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spired by the spirit of slavery, and performed in the interest of slavery. That spirit, destructive of liberty and law, and self-destructive at last, was the father of the rebellion and of all the worst crimes of its adherents. As I walked among the ruins, pondering these thoughts, I must own that my lieart swelled with pride when I remembered how the fire was extinguished. It was by no mere chance that the panic-stricken inhabitants were found powerless to save their own city. That task was reserved for the Union army, that a great truth might be symbolized. The war, on the part of the North, was waged neither for ambition nor revenge ; its design was not destructive, but conservative. Through all our cloudy mistakes and misdeeds shone the spirit of Liberty ; and the work she gave us to do was to quench the national flames which anarchy had kindled, and to save a rebellious people from the consequences of their own folly.
Richmond had already one terrible reminiscence of a fire. On the night of the 26th of December, 1811, its theatre was burned, with an appalling catastrophe : upward of seventy spectators, including the Governor of the State, perishing in the flames. The fire of the 3d of April, 1865, will be as long remembered.
The work of rebuilding the burnt district had commenced, and was progressing in places quite vigorously. Here I had the satisfaction of seeing the negroes, who “ would not work,” actually at their tasks. Here, as everywhere else in Richmond, and indeed in every part of Virginia I visited, colored laborers were largely in the majority. They drove the teams, made the mortar, carried the hods, excavated the old cellars or dug new ones, and, sitting down amid the ruins, broke the mortar from the old bricks and put them up in neat piles ready for use. There were also colored masons and carpenters employed on the new buildings. I could not see but that these people worked just as industriously as the white laborers. And yet, with this scene before our very eyes, I was once more informed by a cynical citizen that the negro, now that he was free, would rob, steal, or starve, before he would work.
CHAT WITH A COLORED LABORER. 151 ! I conversed with one of the laborers going home to his dinner. He was a stalwart young black, twenty-one years old, married, and the father of two children. He was earning a lollar and a half a day.
“Can you manage to live on that, and support your family?”
“It 's right hard, these times, — everything costs so high. I have to pay fifteen dollars a month rent, and only two little rooms. But my wife takes in washing and goes out to work; and so we get along."
“But,” said I, “ were not your people better off in slavery?”
“Oh no, sir !” he replied, with a bright smile. “We 're a heap better off now. We have n’t got our rights yet, but I expect we 're go'n' to have 'em soon.”
“What rights ?”
“I don't know, sir. But I reckon government will do something for us. My master has had me ever since I was seven years old, and never give me nothing. I worked for him twelve years, and I think something is due me.”
He was waiting to see what the government would do for his people. He rather expected the lands of their Rebel masters would be given them, insisting that they ought to have some reward for all their years of unrequited toil. Of course I endeavored to dissuade him from cherishing any such hope.
“What you ask for may be nothing but justice; but we must not expect justice even in this world. We must be thankful for what we can get. You have your freedom, and you ought to consider yourself lucky.”
His features shone with satisfaction as he replied,
“ That ought to be enough, if we don't get no mo’e. We 're men now, but when our masters had us we was only change in their pockets.”
Unlike what I saw in Chambersburg, the new blocks springing up in the burnt district did not promise to be an improvement on the old ones. Everywhere were visible the results
of want of capital and of the hurry of rebuilding. The thin ness of the walls was alarming; and I was not surprised to learn that some of them had recently been blown down on a windy night. Heaven save our country, thought I, from such hasty and imperfect reconstruction !
INTERIOR OF LIBBY PRISON.
CHAPTER XX. LIBBY, CASTLE THUNDER, AND BELLE ISLE. STROLLING along a street near the river, below the burnt (listrict, I looked up from the dirty pavements, and from the little ink-colored stream creeping along the gutter, (for Richmond abounds in these villanous rills,) and saw before me a sign nailed to the corner of a large, gloomy brick building, and bearing in great black letters the inscription,
LIBBY PRISON. Passing the sentinel at the door, I entered. The groundfloor was partitioned off into offices and store-rooms, and presented few objects. of interest. A large cellai room below, paved with cobble-stones, was used as a cook-house by our soldiers then occupying the building. Adjoining this, but separated from it by a wall, was the cellar which is said to have been mined for the purpose of blowing up Libby with its inmates, in case the city had at one time been taken.
Ascending a flight of stairs from the ground-floor, I found myself in a single, large, oblong, whitewashed, barren room. Two rows of stout wooden posts supported the ceiling. The windows were iron-grated, those of the front looking out upon the street, and those of the rear commanding a view of the canal close by, the river just beyond it, and the opposite shore.
There was an immense garret above, likewise embracing the entire area of the floor. These were the prison-rooms of the infamous Libby. I found them occupied by a regiment of colored troops, some sitting in Turkish fashion on the floor, (for there was not a stool or bench,) some resting their backs against the posts or whitewashed walls, and others lying at length on the hard planks, with their heads pillowed on their knapsacks.
But the comfortable colored regiment faded from sight as I ascended and descended the stairs, and walked from end to end of the dreary chambers. A far different picture rose before me, — the diseased and haggard men crowded together there, dragging out their weary days, deeming themselves oftentimes forgotten by their country and their friends,
– men who mounted those dungeon-stairs, not as I mounted them, but to enter a den of misery, starvation, and death.
On the opposite side of the same street, a little farther up, was Castle Thunder, — a very commonplace brick block, considering its formidable name. It was still used as a prison; hut it had passed into the hands of the United States military authorities. At the iron-barred windows of the lower story, and behind the wooden - barred windows above, could be seen the faces of soldiers and citizens imprisoned for various offences.
Belle Island I had already seen from the heights of Richmond, — a pleasant hill rising out of the river above the town, near the farther shore. The river itself is very beautiful there, with its many green islets, its tumbling rapids sweeping down among rocks and foaming over ledges, and its side-dams thrown out like arms to draw the waters into their tranquil embrace. My eye, ranging over this scene, rested on that fair hill; and I thought that, surely, no pleasanter or more healthful spot could have been selected for an encampment of prisoners. But it is unsafe to trust the enchantment of distance; and after seeing Libby and Castle Thunder, I set out to visit Belle Island.
I crossed over to Manchester by a bridge which had been constructed since the fire. As both the Richmond and Danville, and the Richmond and Petersburg railroad bridges were destroyed, an extraordinary amount of business and travel was thrown upon this bridge. It was shaken with omnibuses and freight-wagons, and enveloped in clouds of dust. Loads of cotton and tobacco, the former in bales, the latter in hogsheads, were coming into the city, and throngs of pedestrians were passing to and fro. Among these I noticed a number