Button that William L. Howorth Used to Smuggle a Letter Out of Libby Prison – Sent to the Commander of the U. S. Gun Ship Steamer Conemaugh

Accompanying this button that has a “detachable” back (so that a tiny letter could be folded in the side) is a letter from Acting Master William L. Howorth, U.S.N. sending the button to Lt. Commander J. C. P. DeKrafft.  Here is the content:

U. S. Str “Conemaugh”
May 1865

This button was on my coat at the destruction of the “Albermarle” and remained on my coat until cut off this day while at Danville Rebel Military Prison on my departure from there the 11th of last Dec. at the earnest request of a Union officer (a fellow prisoner). I concealed a letter in the button and was searched several different times, three times at Libby Prison by the notorious Dick Turner of Libby Prison fame and the last time on the day of my parole and departure for the Union lines 22nd of Feb. /”65. The letter I immediately delivered and have since recd a very kind letter from the one I took it from. He having also been lately exchanged.

Very Respectfully etc.
Wm. L. Howorth
Act. Master
U. S. N.
Lt. Comdr.
J. C. P DeKrafft
Comd’g U. S. Str. “Conemaugh”

From the Internet we learn that:  

William L. Howorth was born in Massachusetts 16 July 1841 and was appointed acting master’s mate 29 April 1863. Attached to Monticello, blockading the North Carolina coast, I Howorth accompanied Lt. William B. Cushing on a reconnaissance up the Cape Fear River to Wilmington 23-24 June 1864, gaining valuable information about Confederate defenses. In October, Howorth joined Cushing’s expedition up the Roanoke River to sink Confederate ram Albemarle. Both the ram and the launch carrying the Federal sailors were destroyed and while Cushing and one other man escaped, Howorth and others were captured. In his report Cushing noted: “Acting Master’s Mate  William L. Howorth, of the Monticello,  showed,  as usual, conspicuous bravery. He is the same officer who has been with me twice in Wilmington harbor. I trust he may he promoted, when exchanged . …” In February 1865, Howorth was exchanged and promoted acting master. Honorably discharged in October, he reentered the Navy in 1866 and was appointed ensign 12 March 1868. lie resigned 4 April 1869.

During WWII a destroyer was named the U.S.S. Howorth in his honor. 

#A563 – Price $2,295

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