Murray, Henry H. 1st Lt., 2nd Battle Fair Oaks; POW  Libby Prison

 Henry Murray, a 22 year old clerk, enlisted July 31, 1862, as a private in the Thirteenth N.H. Regiment.  He was appointed 2nd Lieutenant, Sept 27, 1862, and promoted to First Lieutenant of Company K, June 10, 1863.     On the 27th of October he was captured at the Battle of Fair Oaks and for a time held hostage at Libby Prison.  Potent political influences were exerted on his behalf and on February 15th, 1865, he was paroled and in June the following year, he mustered out at Richmond, VA.

He was born in Newmarket 18 Jan 1841 to Timothy (a merchant) and Mary H. Murray.  In 1860 he was living with his parents, his brother Orrin, a railroad expressman, and his brother Charles, also a clerk.  By 1870 he and his brother Charles moved to Greewood Kansas and began farming.   He was land spectulator  five years later living in Osage, Kansas.  In 1880 he was a clerk living in Coffey, Kansas.  He married Ida E. Paty  on 3 Oct  1879, and they had a son Timothy Wayne Murray born in 1883.  Henry was a Real Estate agent living in Burlington Kansas.  He filed for his military pension in Feb 1869.  By 1905 he had moved to New York City where he died on  3 Sep 1905.  He is buried in the family plot in Riverside Cemetery, Newmarket. 

During the War, the 13th NH Regiment lost 5 Officers,  84 Enlisted men were killed and mortally wounded,  and 92 Enlisted men died of disease.   Total 181.

 2ND Battle of Fair Oaks

(Civil War photo of Battle of Fair Oaks)

On Oct 24, 1864, at the Second Battle of Fair Oaks, Virginia, Union forces withdraw after failing to breach the Confederate defenses around Richmond.  The assault was actually a diversion to draw attention from a larger Union offensive around Petersburg, Virginia.

Fair Oaks, the scene of one of the Seven Days Battles in June 1862, was located on the defensive perimeter around the Confederate capital of Richmond. Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s army constructed five lines of trenches that stretched 25 miles south to Petersburg. For five months, Lee’s troops had been under siege by the forces of Union General Ulysses S. Grant. The monotony of the siege was suspended only periodically by a Union attempt to break Lee’s lines. One such attack came at Hatcher’s Run, southwest of Petersburg, on October 27. At the same time, Grant ordered an attack at Fair Oaks, about 24 miles from the assault at Hatcher’s Run.

The Richmond defenses were formidable, so any direct assault was unlikely to succeed. By attacking at Fair Oaks, Grant hoped to prevent Lee from shifting any troops along the Richmond-Petersburg line to reinforce the lines at Hatcher’s Run. Troops from Union General Benjamin Butler’s Tenth Corps moved north of the James River and conducted a two-pronged offensive against Richmond on October 27. Confederate General James Longstreet, in charge of the Richmond section of the Confederate defenses, skillfully positioned troops to thwart the Yankees. Union General Godfrey Weitzel, commander of part of the attack, enjoyed some initial success but could not significantly penetrate the Rebel trenches. On October 28, Weitzel determined that he had accomplished all he could and withdrew his troops.

                                                                                        (Photo of Professor Lowe’s Hot Air Ballon used at The Battle of  Fair Oaks)

Some 1,100 Union men were killed, wounded, or captured during the attack, while the Confederates lost some 450 troops. The planned diversion did not work—at the far end of the defenses, the Yankees failed to move around the end of the Confederate line at Hatcher’s Run.  


 Libby Prison                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

A group of surgeons, upon their release from Libby, published an account of what they experienced treating Libby inmates in the attached hospital:

(Painting of Libby Prison by David Gilmore)

Thus we have over ten per cent of the whole number of prisoners held classed as sick men, who need the most assiduous and skilful attention; yet, in the essential matter of rations, they are receiving nothing but corn bread and sweet potatoes. Meat is no longer furnished to any class of our prisoners except to the few officers in Libby hospital, and all sick or well officers or privates are now furnished with a very poor article of corn bread in place of wheat bread, unsuitable diet for hospital patients prostrated with diarrhea, dysentery and fever, to say nothing of the balance of startling instances of individual suffering and horrid pictures of death from protracted sickness and semi-starvation we have had thrust upon our observation.

The first demand of the poor creatures from the island was always for something to eat. Self respect gone, hope and ambition gone, half clad and covered with vermin and filth, many of them are too often beyond all reach of medical skill. In one instance the ambulances brought sixteen to the hospital, and during the night seven of them died. Again, eighteen were brought, and eleven of them died in twenty-four hours. At another time fourteen were admitted, and in a single day ten of themdied. Judging from what we have ourselves seen and do know, we do not hesitate to say that, under a treatment of systematic abuse, neglect and semi-starvation, the numbers who are becoming permanently broken down in their constitutions must be reckoned by thousands.

Shortly after the battle of Chickamauga about two hundred wounded prisoners arrived at Richmond from the field. They were almost all in a famishing and starving condition. They were three days on the road between the two points, and all they had to eat during that time was four hard crackers each. On their arrival at Richmond they were taken to the Libby prison, where they laid two days longer without having their wounds dressed, and during all which time they had not a mouthful to eat.[1]

An article in the Richmond Enquirer vividly described prison conditions:

Libby takes in the captured Federals by scores, but lets none out; they are huddled up and jammed into every nook and corner; at the bathing troughs, around the cooking stoves, everywhere there is a wrangling, jostling crowd; at night the floor of every room they occupy in the building is covered, every square inch of it, by uneasy slumberers, lying side by side, and heel to head, as tightly packed as if the prison were a huge, improbable box of nocturnal sardines.[2]

Sources:  ^ The New York Herald, “The Richmond Prisoners,” November 28, 1863

  1. ^ Richmond Enquirer, February 2, 1864, “City Intelligence. The Libby Prison and its Contents”