Our journey to Charleston was unimportant. We reached the city about dark, and soon learned that the whole prison camp had been broken up and our comrades taken to I Florence, in the same State. We were taken to the city jail for safekeeping. The provost-marshal, in whose charge we were placed, made some effort to see if we could not be exchanged and sent to the Union lines at Morris Island, but without success; so we were placed in a large room on the third floor, already occupied by fourteen Confederates "absent without leave." I devoted the first hour to making a critical survey of the premises, and discovered that there was but one window to the room, and that not barred; that it overlooked the jail yard, on the opposite side of which was the building in which the "Charleston Courier" was printed; that the presses were going all night (the windows to the press-room being thrown wide open); that the jail yard was wholly unguarded, so far as appearances went; that an iron trellis was built up to the top of the second-floor window for a grapevine and under the window to our room; that the only sentinel or watch discoverable was the one in the hall-way at the head of the stairs outside our room.
I communicated the result of my inspection to my comrades and the disconsolate rebels, urging upon them the feasibility of escape that night. Dennis was ready to assist in the execution of any plan offered. George complained of being sick and too tired to keep his eyes open. A number of the Confederates “allowed" they would follow if we succeeded in what they considered a desperate undertaking. I was anxious to get one or two of the Confederates to join, because they lived in the northwestern part of the State and were used to a hunter's life.
Borrowing a jack-knife from one of the rebels, I cut away the sash of our window overlooking the trellis and the jail yard,—the racket from the presses drowning all the noise I could make,—and succeeded in a few minutes in removing four lights. Dennis assisted me, but George slept soundly through it all, and not one of the Confederates would bear a hand. Without losing any time in reflections or further urging my room-mates, I crawled through the window, feet foremost; hanging from the window-sill with my hands I easily reached the top bars of the trellis with my feet. With my hands on the top bars of the trellis I dropped down through to the ground. Being in the shadow of the jail I could not see the ground, and it seemed like a fall of twenty feet, though it was probably not more than six. I crouched upon the ground for a moment or two to assure myself that the slight noise made had not attracted attention, then shot like an arrow across the yard and around the comer of the "Courier" building, in the shadow of which I was comparatively safe from observation.
From there I could see the form of Dennis crawling through. He scrambled down more like a frightened cat than with the well-trained nerves of an athlete.
We patiently waited half an hour for the others to follow, but they never came. We ended-up an old plank, taken from a pile by the side of the "Courier" building, against the twelve-foot brick wall, and in less time than it takes to tell it were once more free upon one of the back streets of Charleston.
It was somewhat after midnight, and we sought the road that had led us out before; but this time we were not so fortunate. As we attempted to pass through the opening left in the earthworks for the road we were seen by a sentinel, and in answer to the ominous click of the lock to his musket we surrendered.
During the morning one of the guard marched us back to the provost-marshal's office at the jail, which we reached about ten o'clock. After the provost-marshal had done his regular routine of swearing we were handcuffed and bound together with ball and chain. I told the provost-marshal that some day we should be able to tell our children of our confinement in the Charleston jail; of our being shackled together because we had removed four lights of glass from one of the jail windows. I told him how we had escaped from the "Washington racecourse," and of our run through the country. Finally, at his own instance, he removed the irons on our word of honor not to attempt another escape so long as we were in his charge. We were well fed, had the liberty of the office, corridors, and jail yard, but our first parole was of short duration, for in three hours we were placed on a regular passenger train to follow our comrades to Florence.
Our arrival there was sometime during the night. We were turned loose into the stockade like two lost sheep returned to the flock. This was about the 1st of November. My health was good, but the weather was growing quite cold, and my clothing, for many weeks very scanty, was now in tatters. It was made up of the dilapidated crown of the army regulation hat, without brim, a thin fatigue blouse, which also did duty as a shirt, without buttons, but tied together with strings, and an apology for trousers, so frayed at the bottoms as to reach only half way from the knees to the ankles; I had no shoes or stockings. And as our rations were not sufficient by half, and included no meat, the winter prospect was rather discouraging. My own physical condition on entering the stockade at Florence was superior to that of nine-tenths of my comrades, which was in a great measure due to my frequent escapes.
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