Harper's Weekly 03/05/1864


The escape of a large number of Union officers
from The Libey Prison at Richmond, on Febru-
ary 9th, abounds in details of thrilling interest.
We publish this week, on page 145, a sketch rep-
resenting the meeting of some of these refugees—
weary and worn-out by the fatigues of flight, added
to the severities of their long imprisonment—with
the Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry, who were scout-
ing the country for their rescue. The plan of escape
had been conceived two months previous to its exe-
cution. The only possible way of escape was through
a subterranean tunnel reaching from the cellar of
the prison to some convenient point of exit on the
outside. At first it was proposed to dig the tunnel
in the direction of the sewer, and escape through
that; but after several days' hard work the entrance
to the sewer was found to be impracticable, and it
was determined to change the direction of the tun-
nel, so as to lead under the street to an out-house
across the way, which was a depository for parcels
sent to the prisoners from the North. The officers
were let down into the cellar through the chimney.
For fifty-one days they worked away at the tunnel,
small parties often or twelve being engaged at a time.
The work was carried on at night, and for instru-
ments they used their fingers, knives, chisels, or any
thing at hand—the dirt being hid under the refuse
and straw in the cellar. When it was impossible
any longer to throw the dirt out by hand a spittoon
was used as a dirt-cart, being attached to a string on
either side, and drawn to and from the cellar. Aft-
er patiently working in this manner for a number
of days they came to a point under the out-house,
and began to dig upward, until finally the work
was done. The prisoners started out on the even-
ing of the 9th, in small squads, each taking a dif-
ferent route. At two o'clock the lights of the
city were put out, and escape was more feasible.
In their efforts to reach the Union lines some were
recaptured; but out of the one hundred and nine
who attempted this adventure, the greater number
succeeded. They were aided by negroes, by Union
citizens, and by cavalry detachments, which were
sent out by General Butler for that purpose as soon
as he heard of the escape. We can hardly imagine
what were the feelings of some of these refugees
when, hotly pursued by the enemy and almost ex-
hausted, they beheld the old flag which had come to
find and protect its soldiers.

[From Charles Dickens's“All the Year Round.”]

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