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Henry Sawyer to James Stradling, letter recounting experiences in Libby Prison, July 1863

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. He gave an account in a letter to James Stradling, a friend and former comrade just before he died in 1893 and twelve years later that friend included it in a magazine article on the incident. In his letter, Sawyer had explained the selection and his shock at realizing that the sentence would be carried out immediately. He went on to relate in dramatic fashion the close escape from hanging he and his companion made when they were reprieved for ten days. He then went on to explain second-hand the actions of his wife in immediately travelling to the White House and her meeting with President Lincoln. Lincoln directed Federal authorities the next day to select immediately two Confederate officers in Union hands, one of them W.H.F. Lee, son of the Confederate commander, and inform Richmond that they were being held for immediate execution should Sawyer and Flinn be put to death. Neither threat was carried out and Sawyer and Flinn were eventually exchanged. (By John Osborne)

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How to Cite This Page: "Henry Sawyer to James Stradling, letter recounting experiences in Libby Prison, July 1863," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/40321.