering rebel earthworks on the outskirts of Richmond, unmanned and with the bombproofs open.
National Tribune 4/21/1891; notes on tools used for tunneling out of Libby Prison
National Tribune 3/17/1892; lengthy but excellent account of the tunnel escape and "powder mine" of Libby Prison - and disputation of falsehoods recently circulated; by Frank E. Moran
"Story of the Famous Tunnel Escape from Libby Prison" 1893? Hamilton, Andrew G. Excellent published account regarding the tunnel escape from Libby Prison. One of the most reliable sources.
Confederate Veteran, Vol. XVII (1909) p. 114 "Tunneling Out of Libby Prison;" account from John Mitchell, one of the digging party on how the tunnel was made
"With Touch of Elbow" (1909) David Wells (8th Mich. Cav.) gives an excellent account of Libby Prison and his escape through the famous tunnel.

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Page last updated on 02/12/2008