Libby Prison Photograph Captioned by POW Acting Master Walter E.H. Fentress, USN

A small 4.5 x 3.75 in. mounted albumen of the oft-copied outdoor view of Libby Prison by Rees, Richmond. Beneath the image is an old penciled caption that is difficult to decipher in full. This particular view belonged to Acting Master Walter E.H. Fentress, USN, who was captured in Rodney, Mississippi and confined at the notorious prison until October 1864. Accompanying the albumen is a calling card for Mrs. Walter E.H. Fentress at the Strathmore. Fentress wrote in pencil on the back of the mount giving his name, W. E. H. Fentress/U.S. Navy/Captured Sept. 13. 1863/at Rodney, Miss., together with a key labeled No. 1 through 9 referencing various aspects of the prison scene in the photograph including Colonel Abel Straight (No. 7), the darling of the northern press who tunneled and escaped from Libby with 107 other Union prisoners in February 1864. Fentress captioned my quarters as No. 1 with a doted line from the margin. Oddly enough, not all of nine captions appear on the face of the photograph itself. This version is a later wartime copy shot of the popular "Rees, Richmond" view.

Walter Fentress likely joined the navy as an ordinary seamen as early as 1849. He likely participated in Commodore Perry’s historic expedition to Japan in July 1853 and by the time of the Civil War had attained the rank of Mate in December 1861. Fentress became Acting Ensign in August 1862 and was Acting Master from January 1863. After his stay at Libby, Fentress returned to shipboard duty in command of the USS Mist until the end of the war. He then served aboard the USS Canandaigua, reefing the Far East and Japan before resigning in September 1867. After the navy he lived the rest of his life in Michigan and died in 1892. The Fentress Papers, 1858-1892, are in the collection of the Rutgers University Library.

Condition:The albumen is damaged dead center with a 2” bend from the left margin and 1” from the right margin. The paper shows crackling under magnification while the clarity is strong. The mount is worn and soiled showing several gouges front and back with rounded corners, G. overall.

Estimate: $700 - $1,000


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