Civil War Saturday: Maggots, shinplasters, and spooning at Libby prison

Gail Dever - Genealogy à la carte

Gail Dever -Genealogy à la carte

Last week’s Civil War soldier’s story came from Gail Dever. Gail is a Montreal-based genealogy news blogger on Genealogy à la carte where she writes daily about family history resources and issues facing the genealogy community. She also manages the website for the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa. This week is the conclusion to her great-great-grandfather’s story.

More than 40 years after the American Civil War ended, my great-great-grandfather James “Jimmy” Young wrote a memoir about his experience with the 6th Connecticut Volunteers, Company K, and the months he endured in Andersonville prison. He was originally from Aberdeen, Scotland. In 1855, when he was 14 years old, Jimmy immigrated to Montreal, Quebec with his parents Robert Young and Mary Fyvie and nine siblings. On August 21, 1863, at the age of 24, he enlisted in New Haven, Connecticut.

When none of the guards was looking his way, Private Jimmy Young of the 6th Connecticut Volunteers put his hand inside his haversack and wrapped his fingers around the handle of his knife. The guard had just ordered the other prisoners and him to hand over their money to the prison clerk. He pulled out the knife. This was probably his last chance.

Libby prison

Less than 24 hours earlier, Jimmy had been a free man, manning a post that was little more than a mound of earth in an open field at Drewry’s Bluff, south of Richmond, Virginia. Soon after daybreak that morning, he and four other Union soldiers had been captured by the Confederates and transported down the James River to Richmond.

When their boat docked a short while later, the prisoners were greeted by a “motley crowd of men, women and children, white and black.” Some of the women spit in the men’s faces as they marched toward Libby prison.

Libby Prison

Libby Prison, north side, Richmond, Virginia, April 1865. Library of Congress.

Before the war, the three-story prison had been a food warehouse, leased by Captain Luther Libby and his son. Its location on the waterfront made it suitable for holding prisoners. Years later, Jimmy wrote that the building looked desolate.

Upon arrival, Jimmy and his fellow captives were led into one of several large rooms in the prison. The room was filled with prisoners. The only furniture he could see was a row of tin wash basins and a wood trough for washing. Jimmy would soon learn water was scarce.

They were told to deposit their money with the clerk and to prepare to be searched by the examiner who would confiscate their valuables.

Jimmy ignored the order to give up his money. From his haversack, he pulled out his knife and cut through several threads on the waistband of his pants. After making a tiny opening, he tucked $30 inside the waistband and stitched it closed. He still had a bit more paper money, 75 cents in shinplasters, and hid it in his clothing or perhaps somewhere on his body. That was all the money he owned.

Then the order came for the prisoners to go downstairs where the examiner would search them for valuables. Jimmy fell into line and headed toward the stairs.


When it was Jimmy’s turn, the examiner made him remove his boots to check inside for any valuables. He found none. He searched the lining of Jimmy’s cap and examined what he thought was every part of his clothing. He even removed the top of each brass button on Jimmy’s shirt, looking for hidden money. He still found none.

Private Albert H. Davis of Company K, 6th New Hampshire Infantry Regiment, carries a haversack. Library of Congress.

Private Albert H. Davis of Company K, 6th New Hampshire Infantry Regiment, carries a haversack. Library of Congress.

By the time the search was over, the examiner had confiscated Jimmy’s knife, quart cup, haversack, photographs of friends, rubber blanket, and other small items. But, he had found no money. The examiner remained suspicious and questioned Jimmy. To convince the examiner he only had a small amount of money on him, Jimmy pulled out the shinplasters from some deeply hidden place and handed them over. That was good enough for the examiner. He looked no further.

When the examiner started searching the next prisoner, Jimmy pulled on his boots and thought about how to retrieve his possessions. Without drawing attention to himself, he walked toward the end of the room. As he passed a window, he saw his photographs, knife, and cup and quickly gathered them up. Thinking no one was watching, he walked over to the pile of confiscated goods, pulled out his haversack, and moved on. When some of the prisoners saw him helping himself, they tried to do the same, but the examiner caught them and ordered them to return everything. Jimmy was lucky. Somehow, he managed to keep most of his money and possessions.

Lively with maggots

Jimmy soon learned that the daily food ration was usually six ounces of corn bread with a small piece of ham that was “lively with maggots.” Despite the dire situation, he was amused at the ingenuity of the men. Since few of the men had plates or utensils, they would take whatever food they could hold in the hollow of their hands or eat it from their boots.

Beans were considered a special meal at Libby and served late in the day. After one of these meals, Jimmy looked inside the kettles that had been used to boil the beans. It appeared that rice had been boiled in them. Upon closer inspection, however, he discovered that the bottoms were covered with almost two inches of maggots. Jimmy could see that the number of maggots varied from kettle to kettle. He figured the amount depended on how deeply they had scooped out the beans.

Spooning at night

Nighttime provided little relief. The room where Jimmy was held was so overcrowded that the men had to sleep on the rough plank floor “dove-tailed in like spoons.” Lice and “other vermin” kept them awake.

After enduring a few days at Libby, Jimmy and other prisoners were transported by rail to the prison in Danville, about 140 miles away. Their departure provided temporary relief to the overcrowding at Libby until the next shipment of prisoners arrived.

Jimmy would remain in Danville for some time until arrangements could be made to transport prisoners to the new Andersonville prison in Georgia.

Thank you Gail for sharing your Civil War ancestor’s story here on Civil War Saturday. May Jimmy always be remembered.

You can learn more about Gail Dever at:

Blog –

Twitter – @geneaalacarte

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Genealogy à la carte on Pinterest –



Young, James. Reminiscences of the Prison Life of James Young. ca. 1920.

Image of Libby prison, North side, Richard, Virginia, April 1865. Prints & Photographs Online Collection, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Online <;.

Image of Private Albert H. Davis of Company K, 6th New Hampshire Infantry Regiment in uniform, 1861. Prints & Photographs Online Collections, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Online <>.


Research notes

Since I do not own a photo of James Young in civil war uniform, I posted a photo of Private Albert H. Davis. It is possible my great-great-grandfather’s gear looked like Private Davis’ gear.

To see what a haversack looks like, scroll down this auctioneer’s website to see a couple of haversacks or Google the word.

Copyright © 2014, Gail Dever.



Civil War Saturday – How my Scottish-Canadian great-great-grandfather was captured during the US Civil War

This week’s Civil War soldier’s story comes from Gail Dever. Gail is a Montreal-based genealogy news blogger on Genealogy à la carte where she writes daily about family history resources and issues facing the genealogy community. She also manages the website for the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa. Gail has yet to find a photo of her great-great-grandfather James Young in his Civil War uniform, but she continues to look.

James Young

James Young, 1st Regiment, Prince of Wales Rifles of Montreal, Volunteer Militia, ca. 1862.

More than 40 years after the American Civil War ended, my great-great-grandfather James “Jimmy” Young wrote a memoir about his experience with the 6th Connecticut Volunteers, Company K, and the months he endured in Andersonville prison. Originally from Aberdeen, Scotland, Jimmy was 14 years old when he immigrated to Montreal with his parents Robert Young and Mary Fyvie and nine brothers and sisters in 1855.

By the time Jimmy decided to join the Union army in Connecticut, it was August 1863. A few weeks earlier, the Confederates had been defeated at the Battle Gettysburg and the tide of war had turned against the them. Jimmy was 24 years old, an unmarried brass finisher, and had been living in cramped housing in Montreal with his parents and most of his brothers and sisters. Like many young men in the city, he had served with the Volunteer Militia.

Jimmy replaced a conscripted man from New York, who likely paid him between $400 and $1,000. According to his obituary, Jimmy enlisted because he had been “fired with enthusiasm for the Northern cause and ready for the great adventure of life.” In reality, it was probably a combination of adventure, beliefs, and money that helped him decide to sign up.

Within a few months, Jimmy was doing duty at Port Royal in Hilton Head, South Carolina. In April 1864, his regiment was ordered to join the Army of the James under the command of Major General Benjamin Butler, who had received orders from Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant to attack west and cut Richmond, Virginia’s supply lines from the south.

March toward Richmond

By early May, tension had risen on both sides of the Civil War. Grant had been moving his army of 120,000 that included the 6th Connecticut Volunteers to face Confederate Robert E. Lee’s army that numbered 64,000. Soon after the Sixth and others landed at the town of Bermuda Hundred on the James River, they started their march toward Richmond. As part of Grant’s plan, they cut telegraph wires and ripped up the track of the Petersburg and Richmond Railroad, burning the ties and poles.

Less than a week later, on May 14, the Sixth was ordered to advance to Proctor’s Creek, near Drewry’s Bluff, south of Richmond. When they were unable to move any further, they stayed near the edge of a piece of woods where they could hear the enemy a short distance away. At this point, the war took an unfortunate turn for Jimmy.

Instant death”

During the evening of May 15, while Jimmy was manning a post, Captain Osborne of Company K crept along the ground to order him to change posts. The new post was in full view of the Confederate army. Jimmy told his captain it would be “instant death” for anyone who attempted to reach it. “Well, Cap, I don’t want to disobey orders, but if you will allow me to choose my own men, I will fill the position.” Osborne agreed, and Jimmy took two “tried veterans,” with him, William Gladstone and James Hine.

The three men made a bold dash for their new post. When they reached the post, Jimmy considered they were lucky to still be alive and uninjured. “The Johnnies were so intent firing into the woods where our boys were settling themselves for the night, that they overlooked us.”

The men discovered their post was not much more than a hole in the ground on a slight brow of a hill, built up by a little mound of earth with two rails placed in front. Through the night, they kept watch, staying low to the ground, hidden only by the darkness. Thinking back on the night, Jimmy wrote, “If they had had the slightest idea that we were in such close proximity to them, they would have lowered the muzzle of that gun and scooped us clean out of the ground.” At regular intervals, they heard the enemy fire shot after shot in their direction with many of the shots going close to their heads.

After several hours, three men from the 7th Connecticut Volunteers tried to crawl across the field to relieve them, but a volley of shots forced them to scamper back. Jimmy, Gladstone, and Hine were left on their own.

The attack

Just before sunrise, a thick fog covered the battleground. The rebels gathered their forces and charged upon them, shouting with that “peculiar yell so characteristic of the Johnnies.”

Jimmy wrote, “They were on us before they knew we were in front of them, and when we sprang to our feet I suppose they thought we came out of the ground.”

Because of the sheer number of Confederates attacking them, Jimmy, Gladstone, and Hine surrendered.


By noon that day, May 16, the war was over for Jimmy. The Confederates transported Glandstone, Hine, and him along with other prisoners down the James River to Richmond where they were marched to Libby prison.

Libby Prison

Libby Prison, Richmond, Virginia, August 23, 1863, A. Hoen & Co. Library of Congress.

Many thanks to Gail for sharing her Civil War ancestor’s story here today. Jimmy’s experience as a POW will continue with next week’s Civil War Saturday. See you then!

You can learn more about Gail Dever at:

Blog –

Twitter – @geneaalacarte

Genealogy à la carte Facebook group –

Genealogy à la carte on Pinterest –


Sources — Books

Cadwell, Charles K. The Old Sixth Regiment, Its War Record, 1861-5. New Haven, Connecticut: 1875. Reprint, Salem, Massachusetts: Higginson Book Company, 1998. (Online version available through Internet Archive: <>.)

Macdonald, John. The Historical Atlas of the Civil War. New York, New York: Cartwell Books, 2009.

Young, James. Reminiscences of the Prison Life of James Young. ca. 1920.

Sources — Newspaper

James Young dies, aged eight-four, Montreal (Quebec) Daily Star, 5 September 1923, page 2.

Sources — Online

National Park Service, Washington, D.C. 6th Regiment, Connecticut Infantry, Union Connecticut Volunteers, Regiment Details, Civil War. Online < >.

Sources — Photographs

Young, James. Portrait, c. 1861, Montreal, Quebec. Photographer unknown.

Libby Prison. The only picture in existence. As it appeared August 23, 1863. Prints & Photographs Online Collection, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Online < >.

Copyright © 2014, Gail Dever.


I see the soldiers, do you?

DUVCW Ohio Dept Convention - Sally in center

DUVCW Ohio Dept Convention – Sally in center

Many of you know that I belong to the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War 1861-1865 (DUVCW). Our members are direct descendants of honorably discharged Union soldiers. Our goal is to “keep green the memory” of our Civil War ancestors.

Now I’ve been a member of the DUVCW for 18 years. I’ve been fairly active in my local group, called a tent, for the last 10 years.

All tents in our state meet yearly for a State or Department convention. The Ohio Dept. convention this year was lucky enough to have the DUVCW National Senior Vice President join us. Sally, was a lot of fun and we enjoyed her participation in the convention.

I had the good fortune to speak with Sally several times over the three day convention. Sally is a former history teacher and very knowledgeable about the Civil War.

One of our conversations will forever be etched in my mind. Sally had heard me give a brief description about my book, Ancestors in a Nation Divided, to the members. I credited a visit to Gettysburg as the turning point in my life when I became committed to Civil War research. Specifically I talked about standing on Seminary Ridge and actually feeling the devotion to “the cause” that brought those soldiers there.

When Sally and I talked later she said she understood how I felt that day seven years ago in Gettysburg. Her father was a Civil War buff and when she was a child he took the family on many vacations to different battlefields. On every visit her dad would gaze out across the battlefield and say to her, “Sally can you see the soldiers?”

Of course at the time she was too young and didn’t understand what he was saying. But she looked me in the eye that day and said, “I see them today and I know you do too.”

Her comment nearly brought tears to my eyes. I see the soldiers. I see them when I go to Gettysburg, Chickamauga or follow my great great grandfather’s footsteps across Virginia just like his regiment did as they pursued Lee the final week of the war.

I see the smoky haze from continual artillery fire. I can feel the soldiers, their loyalty to their flag and their determination to fight for it. I do see the soldiers.

Something clicked with me during Sally’s comment as I realized that I see the soldiers. It sounds silly but the light bulb went off in my head. I knew right then I’m supposed to remember these soldiers and tell their story. My job is to make sure they are not lost to the pages of history.

So recharged and energized I want to remember our Civil War ancestors, research them, write about their lives and experiences and never forget that we stand on their shoulders today. I’m working on some ideas to do just that. I’m hoping that maybe you’ll give me a hand. Until then . . . .

I see the soldiers, do you?


Today on Civil War Saturday: This soldier fought in major battles and experienced war’s greatest tragedies

Today I have a guest family historian, Norman Pugh, sharing the story of his Civil War ancestor. I know you’ll enjoy reading about this Civil War veteran as we remember him on Civil War Saturday.


Charles and Harriet Franklin. Charles fought with Co C 42nd Virginia CSA

Charles and Harriet Franklin. Charles fought with Co C 42nd Virginia CSA

If you would allow me a minute of your time, I would like to tell you about a Civil War hero. My great great grand father Mr. Charles Robert Franklin was born 7-6-1841 into a family of eight. He was the third child of a family of farmers who lived in Lisbon (now Bedford) Virginia.

Charles decided to enlist in the CSA on 5-18-1861 with his older brother Henry Thomas who was 24 years old at the time. Charles was 20. They were in the Buford Grays company, and were members of Company C, 42nd Virginia Infantry. When the CSA organized the 42nd, they took men from the counties of Bedford, Campbell, Floyd, Roanoke, Patrick, and Franklin. The field officers were Colonels Jessie S. Burks, Andrew J. Deyerle, John E. Peen, and R.W. Withers. There were around 1,000 men who enlisted to fight in the war for money to raise there families or just for what they thought was the right thing to do. There were 10 companies and they were in many battles including First Kernstown, Cold Harbor, Seven Days Battle, Appomattox, Second Manassas, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Antietam along with other small battles.

On 1-15-1863 in a small battle on Payne’s farm in Virginia, Charles watched his brother Henry, hit and killed when a shell hit a wooden fence and sent splinters flying everywhere. Charles buried Henry there that day, about 10 months later Henry’s body was exhumed by Charles and other family members and taken back home where he rests today in Bedford.


Henry Thomas Franklin

Pvt Henry Thomas Franklin – Co C 42 Virginia Infantry

I have found records where Charles was wounded three times including the lose of his left thumb that was shot off at Antietam. He was shot in the right shoulder at Gettysburg, and wounded at Chancellorsville. We also found records where he suffered from chronic rheumatism his whole life. He was captured in Spotsylvania by the Union army on 5-12-1864 and sent to Elmira NY as a pow. This pow camp was one of the worst and had the highest death rate (one in four died) from starvation, bad weather, or some other hellish thing. At some point Charles was later liberated, used in a prisoner exchange. He then returned home to Bedford where he was awarded the Southern Cross of Honor.


Charles and Harriet Franklin. Charles wearing his Southern Cross.

Charles and Harriet Franklin. Charles wearing his Southern Cross.

After the war he married a cousin named Harriet Anna Franklin. They lived on the mountain all their long life. They had 10 children, two died at an early age. These two were buried on the mountain. The Franklins owned around 200 acres of timber, of which they cleared 4 or 5 acres and built a home to raise their children, and grow food to live from. This I’m sure was a very laborious feat, with all the rock and tree stumps to be removed by hand. I believe the land was payment for his service in the war. The old home place still stands proud up there today.
When Charles got home he filed for disability and got it, because he could not use an axe properly to chop wood. This says a lot about my great great grandmother because she had to take up what Charles could not do.

He lived on the farm in Bedford until he died on 8-3-1910 from heart dropsy. He is resting beside his wife and brother Henry and other family on top of the mountain. Just two years ago I had new marble head stones placed beside the original stones. To honor my heroes in the Franklin line.


Pvt Charles Franklin final resting place

Pvt Charles Robert Franklin’s final resting place

Even with all that was put on him in the war and after, I look at Charles as a very hard, sturdy man and a giant in my eyes. Even though he was a small man physically, the heart and soul of this man was something that is not found much today. I would like to thank my cousins Rodney Franklin and Teresa Shiflett who helped me a whole lot with researching our family. May God forgive all who have died in wars. THANK YOU NORMAN L. PUGH


Thank you Norman for sharing your Civil War ancestor and his life here on Civil War Saturday. Charles Franklin fought in many of the war’s major battles, buried his brother on the battlefield and endured life in a prison camp. May we always remember these men and their stories.