"For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality." ---- 1 Corinthians 15:53
This was the scene inside Libby Prison...as depicted by David G. Blythe (1815-1865)...an artist of the period who devoted much of his talent to capturing on canvas his deepest feelings about the American Civil War.  My own deepest feeling on the matter is that this artist got it wrong.  While Blythe succeeded in giving an artistic depth to his figures inside this two-dimensional portrayal of Libby Prison, his figures are too well clothed to express the realities of their captivity.  For once captured, These Men of Libby carried with them little more than the clothes they wore on their backs--- uniforms that in time turned from clearly definable Union Blue into undistinguishable faded rags.  I suspect that as their days of captivity turned into weeks, their weeks into months, and their months into years, if This Band of Men...These Men of Libby were to wear anything about them, such uniforms as these would have long given way to nothing more than a few tattered blankets issued them from time to time by their Confederate captors.
Moreover, the dirt floor in Blythe's artistic rendition of Libby Prison suggests that these men were garrisoned on the first floor.  Nothing could be further from the truth of the matter, for I suspect that the first floor of Libby Prison was used for perhaps only three very special purposes, none of which had anything to do with the housing of ambulatory prisoners such as those seen here.  Rather, a portion of the first floor would have been cordoned off for use by the Confederates themselves--- as a 'guard house' for all the on-duty prison guards who, when off-duty, were bivouacked outside the prison walls in tent-upon-tent formations--- all in sufficient number to completely dominate the immediate landscape stretching from one end of the building to the other.  A second partition of the first floor most likely would have been used as the 'prison kitchen', where their food was prepared--- what little there was of it.  And the third and final area of the first floor would serve as the 'prison hospital' --- a vast area reserved for those too weak to climb the stairs to the floors above.
And then there's this--- my final observation--- for In stepping back from the Blythe painting, with few exceptions I don't see all the misery and desperation that permeated Libby Prison.  The fact is that once Grant took command of the Union forces in the spring of 1864, he stopped the prisoner exchange program that had long prevailed between North and South.  As a result of Grant's unilateral decision, few would survive any prolonged period of captivity in this place they called Libby Prison--- for all were destined to suffer from malnutrition bordering on starvation and from disease perpetuated by the water they drank--- water that was drawn from the very same source from where the prison's sewage was discharged--- the James River.  And as I now write of 'This Band of Brothers...These Men of Libby'  in my "Raisins and Almonds---A Civil War Story"  I look into their eyes and what I see is only their misery and their despair as they reach out to their chaplain, John Whitehead, in search of spiritual strength to live out yet another day.  For without sustainable food and potable water, they would instinctively turn to their chaplain in search of that which would then concern them most--- the forgiveness of their sins in this world and the salvation of their souls in the next.  And true to his calling as a messenger of Christian faith, John would meet the challenges facing each and every one of their number by conducting daily devotionals--- for all who would come.  And for those who did come, John would conclude each 'daily devotional' with the same words of reassurance that now follow here below--- words prepared and spoken by John, but mouthed silently and in unison 'by all who would come' --- for in such daily repetitions as these, they would soon enough come to know John's words as their own--- words that even now John speaks to each of us from within the pages of "Raisins and Almonds---a Civil War Story" --- for all who would now read them:---


From 'This Band of Brothers...These Men of Libby' --- in 'Raisins and Almonds---A Civil War Story'
"Behold, I tell you of a mystery...
   We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
       In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye..."   (adapted from '1 Corinthians 15:51-52')
         For we are who we are, and not who we once were,
           and when we come, we come "without one plea--- Just as I am." 
              'Ah, the wonder and mystery of it all!'
                  And what of the keys to this mystery that would be ours for all eternity?
                      Why, there are but two, brethren:---
                        And the first of these is 'our acceptance of faith and grace through Christ, Jesus.'
                           And the second is 'forgiveness'  --- not just of our sins,
                              'but only as we too forgive one another.'
                                And how is it that we can be so certain of such a mystery as this?
                                   'Be still, and wonder no more' --- for I say unto you, 'the Bible tells us so.'
---John Whitehead, Chaplain 




Whereupon John would then recite from among his and Emily's favorite verses of the Bible--- and as a response that was quickly to become their own,
'This Band of Brothers...These Men of Libby'  would hang on his every word, as though this day were to be the very last that they would ever hear
The Spoken Word of God  from The Greatest Story Ever Told:---

First, John would recite in full measure--- from beginning to end--- this passage found within Paul's Letter to the Corinthians:---

This--- from one who himself was an admitted persecutor of the early Christians and the only Apostle who never saw Jesus in his lifetime--- when, on the Road to Damascus in 36 AD, Jesus reveals himself to Paul "in a blinding light", confronting him with but a single question, "Why doest thou persecute me?" --- a question that we too might well ask of ourselves, if only in a slightly different way, 'Why doest thou deny me?'

And from that defining moment on, Paul became --- as he would later describe himself in all humility --- "the least of the Apostles", devoting the remainder of his life to teaching gentiles everywhere --- those who, like he, were of non-Jewish heritage --- that absolution of sin and life everlasting can be ours by faith and grace through a personal commitment to and belief in Jesus Christ. The very magnitude of Paul's own transgressions, i.e. his earlier attempts to completely eradicate Christianity from the face of the earth, indicate that for the sinners we all are, each and every one of us may also be forgiven, no matter how terrible our sins might be:---


"But by the grace of God I am what I am... 
    Now this I say, brethren...
       Behold, I shew you a mystery;
         We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
           In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump:
             for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
 For this corruptible must put on incorruption,
    and this mortal must put on immortality.
       So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption,
          and this mortal shall have put on immortality,
              then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
    The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
        But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
       ---from 'Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians' (15:10,50, and 51-57)  




And then John would add this brief passage found within the Lord's Prayer from 'The Sermon on the Mount':---


"...and forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us,

and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,

for Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory, Forever.  Amen."

---adapted from 'The Lord's Prayer' (Mathew 6:9-13) 



Having read from The Holy Scripture, John would ask for the Lord's Blessing upon his readings, and he would close each 'daily devotional' by leading
 'all who would come'  in a full recitation of "The Lord's Prayer"---  which would then be followed by the singing of John's and Emily's favorite hymn --- 
 "Just as I am" 
--- a hymn which soon came to be known 'by all who would come.'   And it was in their singing that would mark another ending to yet another day for
'This Band of Brothers...These Men of Libby.'


          ...Bruce***********At 73, a would-be writer with but one story to tell...

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Music by Michael Kamin

"Band of Brothers" from the soundtrack of

  the 10-episode HBO mini-series by the

  same name of a few years back (2002)