Robert P. Watson provides the definitive account of the Confederacy’s infamous Libby Prison, site of the Civil War’s largest prison break. Libby Prison housed Union officers, high-profile foes of the Confederacy, and political prisoners. Watson captures the wretched conditions, cruel guards, and the story of the daring prison break, called “the most remarkable in American history.”
Robert P. Watson, Distinguished Professor of American History at Lynn University in Boca Raton, FL, is the author of many books on American history and politics including, most recently, The Nazi Titanic: The Untold Story of a Doomed Ship in World War II,,The Ghost Ship of Brooklyn: The Untold Story of the American Revolution, and Affairs of State, The Untold Story of Presidential Love, Sex, and Scandal, 1789-1900.
Prologue: The Tunnel
Part I: War
1 “The Great Unpleasantness”
2 Libby & Son
3 “What Is to Be Done with the Prisoners?”
4 To War
Part II: Prison
5 “The Castle of Despair”
7 “All Hope Abandon, Ye Who Enter Here”
8 The Libby Lyceum
Part III: Tunnel
9 “The Underground Road to Liberty”
10 “Rat Hell”
11 Close Calls
12 The Evil Turners
Part IV: Escape
Richmond’s Libby Prison has long been described as “notorious”—the Abu Ghraib of the Confederacy. This deeply researched, well written page-turner at last helps us understand why, offering gruesome details about mistreatment, abusive and sadistic staff, and hideous conditions. Robert Watson has added to this a compelling story about an extraordinary breach of Libby’s equally notorious security, and the result is an important contribution to Civil War literature that manages to unfold like a thriller.
Robert Watson has done it again! His inciteful and historically rich narrative brought to life the ingenuity of the prisoners suffering in the Confederate Bastille who undertook one of the most remarkable and daring escapes this country ever witnessed, the largest in US history, and one that has been long forgotten. A must read for anyone interested in the Civil War or military history, for that matter.
Until very recently, there has been astonishingly little attention paid to the subject of prisoners of war. ...Escape! shines a bright light on the conditions, the men living under them, and the extraordinary endurance of those who managed to escape.
Watson's vivid prose is at its best when conveying the humanity, valor, and ingenuity of the US military officers who endured deplorable conditions to mount a daring escape from the Confederate prison. Ample historical context and biographical detail, including the captivating stories of escaped prisoners who rejoined the fight against slavery and disunion, make this a compelling and informative read for anyone interested in 19th century American history and culture.
9/16/21, BYU Radio: Watson guest starred on the radio's "Constant Wonder" show to talk about the topic of his book.