his book tells the true story of two Civil War correspondents, Junius Browne and Albert Richardson, who write for the New York
Tribune. They cover the war from the front lines, but when they attempt to reach Grants forces that are laying seige of Vicksburg, the pair find themselves
captured by soldiers of the Confederacy in 1863. For the next 19 months, Browne and Richardson are held in a variety of Confederate prison, ultimately
ending up at the horrific prison in Salisbury, North Carolina. Unable to endure any more confinement and hardship, they hatch a desperate plan that manages
to actually get them out of the prison, and they make good on their escape, hiking across North Carolina and into Tennessee until they finally reach the
Union lines outside of Knoxville.
What impressed me most about this book was learning about all the people who aided Browne and Richardson in their escape. I always imagined the
Confederacy as a unified group of slave owners against the Union, but in actuality there was a large contingent of pro-Union sentiment in the South. There was a
group called the Heroes of America who operated in the South, aiding escaped prisoners get back to the North. But there were plenty of unorganized people who also helped the
escapees. It turns out that the rich plantation owners and city dwellers are pro-slavery, but the poor people of the Appalachian Mountains are not. Time and again, Browne
and Richardson knocked on the door of a rural shack and found themselves welcomed inside. The poor people shelter and feed them, even though they would probably be hanged if
they were caught aiding the escapees.
Also aiding Junius and Albert in their escape are the slaves. Despite great personal risk to themselves, every slave that the escapees encountered offered to
help them. At one point, one of the war correspondents remarked that it was like a reverse Underground Railroad - with the black people helping the whites make their way to
In addition to helping escaped prisoners, the inhabitants of the Appalachians engage in vicious guerilla warfare against each other. Ambushes, thefts, murder -
each group has grievances against the other, Rebel vs Pro-Union, and the mountains were rife with deadly violence. A couple of times, Browne and Richardson were nearly shot before the hidden men
saw that they weren't carrying any weapons.
As this book made clear, life was cheap in those days. Death and murder were commonplace. Although it was not a big part of this book, there is also some commentary
on the pre-War experiences of Browne and Richardson in the bloody Kansas fields where the pro-slavery and abolitionist forces squared off against one another.
Most everyone has heard about the notorious Confederate prison at Andersonville, but this book makes clear that there were other prisons where conditions were
equally dire. The appalling conditions at Libby Prison, Castle Thunder Prison and finally Salisbury Prison are described in detail. The Union soldiers suffered enormously; without shelter, little
clothing, zero sanitation, meager food supplies and sadistic guards all resulted in rampant disease, death and misery. It is interesting and saddening to read.
The book is a quick read, and certainly interesting enough. This gives a good portrayal at a personal level about the Civil War.