From the New York Times, 12/26/1901, p. 6


To the Editor of the New York Times:

In to-day’s issue of your paper I read, with interest, a letter from Augusta, Ga., signed “Justice.”

Permit me to add my corroboration to what “Justice” says about the two “Turners” of Libby Prison. I was severely wounded at Aldie on June 17, 1863, taken prisoner, and locked up in Libby Prison for over nine months, and therefore I had ample time to become personally acquainted with the two Turners, Thomas P., and Richard R. The former was a West Point graduate, (I am told,) and a gentleman in the full extent of the word, and the latter was a low-bred, vicious, and cruel person, employed, I heard, as a porter in a hotel in Baltimore when the war of the rebellion broke out. This scoundrel was in charge of a squad of negroes who cleaned the rooms of Libby Prison, distributed the scanty rations to the Union prisoners, and thus was daily in personal contact with them.

To show the immense difference of the two men, I will relate an incident which took place one day in Libby Prison, of which I was unfortunately the protagonist. “Dick” Turner came with his men to clean our room, and ordered us all out of it for that purpose. I was talking with a fellow prisoner at the time, and, my back being turned, I did not hear the order. All at once I found myself grasped by a shoulder and turned around by “Dick” Turner, screaming, “Get out of this room; didn’t you hear me?” Indignant at his treatment, and, on the spur of the moment, I struck him such a blow in his face that it made him stagger. He at once went downstairs, reported me to the Captain (afterwards Major) Turner, and the latter summoned me downstairs.

My fellow prisoners expected that I would be sent down to the dungeon, where refractory prisoners were kept on bread and water; but nothing of the kind happened. In a few moments afterward, I was back in the Potomac room. When Captain Turner asked me to explain my conduct in the matter, I told him what had happened, and added: “Place yourself in my place; prisoner or not, would you allow such a creature as “Dick” Turner to put his hands on you, and not resent it?” Captain Turner answered: “Colonel, you may return to your room, and I will see that Mr. Turner behaves himself hereafter,” and that was the end of it.

I believe that this will be sufficient to show the difference between Captain Turner and his namesake. Captain Turner was a hightoned gentleman, and “Dick” Turner was a hellbound of the worst kind. This incident found its way into the Northern papers at the time, and if there are any Libby prisoners of 1863 still alive, they will remember it as vividly as I do at the present time.                

L. P. Di C. [Louis P. Di Cesnola]

New York, Dec. 22, 1901

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