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[140] overcome their guards by force, but this required a better organization and more confidence in the good faith of their companions, to say nothing of more physical courage, than was possessed by the larger proportion of the prisoners. If a large number of men should simultaneously attempt to overcome the guards or throw themselves against the flimsy barriers which enclosed so many prisons, undoubtedly a large number would escape, but it was almost certain that the foremost would be wounded, if not killed. So only the most reckless or the most despairing usually attempted to break their confinement in this manner. Since the prisons were in many cases only enclosures surrounded by a fence or a stockade, and since the only tools easily procured were knives, pieces of tin, or sheet iron, unequal to the task of cutting through stone or iron, but entirely adequate for removing earth, tunneling was the means of escape to which prisoners most often resorted.

Sometimes these tunnels were of great length, and the fact that they could be constructed in the short time given to them is astonishing, particularly when the simple tools are considered. The usual plan was to begin in some concealed spot, preferably under a bunk, sink a shaft three or four feet and then run out horizontally beyond the stockade or fence. Where an outer ring of sentinels was stationed at some distance from the fence, the attempt was always made to run the tunnel beyond them. Seldom was the diameter of the tunnel greater than would accommodate one person on all fours. The loosened earth was either carried back by the operator, thrown into a well, a sewer, a sink, or a stove, or concealed in any one of a dozen other ingenious ways. Sometimes two cords were attached to a box or a haversack. When the vessel was filled, some one at the end would draw it back when the signal was given, and empty it.

The seekers for liberty were sometimes successful in carrying their tunnels under the fence without discovery. A dark night was usually chosen for the attempted escape. The earth

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