During the war, Libby had held over 125,000 men, mostly Union officers. Other prisons are known for their death toll, but none could match the number of inmates Libby held.
On February 9, 1864, the most bold and daring of prison escapes happened at Libby. 109 Union army officers managed to escape from Libby by crawling through a fireplace, sliding down a chimney, and slithering through a 53 foot long tunnel. This came as a reward for months of slow work, their only digging tools being an old pocket knife, a wooden spitton, and chissles smuggled into the prison by a northern sympathizer, Elizabeth Van Wert, a.k.a. Crazybet.
Libby was vacated just before the Union Army captured Richmond, and spent the reast of the war, empty.
After the war, Libby was moved from Richmond, to Chicago for the World Fair. A medieval-style castle was built around it, and, for years, was one of Chicago's most popular tourist attractions. Today, nothing of Libby is left, except for timber and boards, that lie moldering in an Indiana steel building. Yet another reason, why we need to take better care of what we have. You never know what you have, until its gone.
Back to Prison Page
Back to Main Page