We tried several plans, but could not succeed.
One was to tear off some plank at the rear of the building where they had been nailed up to the window, then lay them over on to the fence near by, and get into a lot. We worked at it several nights until we were detected, and had to abandon it. But not in the least discouraged we went at something else.
After examining the house all through we could find no place but what was closely guarded.
So we came to the conclusion that the only way left was to go out at the door past the guard; and as there had been several of the rebs in cleaning up the house, or rather having it done, we thought it a good time.
Without saying anything to the boys as to what we were about to undertake for fear we might not be successful, as they had been making sport at our not having succeeded before, we went down to the lower floor to get ready for the trial of our new plan.
Whichever got out first was to go to a small hill, about three squares from the prison, and wait for the other.
Just about dusk, I got a rebel suit from one of our boys, without much trouble.
My partner had got his a few days before.
After rigging ourselves in rebel costume, I told my comrade that we would wait till after the relief came on at seven o'clock before going out, and in the mean time look around for a little sport.
Well, we walked round through the house, and all the boys took us to be rebels, which was just what we wanted.
One of them took me to one side, and wanted me to try to get him out of the ,prison; he said that he had been conscripted, and did not want to fight against the South
, had never been in a battle, nor fired a gun at the Southern people
. I told him that I would see about it, and left him. Some of the boys wanted us to bring them in some bread.
I told them that the guard would not let us trade with them, but I would try to get some if he would let me bring it in. Seven o'clock came, and I started out, passed the first guard without saying a word, came to the one on the street; he halted me, and asked where I belonged; I told him I was Police Sergeant
, and had been in having the prisoners clean up the house.
He did not like to let me pass, but I finally got off, and went directly to the place agreed upon for us to meet.
Getting up on the bank, I concealed myself where I could see down the street.
When my partner started, the guard would not let him pass; so he had to go back into the house.
But he was determined on being out; so he got the boys to attract the guard's attention at the window, and he went back to where some boards had been taken off, and where the guard had been stationed, and crawled out and got away safe.
He came directly to where I had been waiting an hour and a half, and was nearly frozen.
I will not attempt to describe our feelings at once more finding ourselves free, at least for the present.
But we still had dangers to encounter, being in a strange country, without a guide, and our enemies all around us. But we were resolved to push ahead as best we could; so, shaping our course in an eastern direction, we struck out, guided by the stars.
We crossed the fields and woods till we came to the fortifications, which were not very formidable.
These we passed very cautiously.
Coming to a house we tried to rouse the inmates, which we supposed to be negroes, but we could not get them to answer us, and we started on. We soon came to a road which ran in the right direction, and we followed it till about two o'clock, when we got so tired, and being so weak, that we had to stop and rest.
Going into an old stable, we lay down; but it was too cold for us there.
So we got up and went to a house close by, and found an old crippled negro by herself.
We went in and warmed, and remained till daylight.
Then we found we had travelled ten miles during the night, and were on the right road.
This we followed all day, occasionally meeting some citizens and some few soldiers.
But being dressed in rebel clothes, they did not molest us. At noon we stopped at a small cabin to get something to eat, and found a woman whose husband was in the army.
Here we got some bread and milk, and learned a great deal about the road.
We came to the Chickahominy River
, twenty miles from Richmond
This we crossed on some logs where the long bridges had been, but were destroyed at the time McClellan
advanced on Richmond
Soon after crossing the river we met a man whom at first sight we took to be a rebel soldier; but we were mistaken.
He came up and began to question us pretty closely.
He asked where we belonged; we told him, in Richmond
, to the 19th Virginia Battalion, which was guarding prisoners at Richmond
He then wanted to know where we were going.
We said, “Home on furlough.”
He looked at us a while, and began to laugh, saying, we need not try to fool him; that we were escaped prisoners, trying to get to the Federal
This we stoutly denied.
So, finding that he could get nothing from us, he told us that we had better turn back to Richmond
, that we never could get past the pickets.
We told him that when our furlough was out we would go back, and not before.
So he rode off and left us. We did not stop long to consider what we should do, but started off as fast as we could walk for about five miles, when we found a negro.
From him we found out where the pickets were stationed, and how to get around them.
He also told us where to find a free negro's house, and as we were very tired, we concluded to go and stay all night.
He put us in the house that the owner had left in his charge, made us a good fire, and got some corn bread for us to eat. We got a pretty good rest, and daylight found us again on the road.
We had gone but a short distance, when just ahead of us, we saw a squad of cavalry coming.
There was no time to lose; so, bounding into the woods, we ran as fast as we could for about half a mile; but finding they were not following us, we ceased running.
After that we did not venture on the road, but kept in the woods all the time, occasionally going to a negro cabin to find the way; and we always found them willing to aid us in any way that they could.
Night coming on, and as we could not well travel in the woods after night, we looted around for a place to stop.
We found a large house near by, and concealing ourselves in the bushes, we watched to see if there were any white folks living in it, but could not see any; so, after it got dark, we went to it, and found no one but a negro and his family.
They gave us some sweet potatoes for supper, and some blankets to keep us warm, and we did very well that night.
We were out bright and early the next morning.
We had to be more cautious now, as we were among the scouts.
The negroes showed us by-paths through the woods, which we followed all day. We saw several scouts, but managed to evade them.