In 1863, twelve hundred captive Union officers were held in Libby Prison, a former tobacco warehouse on Richmond’s James River waterfront. Semi-starved, they slept on the floor without blankets, and were never permitted outside. Two determined officers, Colonel Thomas E. Rose and Major A.G. Hamilton, resolved to escape. They grimly persevered in their efforts, risking daily discovery beneath the noses of Confederate authorities.
After three failed attempts to tunnel out of the reeking cellar known as “Rat Hell,” Rose, Hamilton, and their comrades dug a 55-foot-long tunnel under an open field patrolled by Rebel sentries. On the night of February 9–10, 1864, one hundred nine Union officers wriggled through the tunnel to freedom. With tracking dogs on their trail, they fled through the wintry countryside in the most famous prison break of the Civil War.
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