and joy, it proved to be an air-chamber extending the whole length of the row of cells.
Here was an unexpected interposition in their favor.
Hitherto they had been obliged to conceal their rubbish in their bedticks, each day burning a proportionate quantity of straw; now they had room enough for all they could dig. They at once commenced to tunnel at right angles with this air-chamber, to get through the foundation; and day after day they bored, day after day the blocks of granite were removed, and still the work before them seemed interminable.
After twenty-three days of unremitting labor, and getting through a granite wall of six feet in thickness, they reached the soil.
They tunnelled up for some distance, and light began to shine.
How glorious was that light!
It announced the fulfilment of their labors, and if Providence
would only continue its favor, they would soon be free.
This was the morning of the twenty-six day of November, 1863.
The next night, at twelve o'clock, was determined on as the hour at which they would attempt their liberty.
Each moment that intervened was filled with dreadful anxiety and suspense, and each time the guard entered increased their apprehensions.
The General says he had prayed for rain, but the morning of the twenty-seventh dawned bright and beautiful.
The evening came, and clouds began to gather.
How they prayed for them to increase!
If rain should only begin, their chances of detection would be greatly lessened.
While these thoughts were passing through their minds, the keeper entered with a letter for General Morgan
He opened it, and what was his surprise, and I may say wonder, to find it from a poor Irish woman of his acquaintance in Kentucky
, commencing: “My dear Ginral, I feel certain you are going to try to git out of prison, but, for your sake, don't you try it, my dear Ginral.
You will only be taken prisoner again, and made to suffer more than you do now.”
The letter then went on to speak of his kindness to the poor when he lived at Lexington
, and concluded by again exhorting him to trust in God and wait his time.
What could this mean?
No human being on the outside had been informed of his intention to escape, and yet, just as all things were ready for him to make the attempt, here comes a letter from Winchester, Ky.
, advising him not to “try it” This letter had passed through the examining-office of General Mason
, and then through the hands of the lower officials.
What if it should excite their suspicion, and cause them to exercise an increased vigilance?
The situation, however, was desperate.
Their fate could not be much worse, and they resolved to go. Nothing now remained to be done but for the General
and Colonel Dick Morgan
to change cells.
The hour approached for them to be locked up. They changed coats, and each stood at the other's cell-door with his back exposed, and pretended to be engaged in making up their beds.
As the turnkey entered they “turned in,” and pulled their doors shut.
Six, eight, ten o'clock came.
How each pulse throbbed as they quietly awaited the approach of twelve!
It came — the sentinel passed his round — all well.
After waiting a few moments to see if he intended to slip back, the signal was given.
All quietly slipped down into the air-chamber, first stuffing their flannel-shirts and placing them in bed as they were accustomed to lie. As they moved quietly along through the dark recess to the terminus where they were to emerge from the earth, the General
prepared to light a match.
As the lurid glare fell upon their countenances, a scene was presented which can never be forgotten.
There were crouched seven brave men who had resolved to be free.
They were armed with bowie-knifes made out of case-knifes.
Life, in their condition, was scarcely to be desired, and the moment for the desperate chance had arrived.
Suppose, as they emerged from the ground, that the dog should give the alarm — they could but die.
But few moments were spent in this kind of apprehension.
The hour had arrived, and yet they came.
Fortunately — yes, providentially — the night had suddenly grown dark and rainy, the dogs had retired to their kennels, and the sentinels had taken refuge under shelter.
The inner wall, by the aid of the rope-ladder, was soon scaled, and now the outer one had to be attempted.
, (who, by the way, is a nephew of old Zack
,) being a very active man, by the assistance of his comrades reached the top of the gate, and was enabled to get the rope over the wall.
When the top was gained, they found a rope extending all around, which the General
immediately cut, as he suspected that it might lead into the Warden
This turned out to be correct.
They then entered the sentry-box on the wall and changed their clothes, and let themselves down the wall.
In sliding down, the General
skinned his hand very badly, and all were more or less bruised.
Once down, they separated — Taylor
going one way, Hokersmith, Bennett
, and McGee
another, and General Morgan
and Captain Hines
proceeding immediately toward the depot.
The General had, by paying $15 in gold, succeeded in obtaining a paper which informed him of the schedule time of the different roads.
The clock struck one, and he knew by hurrying he could reach the down-train for Cincinnati
He got there just as the train was moving off. He at once looked on to see if there were any soldiers on board, and espying a Union officer, he boldly walked up and took a seat beside him. He remarked to him that “as the night was damp and chilly, perhaps he would join him in a drink.”
He did so, and the party soon became very agreeable to each other.
The cars, in crossing the Scioto
, have to pass within a short distance of the Penitentiary.
As they passed, the officer remarked: “There's the hotel at which Morgan
and his officers are spending their leisure.”
“Yes,” replied the General
, “and I sincerely hope he will make up his mind to board there during the balance of the war, for he is a great ”