From the Richmond Enquirer, 2/12/1864

The Recent Escape from the Libby Prison – Recapture of Twenty Two Officers.

The escape of the Yankee officers from the Libby, continued to be the liveliest topic of yesterday, and diverse conjectures were rife as to the means of the escape other than those described in the published accounts. The sentinels, as usual, were enriched with laurels that their native modesty, if nothing else, would cause them to decline. After all, however, this grand delivery does not exceed in glory or secrecy the escape of John Morgan from the Ohio Penitentiary, and yet, neither the connivance nor carelessness of sentinels or others have received any credit from Morgan or his historians, Yankee or Southern. It is most probable, in fact, that this distinguished general is, more than anybody else, responsible for the success with which Streight and his chums made their exit from the Libby. The experience and example of the one was an admirable lesson for the other.

It appears that the tunnel under 20th street was dug entirely with an old hinge, and the loosened earth – a brittle, marly sand – removed with an old sugar scoop stolen from the hospital quarters. As the tunnel progressed, the miner took with him, besides his tools, an old-fashioned knapsack, made upon a wooden frame, to which a cord was attached. When he filled this with earth, it was drawn out by an accomplice who remained in the cellar, the contents deposited safely out of the way, and it was then shoved back to the digger with a pole.

The basement itself, in which this work was carried on, was kept constantly locked, never used; and the windows being tightly nailed, it was dark as pitch. The principal in the tunneling operation was Captain J. N. Johnson, of the 6th Kentucky Cavalry, who is among the escaped. His accomplices were different, as occasion or private arrangement demanded.

On several occasions it had been observed that this Johnson was absent from roll call, and now and then two or three others, a circumstance not very gratifying, to the clerk having the roll to the call, who, of course, would have it to go over again. A short time after he would appear and make his presence known, and would give as an excuse that it was only a little fun – "just deviling the clerk." On one occasion, when thins thing had occurred once too often, he was called up for punishment, when he plead very earnestly, with a broad, good natured grin, that he was "only joking – and was rolled up in his blanket when his name was called." He was excused this time without a warning. He took good care to better Hours in quarters, while the work continued below to its completion.

Immediately after the escape was discovered and the first to go in pursuit, Mr. John Ligon, Assistant Clerk, with Orderly Hatcher, Warden R. R. Turner, and two policemen, went off in the direction of the Peninsula, and up to yesterday evening had signalized their promptness and energy by the recapture of eight of the fugitives, who they picked up on the roads. Fourteen others were brought in during Wednesday night and yesterday, by pickets on the Chickahominy. Several were captured at Bottom’s bridge, some in Hanover, but the larger number only a few miles from the city. Intelligence was obtained that a number of them were trying to get through in the direction of Fredericksburg. Another batch, recaptured in that direction, is looked for today. We give below the list of those who had, up to six o’clock last evening, been returned to their old quarters at the Libby. The energy and solicitude of Major Turner are subjects of deserved commendation.

One of the captures of Wednesday was made by "an American citizen of African descent." The dusky captor was engaged in a matutinal "dig" in his potato patch, when he observed the fugitive officer streaking it across the field. Seeing that he wore suspiciously blue garments, the darkey hailed him and asked him where he was "gwine." Something to the effect of "nowhere" being the reply, the darkey, with courage and patriotism worthy of immortality, brought his hoe to a "charge," and responded, "Yes you is, dough – you done broke out o’ one o’ dem prisons – come along – you got to go wid me." He marched him to the house, handed him over to his master, and returned to his potato patch, covered with glory. The Yankee arrived, under due guard, yesterday morning.

Captured on Wednesday – G. Starr, Captain, 104th New York; W. B. Pierce, 1st Lieutenant, 11th Kentucky Cavalry; H. Scroeter, 1st Lieutenant, 82nd Illinois Infantry; J. Gates, Captain, 3d Ohio; C. H. Morgan, 1st Lieutenant, 21st Wisconsin; F. Moran, 1st Lieutenant, 73d New York; W. L. Watson, 1st Lieutenant, 21st Wisconsin; E. Schroeders, 1st Lieutenant, 74th Pennsylvania.

Captured on Yesterday. – Col. S. P. Spofford, 97th New York; A. B. White, 1st Lieutenant, 4th Pennsylvania Cavalry; W. A. Daly, 1st Lieutenant, 8th Pennsylvania Cavalry; H. H. Hinds, 1st Lieutenant, 57th Pennsylvania; F. Irch, Captain, 45th New York; Isaac Johnson, Engineer Gunboat Sattelite; J. P. Brown, 2d Lieutenant, 15 U. S. Regulars; G. S. Good, 2d Lieutenant, company I, 84th Penn.; A. Moore, 1st Lieutenant, company E, 4th Ky.; G. P. Gamble, 2d Lieutenant, company D, 63d Pa.; Adj’t M. R. Small, 6th Md.; C. S. Edmond, 1st Lieutenant, company D, 67th Pa.; J. M. Wasson, 2d Lieutenant, company H, 40th Ohio; P. A. White, 2d Lieutenant, company D, 83d Pa.

 

 

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