These precautions made escape so hazardous that an attempt was seldom made, and very few of those who tried succeeded.
The favorite method for a time was tunnelling, but after the ditch was dug, efforts in that direction ceased.
Bribery opened the gates to a few who were so fortunate as to have money, and the shrewdness to use it rightly.
Plans of escape were continually formed, but none would bear the test of an attempt, and so as day after day passed by, the stern conviction forced itself upon each one of the new comers that they would have to remain there until the war ended — the old prisoners had already resigned themselves to that prospect.
Three months of prison life satisfied me that I could not stand a winter there.
I was only a boy of eighteen.
A month's sickness had reduced me almost to a skeleton.
My weight was probably not more than ninety pounds. There was no prospect of gaining strength, for the scanty rations barely sustained life; did not for a moment satisfy the cravings of hunger.
A pone of bread so small that it could be squeezed into a pint cup, and a piece of beef three inches long and one inch thick, constituted the daily ration; occasionally, but not oftener than three times a week, a pint of soup was added.
We were always as hungry as ravenous wolves.
There was such a craving for food that we would eat the young hickory-nuts growing in the yard—hull, shell, and all. After my recovery from sickness, I was hungry every moment I was in prison, and thousands of men were there who had been in that condition over twelve months. It is terrible to have a continual, unappeased craving for food.
No one knows what suffering it is, save those who have experienced it.
My constant thought was how to escape.
Tunneling was out of the question, and no other plan seemed feasible.
One evening a few of us were walking in the prison-yard, and stopped near the ditch, opposite the large gate constituting the main entrance.
For some reason, which we never pondered, the sentinels on that side of the fence were not so numerous as elsewhere.
There were only six on the whole side-three on each side of the gate, and the two nearest the gate had beats fully one hundred feet long.
Observing that while walking their beats they at one time had their backs turned to each other, with quite a long distance between them, one of our crowd, Buck Alexander
, one of Morgan
's most gallant soldiers, exclaimed: ‘There's a good chance to get to the fence, and I believe I will try it.’
My heart sank when he uttered the last words, for nothing seemed easier, and I knew that not more than one could make the venture.
The next day nothing was said about it. The day after I