custody of the rebel prisoners, or to exonerate them from all blame in the escape of Morgan, even admitting that all the preparatory work for escape was done in the daytime, which seems hardly probable, particularly the first step - the cutting through the floor in cell No. 20.
The affidavits of the officers of the penitentiary (report to Governor Tod, p. 36 and following*) are entirely at variance with the statement of General Mason. (Report to Governor Tod, p. 16. +) The latter is strongly supported by the affidavit of Major Skiles (report to Governor Tod, p. 26++), while the former are sustained by the affidavit of the watchman - Scott. (Reports to Governor Tod, p. 33. @)
Doubtless all these statement were made in good faith, but they illustrate but too plainly the great impropriety of intrusting public interests of importance to the infirmities of human memory when it can be avoided. Had the agreement between General Mason and the prison authorities been reduced to writing and put on record both parties would have distinctly understood their responsibilities and doubtless each would have faithfully discharged its duties.
Taking, however, General Mason's own statement as a guide, it would have been eminently proper and quite within the legitimate sphere of his duties for him to have ordered, after the 4th of November, periodical inspections of the rebel prisoners and their quarters by a reliable commissioned officer of his staff.
Lieutenant Judkins, of General Mason's staff, had charge of the funds belonging to the rebel prisoners after the 4th of November and made purchases for them. In some of these purchases he was extremely indiscreet, providing them with watch-spring saws (report of Captain Lamb and Lieutenant Goss appended, marked C), with which all the bolts and bars in the prison could have been sawn asunder. It is not known that any improper use was mae of these tools, but had there been on bank of coal at the mouth of the air chamber it is more than probable that they would have been used in removing the iron bars closing it. That a high value was placed upon these saws by the prisoners themselves is patent from the fact that they were found carefully hid away.
The affidavits of Sergeant Moon (report to Governor Tod, pp. 27,28#) differs somewhat from General Mason's statement respecting him. (Report to Governor Tod, p. 17. +)
If this sergeant is an honest man he can hardly be considered a close observer; certainly not a shrewd detective; for whether General Mason or the warden of the penitentiary had the custody of the rebel prisoners Sergeant Moon was certainly in the immediate charge and control of them. It was his place to be generally present with them in the daytime, to see that they were properly cared for and duly watched. If the hole through the floor in cell No. 20 was cut in the daytime, he ought to have discovered the men while at the work unless he was criminally blind. I am, however, of the opinion that this hole was cut after the prisoners were locked up, notwithstanding the contrary opinion of Watson, the watchman. (Report to Governor Tod, p. 32. *) It is plain, however, that the main work below was done in the daytime, and that the men engaged in it passed through cell No. 20 into the air chamber. That cell must necessarily have possessed unusual interest to the rebel prisoners, and it is very hard to conceive that no suspicious circumstances surrounded it during all the time, over three weeks, between the commencement of the work and the escape.
When I wished to examine Sergeant Moon on these points I learned that he had been sent to Chattanooga with a party of soldiers, but
*See p. 674.
+See p. 670.
++See p. 672.
@See p. 675.
#See p. 673.