Sorry for the cutoff scans due to the legal sized letter (12 1/2 by 8) written by Sgt William Hunt Goff 24th Massachusetts company H while he was a guard at Libby Prison.William became the rank of Full Sergt. on the 1st March 1865. This is a four page letter. I have only shown what I could of the first page which has you can see is fairly able to read, although there are some rough spots. The second scan shown the accounting of the escape of Dick Turner and some of it is impossible to read. See end of listing for more on Dick Turner.
Note: This was one of four letters offered by a eBay seller, who has provided information about Goff. The signature on the bottom is too hard to read, though you can see the ff
May 11th 1865
This is one letter from the extensive collection of the letters of William Hunt Goff. If you google his name it will bring up all of his letters.
You may think it strange that I have not writing to you before in fact I received one or two letters from you about a week ago and have tried to answer them once or twice before but could not call my thoughts together so I let them go until the present time and as I am on guard at Libby today I can take part of the night to write this letter in since writing my last we have had two or three grand military displays the first was on the fifth of this month when the second and fifth Army Corp. of the Army of the Potomac passed in (?) Through the city it was a grand site and they was five hours and a half pairing a giving point it made a good money of the southern people open their eyes some to see some of the powers of Uncle Sam yesterday we had the pleasure of seeing Gen. Sherman Army passed through while today the 19th and 20th Corps of Gen. Sherman Army poured through and tomorrow the 15th and 17th Corps of the same Army per through any will not have many set chances in his life time to see - many troops in so that a time they camp the Army a mile or two outside of Manchester for a few days before marching them through the city so all to give a good many a chance to come across the river and take a stroll over Libby and other places for a good many of them have been in Libby prison sometime during the war and they like to take back at the place before they go north all of the armies have marched by both Castle thunder and Libby prison both places here yet large many hung and so that all can see them has been large crowds here for the last week or so and whoever is on guard at the prison here all that he can do showing them and their here been a good many from the north today and I have heard to play the ayre able to them they all want to take away with them something to show their friends Their prisoners at the North and I remember the place by such a piece of a brick or would or a nail or something of that kind. We have had a pretty hard thunder pretty hard but under showers tonight the first of many account that we have had this spring I see in the paper the other night that the Army of the ? was to remain in Virginia per the present to do some provost duty and one thing and another I do not think that I shall get a choice to get here much before full allotment we cannot tell you tell me that I must mind and sparing of my money will I go that I shall be I did not have but five dollars when I came in the city and that was ? so I do not think that I shall spend much more for the present and they say that we are not going to have any more pay at the present.
I receive mothers and grandma pictures the other day and I think that they are first rate ? we have not got there notes that I wrote you about some time ago and there is order not to send any more clothing so that we shall not have (?) Get M of the rest of the pickings and are looking gay.
Dick Turner made his escape from the prison last night we did not find it out till this morning at night ( HARD TO READ LINE) through it rather strange that he did not hear any one the(?) And when he comes to look and he found it empty. He had removed one of the bars of the window that looked out from the cell one to the street was taken out he had made his way out up onto the street the (?) That was taking out we found to be nothing but would and at (?) And all that he was waiting for was a dark and rainy night and last night was the first the time I hear that they have offered a reward of 1000 to any one that will take him I am well and in good health with love yours truly
Regarding the escape of Dick Turner
Memorable Incident in the Life of R. R. Turner,
A LIBBY PRISON OFFICIAL.
Mistaken for the Commandant, He Was About to Be Court-martialed.
Escaped from the Guards After Being Given the Enclosure, and Managed to Reach the House of a Friend - Opportunity Presenting Itself, He Slipped Away from Richmond - Died Last Week.
The death of Mr. R. R. Turner, which occurred in Isle of Wight county on Thursday, recalls a memorable incident in his life, which took place in Richmond some thirty-five years ago.
During the civil war, and at its close, Mr. Turner was commissary of the famous Libby Prison, in this city, where a large number of Union prisoners of war were confined. The commandant of the prison was his cousin, Captain Thomas Turner. By his rigid discipline, which was absolutely necessary under the circumstances, Captain Turner naturally incurred the ill-will of the men in his keeping, who charged him with cruelty and freely circulated this report among their northern relatives and friends.
As a matter of fact, the inmates of Libby prison received better treatment than Confederate prisoners in northern prisons. The rations may at times have been scanty, but in this they fared as well as the Confederate soldiers who were guarding them, receiving exactly the same amount and quality of food.
When Richmond was evacuated, and the Union troops came in, one of the first men they searched for was Captain Thomas Turner. The report that he had been the commandant of the famous Libby prison had gone all over the North. Fortunately, Captain Turner had left the city.
WRONG MAN ARRESTED.
His cousin, Mr. R. R. Turner, was found, however, and the fact that in appearance, he was like his relative; that he had been at Libby prison and that he was certainly named Turner, led to his being mistaken for Captain Thomas Turner. He was placed in the State penitentiary to be tried by court-martial. With feeling running high, as it did in the days following the evacuation, courts-martial did not make nice distinctions in matters of identity. Captain Wirz, the commandant of the Andersonville prison, was arrested about the same time, and executed, after having been court-martialed upon the same charge as that preferred against Mr. R. R. Turner.
Turnerís chances were small indeed. With friends and acquaintances scattered, it was practically impossible for him to at once establish that he was not the Turner wanted. No delay would have been granted him. There was no such thing as appeal to the civil courts. The military authority was supreme and in full control. He had no friends in positions of influence.
MADE HIS ESCAPE.
For some reason, probably because of the large number of duties devolving upon the recently installed local military authorities, the court-martial was not held for several days. Mr. Turner had been in prison about eight or ten days, when, being given the privilege of the grounds within its walls, he escaped, and made his way to the residence of Mr. John Tyree, a friend, at the corner of Monroe and Marshall streets, where he was concealed for a week or two.
Mr. Tyree, a few weeks later, slipped him out of the lower end of the city. Being well acquainted with all the roads leading from the city, he soon made his way through the country to the home of his relatives and friends in Isle of Wight, where he remained until the excitement incident to the affair had died out.
It is asserted as an undeniable fact by those who were acquainted with the circumstances that so great was Mr. Turnerís anxiety concerning the position in which he was placed, that the color of his hair changed from a raven-black into gray in one night.
This is the link: Turner: http://www.civilwarrichmond.com/written-accounts/newspapers/richmond-dispatch/2299-1901-12-08-richmond-dispatch-description-of-the-escape-of-richard-r-dick-turner-from-libby-prison-after-the-close-of-the-war-includes-engraving-of-turner
William H. Goff
Residence Attleboro MA; an 18 year-old Farmer.
Enlisted on 10/21/1861 as a Private.
On 10/23/1861 he mustered into "H" Co. MA 24th Infantry
He Re-enlisted on 1/4/1864
He was Mustered Out on 1/20/1866 at Richmond, VA
* Corpl 9/3/1864
* Sergt 3/1/1865
born in Rehobeth, MA
Member of GAR Post # 145 (William A. Streeter) in Attleborough, MA
Held GAR Offices:
* Post Commander # 145
Sources used by Historical Data Systems, Inc.:
- Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors and Marines in the Civil War
- Photo courtesy of Massachusetts Commandery of MOLLUS
- GAR Dept of Massachusetts 1866-1947 (Sargent)
(c) Historical Data Systems, Inc. @ www.civilwardata.com