The Greatest Escape: A True American Civil War Adventure tells the story of the largest prison breakout in U.S. history. It took place during the Civil War, when more than 1,200 Yankee officers were jammed into Libby, a special prison considered escape-proof, in the Confederate capitol of Richmond, Virginia. A small group of men, obsessed with escape, mapped out an elaborate plan and one cold and clear night, 109 men dug their way to freedom. Freezing, starving, clad in rags, they still had to travel 50 miles to Yankee lines and safety. They were pursued by all the white people in the area, but every Black person they encountered was their friend. In every instance, slaves risked their lives to help these Yankees, and their journey was aided by a female-led Union spy network.
Since all the escapees were officers, they all could read and write well. Over 50 of them would publish riveting accounts of their adventures. This is the first book to weave together these contemporary accounts into a true-to-life narrative. Much like a Ken Burns documentary, this book uses the actual words the prisoners recorded more than 150 years ago, as found in their many diaries and journals.