Libby Prison’s First Victim.

by Laurel | August 21st, 2009

August 21, 1898, Page 6

Philander Streeter of Holyoke. — Sketch of the First Man to Enter the Famous Prison in the War of the Rebellion.

Philander A. Streeter

Philander A. Streeter

In the midst of the interest and excitement attendant upon the care and recognition of the boys of the war of 1809 it is fitting that the heroes of the war of 1861 be not overlooked. That the best of feeling prevails is seen by the interest that the veterans of the war for the Union take In the soldiers of the war for humanity. Of both of these Holyoke has her fair share; and claims among other distinctions that of having as one of her respected citizens Philander A. Streeter; the first Union man to enter Libby prison as a prisoner of war. Mr. Streeter is a Vermonter by birth and when the war broke out was working at the carriage business in Brattleboro, Vt. His employer vainly endeavored to dissuade him from enlisting; in June of ’81 he was mustered in, joining Co C of the 2d Vermont volunteers. His was the first Union regiment to pass through the streets of Baltimore after the blood passage of the 6th Massachusetts through that city; and with it he saw long and hard service, first at Bull Run, then in the Wilderness and before Richmond, a recent to be proud of.

Mr. Streeter was captured at the first battle of Bull Run. Charles Rice, another Vermonter who died a Year or two ago, was wounded In this fight and Mr. Streeter with four others stopped to carry him to the rear from the field. They saw a party of cavalry approaching, but thought from their uniforms that they were Union me. What was their surprise to find as they came up that they were surrounded and were prisoners of war. They were then taken to Manasses Junction and shipped in freight cars to Richmond. On the way they planned a thousand methods of escape from the cars, bat finally gave them all up. Mr. Streeter often says humorously that he planned to go “on to Richmond” when he entered the service, but hardly in the way that he arrived there. It was his pleasure later to arrive In Richmond in a more creditable fashion. They were then taken to Libby prison. The first consignment of the hated “Yanks” were addressed rather scornfully, and the women were even worse than the men in abusive language. The men were lined up and Mr. Streeter at the head of the procession, no doubt with head well in air as became a true son of liberty, marched Into the grim old prison that later was the scene of so much suffering.

Fortunately he had with him quite a little sum of money with which he was able to buy some food, and as did not suffer so much as others who were without that useful aid. Still, be must have had some trouble, for when he came out he weighed less than 100 pounds, while when he entered he weighed 165 pounds. He was in the prison five months and 14 days, being then exchanged and sent North along with a lot of others. Mr. Streeter well remembers how the tears came to the eyes of every Union soldier on the boat when the rebel boat met the Union boat for the exchange, and they saw for the first time for nearly six months the stars and stripes flying in the breeze. While in the prison he carved from the bones that accompanies their soups various little rings and other knickknacks which be still keeps along with the last ration of hardtack which was served out all the prism. This is still as fresh-looking as ever and undoubtedly just as dry and tasteless. He also has a large collection of personal relics—the coat, cartridge box, blouse, cap cover, etc., that he wore while in the war. After a furlough In which he recovered his health in full measure, he again went to the front mild with his company saw hard service in the second battle of Bull Run, in the battles of the Wilderness and before Richmond. A spent bullet grazed his cheek; he had a bullet pass through his blouse, but otherwise escaped injury. His canteen, still coated with Virginia mud, is another relic; and it is Interesting to note that the last drink that was taken out of it was given to a badly wounded rebel, who expressed surprise that he should do such a thing. The rebel stated that he would look him up if he lived; but as he was badly wounded Mr. Streeter is of the opinion that he died. At least nothing was ever heard of him. Mr. Streeter is a member of the local Grand Army post and prominent also in the Union prisoners of war association, which recently met in Holyoke. His wife, Mrs. Streeter, is active in relief work and is president of the local Holyoke Branch of the Massachusetts volunteer aid association. The fighting blood is still in the family, as one of their three sons, Oscar, is a cavalryman In the United States service, being a member of Troop 7, now stationed in Utah, where the Indians are at present very ugly. Like all other veterans, Mr. Streeter has a large fund of stories of war experiences, though he seldom alludes to them except in request or answer to questions.

From The Springfield Republican.

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