The officers of the guard questioned me sharply as to the means of my escape, and more particularly as to the identical beat that I crossed. On my refusing to tell they threatened to place me in the stocks, and even to use the lash upon my back. But underneath all their bluster I could detect a lurking respect for my boldness, and for my sense of honor in not implicating any who might have aided me.
The next two days were spent, with the assistance of Frank Bonney, Dennis Short, and George Ray, in mapping out a plan for reaching the Union lines after leaving the prison camp, which we fully decided to do on the first favorable night. My easy run past the guard had so emboldened my comrades that I was confident one or more of them would accompany me next time. We finally settled upon the plan of traveling nights across the State of South Carolina, making our objective point the mountains of East Tennessee.
The third night after my recapture I ran the guard in the same manner as before, only without attracting the slightest attention from the sentinel, and I have no doubt he was quite asleep, though standing upon his feet and leaning on his musket George Ray followed within five minutes, also without attracting any attention, and in a few minutes more Dennis Short followed, but without the same success. A few days before the camp had been contracted a little, so that many of the holes dug for wells were left outside the dead-line, and even out-side the sentinel's path.
When just passing the sentinel's beat Dennis stepped into one of these holes, which caused him to measure his full length upon the ground, making a noise like the falling of a heavy log. Instantly he sprang to his feet and kept on, though a little wild with fright from his mishap. The noise aroused the sentinel whose beat we had crossed, and also several of his nearest comrades, and they quickly fired their muskets, though at what I never could guess, as the shots were aimed in any direction but at us. This aroused the relief guard, who came running to the scene of action. It required several minutes of persistent effort to attract Dennis's attention to us. He was a good deal excited, and I finally crept out towards him and drew him farther away from the light.
When the camp had quieted down we took a road leading, as we supposed, across the narrow peninsula that joins Charleston to the mainland. After following this road for over a mile we brought up on the bank of the Ashley River. Well knowing the hounds would be after us as soon as our absence was discovered, we waded and swam down the river a mile to the camp left at the race-course, and emerged from the river two or three hundred yards below it, and then went straight for the only road leading out of Charleston over the peninsula.
We were all barefooted. The picket-post, by the side of an earthwork thrown across the peninsula from river to river, was safely passed about three o'clock in the morning, and we felt comparatively free. We pushed rapidly on for about four miles, the greater part of the distance being through a swamp which obliged us to keep to the road till day began to lighten; then, leaving the road, we struck away from it through the woods, in spots through a tangled undergrowth of palmetto and kindred shrubs, to the rear of a large plantation a mile away. Here we slept soundly till the sun was nearly down.
I awoke very hungry, and sore and stiff in every joint. Keeping well screened from observation behind the brush, and in the full-grown corn which reached to the edge of the wood, I succeeded in getting near enough to the quarters to attract the attention of an old white-headed black man who seemed very busy about nothing in particular. He did not seem to take that interest in us which I supposed he would when told who we were, but I learned later that he was much more interested than his manner showed. He promised to do what he could, and cautioned me that we must not stir from our hiding-place till he, or some one whom he would send, could find an opportunity to come out to it. Our waiting was very patient during the first hour, but very impatient the second. We began seriously to doubt his ever coming. Not having any means of knowing the time, we were quite sure it was near midnight when a slight cough indicated the presence of some one, and without further signal the old black man stepped noiselessly in among us, followed in a moment or two by another somewhat younger man. He produced a boiled chicken, and his comrade several large corn-pones. As we were eating, the old man "allowed," "You 'ns war hungry, sure!" We learned that it was not quite ten o'clock; that we were only about seven miles from Charleston; that the whole county was constantly patrolled by men too old to do service in the army, and that with our limited knowledge of the county the only way for us to travel was upon the county roads, always keeping a sharp ear for the patrol, and not allowing ourselves to be seen by a white man. He said we need not be afraid to make our wants known to the old men among the blacks, and they would help us to the extent of their ability. With a hearty "God bless you!" we started on, rested and enthusiastic.
visits since 02/21/2004.
Page updated 05/25/2006