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Captain Henry W. Sawyer to his Wife, from Libby Prison, Richmond, Virginia

Henry Washington Sawyer, detail
Captain Henry W. Sawyer of the the First New Jersey Cavalry was one of two officer prisoners selected by lot for hanging as retribution for the mid-May 1863 executions of two Confederate officers convicted of spying in Kentucky. Captain John Flinn of the 51st Indiana Infantry was the other. Sawyer, who had been wounded and captured at Brandy Station, reacted sensibly and immediately wrote a letter to his wife in Cape May, New Jersey, knowing that she and his friends would inform the War Department in Washington of the developments. His letter implored her to visit him before the scheduled execution fourteen days hence and assured her that he would die as an officer should though he had committed no crime. Mrs Sawyer did as he had hoped and the Federal authorities immediately selected two Confederate officers in Union hands, one of them W.H.F. Lee, son of the Confederate commander, announcing they to be held for immediate execution should Sawyer and Flinn be put to death. Sawyer's wife also made an attempt to visit her husband, travelling to City Point, Virginia before being turned away. Neither threat, however, was carried out and Sawyer and Flinn were exchanged in 1864. Flinn's health had been broken in prison and he was discharged and died in 1872 but Sawyer returned to the First New Jersey and ended the war as a Lieutenant Colonel and had a long career as a hotelier in Cape May. (By John Osborne)


How to Cite This Page: "Captain Henry W. Sawyer to his Wife, from Libby Prison, Richmond, Virginia," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,