- Historic Sites
Escape From Charleston
Trapped by the outbreak of the Civil War, a young schoolteacher fled the rebel city—and ran into hair-raising adventures
April 1975 | Volume 26, Issue 3
It was Sunday evening when we reached the Springs and I was very cordially welcomed by the proprietor of the Sanitarium. A few drovers from Kentucky, on their way home, were the only other guests at this time. Rising early the next morning I was at once taken in hand by the zealous landlord, fully questioned as to my physical condition and conducted to the springs, where I managed to swallow a little of the nauseous drink. I was reassuringly told I should soon like it and in any case I must not fail to take at least a quart each morning before breakfast. I listened obediently to his directions with a mental reservation, however, to regain my health in other climes and with less distasteful remedies.
After breakfast, going upon the porch, I found the drovers exhibiting some new money, the engraving of which they thought very fine. I had with me a new issue of the Bank of South Carolina, a $10 bill, which I took out and showed also. It passed from hand to hand, each remarking upon its beauty, and when the landlord would have returned it to me, I said: “You may keep that on account.”
Distrust of me was thus allayed and my movements could be perfectly free from espionage. So shortly after, I took a walk and kept on walking, indeed, I never returned. Whether my prolonged absence created anything more than a passing remark I never learned. Probably not, as there were events much more important than the fate of an unknown man occurring every day.
I kept to lonely, unfrequented ways, sometimes in the woods, at one place fording a small stream by wading. I saw few houses and did not like to excite any inquiry by asking for anything to eat, so I had no dinner. I had only the sun to guide me and but a vague idea of where I was. At last late in the afternoon, hearing some boys singing in a cornfield I determined to seek definite information. Coming up to them I asked what state I was in.
“Old Kentucky, Sir, a Union state, hurrah!”
Hunger, weariness were for the moment forgotten, and I could have kissed the ground with more of joy than did Columbus at San Salvador. I was no longer an alien in an enemy’s country, but a child at home, though far from kindred.
More hopefully I went on, and coming to a house I ventured to ask for something to eat. They had nothing cooked they said, but kindly proposed to prepare a meal for me. This I declined since I was anxious to put as great a distance as possible between me and the Confederate States.
At nightfall I again sought rest and refreshment, this time with success, for I entered the home of a Union man, the Sheriff of Monroe Co. I was well cared for and in the morning, Tuesday, he took me to a little town called Glasgow from which I was able to go with the mail-carrier to Cave City. Here after my long detour to the eastward from Nashville, I again reached the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, beyond passports and danger, too, I supposed.
The one train northward was due about noon, but this day, no train came at that time. One o’clock, still no train! Two o’clock, and at last came the welcome whistle in the distance. We all rushed to the platform. The sounds surely came from the wrong direction! What did it mean? Yes, from the north not the south came the thundering train. And there was a Confederate flag flying on the locomotive; and not only one locomotive but on several, and cars of all descriptions, filled with live stock and boxes and barrels, an indiscriminate mass, came sweeping down upon us.
Amazement held us spellbound, and before we took in the situation we were made prisoners by the guerrillas. They had been north as far as Muldraugh’s Hill and had burned the long trestle which spanned the deep valley south of it. Then taking possession of the rolling stock of the road, the tobacco stored in the warehouses and, indeed, everything they could lay their hands upon in their rapid flight, they were out of reach before any opposing force could be gathered. Elated with their success, they thought they were now far enough south to take a little well earned rest, which they at once proceeded to do by helping themselves freely to the liquors in the bar-room. For instead of a simple station here the Railroad combined with it a large hotel kept for the accommodation of visitors to Mammoth Cave nine miles distant.
I do not know what they did with the other prisoners, but me they put in a room with a soldier to guard me. I had some of the feelings, I imagine, a caged lion has and like him I paced restlessly up and down, back and forth. The monotony of my regular tread, together with his potation, I discovered ere long, had a very soporific tendency upon my custodian. There were two doors to the room in which I was, one by which I came in, and another appearing to lead towards the back of the house. So when I concluded that Morpheus held my captor firmly in his grasp, I cautiously turned the knob to this latter door, then resumed my walk as steadily as before. When I reached the door a second time I gave it a slight push and could see that the next room had a door at its further end also. At my third approach I opened it fully and finding I had not roused my sleeper, the fourth time I walked out instead of back.