War of the Rebellion: Serial 119 Page 0726 PRISONERS OF WAR AND STATE, ETC.

Search Civil War Official Records

were discontinued from that date, November 4; in order respects the guards and discipline continued about as before described.

Third. The matter in which the escape was effected:

In the interior of the building in which the rebel prisoners were confined is a block of masonry 160 feet long and 20 wide with an open space all around 11 feet wide between it and the exterior walls. In the sides of this block are five tiers of cells, thirty-five in each tier, each call having an iron latticed door opening out into the open space in front of the block. The upper tiers connect with the hall floor by iron stairways and narrow balconies also of iron.

The cell block is divided longitudinally by a middle wall resting on a foundation wall parallel to those of the sides of the block. Between the inner surfaces of these foundation walls is a space of six feet; over this is sprung an arch of brick eighteen inches thick, with a rise of twenty inches. This arch and the foundation walls, with the natural surface of the ground below (which has a gentle slope downward from west to east through the whole length of the block), form an air chamber underneath the first now of cells, and extending east to the exterior wall of the building, through which is an opening closed with iron bars. At the east end of this chamber the crown of the arch is sixty-six inches above the ground; at the west end, thirty inches. The arch is covered with mortar three inches thick over the crown and made level; over this is placed three inches of cement forming the floors of the cells.

This air chamber may readily be discovered by stamping on the floor above. The beds in the cells occupied by the rebel prisoners were on the left-hand side of the entrance. Under the bed in cell No. 22, in the farther left-hand corner, and elliptical hole thirteen by fifteen inches was cut through the cement and mortar and an entrance effected into the air chamber by removing some of the bricks in the arch. This work was done probably with the prison table knives stolen for this purpose. The clippings from the floor were picked up and put in a carpet bag, and this bag was placed upright tin the corner, covering the hole in the floor. This simple method of concealment was successfully practiced until the escape was effected.

After access was gained to the air chamber it was explored with lights, the prisoners having candles and matches. The out lest to the chamber being closed by a large bank of coal, the rebels concluded to dig a lateral passage out to and under the exterior wall of the prison building. To do this they dug under the foundation wall of the cell block, removed some of the bottom stones, and then worked out an irregular arch through that wall, then they dug a narrow passage through the earth between the foundation wall of the cell block and the foundation wall of the prison building. This latter wall was then undermined, some of the stores removed, and a hole made through it. The earth and stones excavated were taken back into the air chamber by means of a small coal-box and a cord. Having gotten outside the foundation wall of the prison building, a vertical pit was run up to near the surface of the ground. In the meantime the bricks and mortar were removed from the crown of the arch of the air chamber in six placed leading into six other cells and a portion of the cement was also cut away from below, leaving only a thin crust which could be readily broken by a pressure of a foot from above. The cell floors being cold and damp, one board was allowed in each to stand on; this board protected the weakened part of the floor from accident.

On the night of November 27 John Morgan managed to exchange cells with his brother Dick, without being discovered (John's cell was