From the Franklin Repository (Chambersburg, PA), 4/6/1864
MINING OF LIBBY PRISON.
A long and interesting speech was made by Gen. Neal Dow, at Portland, Maine, on Friday last, at the public reception given him by the citizens, and in the course of his remarks, he confirmed the report that the rebels in Richmond mined the Libby Prison, at the approach of Kilpatrick’s forces. The General gave the following account of the barbarous act:
“They told us of Kilpatrick’s raid. On the first of March arrangements had been made to receive him. And what do you suppose the arrangements were? To defend Richmond? Was that it? No. They mined Libby Prison, with the intention of blowing it and us: to use their own phrase, ‘to blow us to hell!” (Voice – is there proof of that?) That is capable of proof. I cannot tell you how the fact was intimated to us the next day, without betraying those from whom the information came. On the morning of Wednesday, March 2d, after we had been informed of the gunpowder plot, Dick Turner, the Inspector of Military Prisons, was asked by many officers at different times if we were correctly informed, and he assured us it was true: that a large quantity of powder had been placed under the prison, to blow us up, if Kilpatrick had come in, and that it would be done yet if attempts were made to rescue us.
“Rev. Dr. Smith, President of Randolph Macon College, well known down South, and known in the North too as an able and influential man, came into the prison to visit Lieutenant Colonel Nichols, of the Eighteenth Connecticut regiment, with whom he was acquainted. He stated that powder had been placed in the basement for the purpose of “blowing us into atoms.” Col. Nichols did not believe it. Dr. Smith assured him it was so. He had then come from the office of Judge Ould, Commissioner of Exchanges, who told him that it was so. Rev. Dr. McCabe said the same thing to Colonel Cesnola, of the Fourth New York cavalry, and others. Some officers were in the back kitchen at the window, directly over the door leading into the cellar. Major Turner, the commandant of the prison – Dick Turner – and four or five rebel officers went into the cellar, and on coming out they remained a few minutes at the door, and one of the officers said, “By G___, if you touch that off it will blow them to h__, sure enough?” On the morning we came away, Major Turner assured Captain Sawyer and Captain Flynn, who were exchanged in connection with myself, that powder was there, and he said, “rather than have you rescued I would have blown you to h___, even if we had gone there ourselves.” At first we could not believe it, not that we did not suppose them capable of it. We did not suppose them to be fools enough to be guilty of an act like that. The destruction of nine hundred Federal officers in that way would not have been a fatal blow to the Union cause, but it would have drawn down upon them the execrations of all mankind; it would have united the Northern people as one man, and would have filled the Northern heart with an intense indignation, and when Richmond should be captured, it would have been utterly destroyed and blotted out forever from the earth. A first we could not believe that such an act could have been contemplated, but we never regard it as established by satisfactory proof. Such is the temper of the leaders of the rebellion: Such their character.