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again getting into the vault. But no sooner was the jailer gone, than PHILLIPS showed me how mistaken I was in my conjectures. Not more than six minutes after their departure, before we had all the irons loosed from their place: and that was effected in this manner, namely, we took the chain that was around my leg and put it under one of the iron bars, and fetching it round, fastened it together over the bar, with a key made of one of the links. After this was done, we took an oaken bench, about ten feet long, made of a slab, as much as four inches thick in the middle, and put the end of this bench into the bight of the chain; placing it in such a manner as to gain a great purchase, we lifted the bar in an instant, drawing out the spikes with ease.
'Immediately upon the setting in of night, we again went to work, but had not continued many minutes before the outer door of the jail opened, and in came a number of people, and passing our door, went up to the prisoners over-head. Here Hinds had an opportunity of giving the hint to the jailer, that he had something to communicate to him. Therefore, after the people had finished their business with the prisoners, the jailer took Hinds out into the alley, and there learned that we had broken again into the vault. Upon this information, the jailer came into the room, and removed all the prisoners into the dungeon, excepting myself, being in irons, so securely confined, that he remained at ease with regard to me.
• After all matters were again settled, I silently let myself out of irons, went down into the vault, and wrought hard all night. By morning I had dug through the under-pinning, gotten outside the jail, and all that remained now, was to break through the frozen ground, which was about eighteen inches, as I conjectured. I thought my operations through this night, had been so silent, as to prevent a discovery from any one; but I was mistaken. The least noise in the vault, sounded strong through the pumps; these being the only apertures, through which the sound could escape : therefore, its whole force was carried in one direction.'
Hinds hears the noise, and reports to the jailer, as usual :
About ten o'clock in the morning, the jailer, attended with his blacksmiths, came into the dungeon, and removed the prisoners ck again into my room. They searched the dungeon, with a great degree of care, to see whether the prisoners had broken through into the vault, but not finding any breach, they were at a loss to account for the report of Hinds, not conceiving it possible for me to be the person, owing to my irons. However, after a while, they came into my room, and searching the irons around my leg; they discovered the deception, seeing at once with what ease I could take my irons off my leg when I wished. They then searched the iron bars, which had been spiked to the floor, and found them pulled up.
They looked at me with a stare of astonishment, not conceiving how it was possible for such a thing to be effected with what tools we had.
"The blacksmith retired, and in about an hour returned, bringing with him an iron bar of twice the magnitude of the former, and six spikes, about twelve inches in length, and ragged in such a manner, as to prevent a bare possibility of their ever being drawn. This iron bar he placed across the hole, and with a heavy sledge drove in the spikes, looking round exultingly on me, saying: 'BURROUGHS, if you get down here again, I'll come and take your place. After he had driven in his spikes and put all things in order, he came and examined my irons, and fastened them on again, so as to prevent my getting loose, as he vainly boasted.
'I now lost all hopes of liberty, by that method which we had been pursuing, viewing it impossible ever to get the iron from across the hole, if I should get free from my irons around my leg ; but again I was taught to admire the vast ability of PHILLIPS; for before the outer door of the jail was locked, I was freed from my irons, and the bar across the hole was torn away. This was done while the jailer was shutting, bolting, and locking the doors ; so that the noise which we made might be so blended with his noise, that it should not be distinguished by the prisoners over-head, namely, Rood and Hinds, in such a manner as to lead to a discovery. This had the desired effect. Not the least suspicion was entertained of our operations, so quick was Phillips in seeing every advantage which opportunities offered, for the prosecution of our purpose.
• However, I found all the abilities, which appertained to PHILLIPS, were set down to my credit, so strongly were all possessed with the opinion, that I'was the soul
of every enterprise of such a nature. And from the efforts which he made this room, many were of the opinion that I had preternatural assistance. For, say they : ‘No irons will hold him, and no fortification will stand against him.'
. You will be curious, Sir, I presume, to learn the method by which we effected such a surprising feat, in so short a time, as to liberate me from irons, and tear away the huge iron bar which was spiked so strongly across our pump-hole. This I will give you a description of.
“You will recollect that one end of my chain was fastened to the floor, the other end around my leg, the length about ten feet; and the ring about my leg was flat and an inch larger in diameter than my leg. Making the chain into a ring by the before-mentioned process, we ran the end of our oaken bench into it, and placed the ring which was around my leg under the bench, and bent it down tight to my leg; then turned it one quarter round and bent it back again ; this we repeated three or four times, and the ring broke. We immediately after this hoisted the bolt confining the chain, by the same process.
‘After all, we took up the pump, and fixed our chain around the iron on the pump-hole, as formerly, and proceeded again according to the same plan. I . thought it a piece of madness to think of drawing these spikes, and made observations to that amount. PHILLIPS paid no attention to what I remarked, but pursued his plan: and when we all jumped on to the bench, to pry up the iron bar, the heads of the spikes flew off in a moment; the bar was torn from its place, and the whole jail trembled.
'I now considered my escape as certain, having nothing but the frozen ground to break through, which I expected to effect in the course of an hour. Therefore, when night progressed so far in her course as to carry people generally to their beds, we all stripped, and went down into the vault, with as much silence as possible, that we might keep Rood and Hinds in ignorance of our operations ; but this we found impossible. We soon heard them take off the cover from their pump, and listen to the noise in the vault. However, as we soon expected to make our escape, we did not so much dread their hearing us at work, not expecting they could give any information to the jailer till next morning, when we should be far from his restraining power.
“We were vigorous in our operations, till we had broken the frozen ground, so as to discern the snow; I communicated this circumstance to WARNER, who was near me, and he imprudently, in the warmth of his feelings, told one near him, that in ten minutes we should be at liberty. This he spoke so loud as to be heard by Rood and Hinds.
“They hearing this, immediately called to the jailer, and informed him that we were breaking out. The alarm flew rapidly; people gathered into the jail-yard with lanterns, and discovered the hole, which was almost large enough for a man to pass through, while others entered the jail, and turned us all into the dungeon.'
All these attempts at escape proved fruitless : and word was brought to the prisoners, on the first of January, that they were to be removed to Castle-Island, in Boston Harbor, there to be confined at · Hard Labor !! They were soon taken away :
* Early one morning, a number of deputy sheriffs came into the jail, and bade as prepare for our journey to the Castle. They chained the prisoners two together, placing the chain about one leg of each, then put them into a sleigh, and drove off.
“When I came to breathe a pure air, and to contrast the prospect of surrounding objects with the gloomy mansions which I had left, you cannot conceive the ardor of my feelings for liberty. Every object which my eyes beheld was a loud proclaimer of my miserable state.
"Oh!' said I to myself, “could I run about like yonder little boy, who regardless of his privilege, loses its enjoyment, then should I feel like the lark, that, escaped from its cage, flits into the air, and claps its wings for joy. I wondered people should feel so indifferent about my situation. I equally wondered at their not skipping with joy, because they were at liberty themselves. I thought if they had known the feelings of my heart, they would have arisen to a man, and
granted me that liberty which my heart so ardently panted after. It appeared to me sometimes, that the sensations of my mind must be apparent to them, and that under this circumstance, they would actually grant me relief. Yet, in the bitterness of my soul, I found these ideas all chimerical.'
As the felon-company travelled through the country, they attracted great curiosity — especially Burroughs, whose fame had gone out before him, he says, into all the surrounding region. At length, however, after many scenes, which were newer and more. impressive to prisoners, just temporarily liberated from a long confinement in a loathsome jail, than they would be to our readers, they arrived at Castle-Island, by the way of Boston, where, Burroughs says, they 'gave them derisive cheers’ onward to their new prison-house — the ‘Blackwell's Island' of that neighborhood.
When Burroughs first came upon the Island, there were but sixteen prisoners, the most of whom were kept at work in the blacksmith's shop.
Their fare, judging from prison-fare' at Boston, (Charlestown,) Sing-Sing, and Auburn, was not scant : 'one pound of good, wellbaked bread, of good, fresh, wholesome flour, and three-fourths of a pound of good, substantial meat,' being the ration for the day. Perhaps the most substantial' meat would have been an outside cut' from a Mississippi Alligator, or a rump-steak from a Rhinoceros.
But of the fare there was little complaint. They had no Northampton experience of hunger: they desired liberty. After being immured in the · Castle,' they endeavored to obtain it: in the first case, as follows: and we doubt if any reader, placing himself in the prisoner's place for the time being, will fail to be impressed with the naturalness and force of the narrative:
'IMMEDIATELY after my confinement on the island, I began to look about to see whether a possibility for escaping remained. I viewed the building in which I was confined. It was made of bricks, the walls of which were five feet thick, laid in cement, which was much harder than the bricks themselves.
'I searched every corner for a spot upon which I could work, without detection, our room being searched every day, to see whether the prisoners had made any attempt to break away. I at length hit upon a place. There was a chimney at one end of our room, grated in a very strong manner, about twelve feet above its funnel, which was sufficiently large for a man to go up. About three feet above the mantel-piece of this fire-place, I concluded to begin my operation. Here I could work, and not have my labors discovered, unless very critical search was made up the chimney. I had not been at work long, before I had made a beginning of a hole sufficiently large to crawl through; I then took a board, and blacking it like the chimney-back, made it of the proper size, and put it into the hole, so that the strictest search could produce no discovery.
* The prisoners in the room with me were seven in number. These prisoners were all turned out to work about sun-rise, when the doors of the prison were again shut, and not opened again until twelve o'clock, when the prisoners came from work, and continued half an hour: they were then taken back again to work, and there remained until sun-set. Therefore, I had as much as sixteen hours in the twenty-four, in which I could work upon this brick wall, which work I continued with the most unremitting attention.
“The labor was incredible! I could in the first place work only with a large nail — rubbing away the bricks gradually, not daring to make the least noise, lest the sentries, who stood round the prison, should over-hear me at work, and
I thereby become discovered. One night I rubbed the bricks so hard as to be over-heard by the sentry standing on the other side of the wall. The alarm was immediately given, and the guard and officers rushed into the room, to detect us in our operations. Fortunately, I over-heard the sentry tell the sergeant of the guard, that BURROUGHS was playing the devil in the jail
. The sergeant ran to inform the officers, and I had but just time to put my board in its place, and set down to greasing my shoes, when the officers entered, and with a great degree of sternness inquired, where I had been at work? I told them that I had been rubbing some hard soot off the chimney, and grinding it fine, to mix with the grease, and put on to my shoes. They laughed at my nicety about my shoes, that I should wish for slick, shining shoes, in this situation.
Major PERKINS, commandant-in-chief, knowing my inattentiveness to dress, could not so readily believe that blacking my shoes was the only object in view: he therefore made a very strict search for some other matter, which should account for the noise the sentry had heard; but, after a fruitless pursuit of such an object, they gave over their search; concluding that one among the thousand strange whims which marked my character, had prompted me to set about blacking my shoes at that time.
* After they were gone, I felt as strong a disposition to laugh at them for the deception under which they were laboring, as they did, while present, to laugh at me, for the whim of greasing and blacking my shoes.
This temporary check was of the utmost importance in my further prosecution of this business. It made me more careful for the future, not to pursue my labors with too much impatient impetuosity, a failing I ever was subject to.
• The prisoners in the room were merry on the occasion of my turning the suspicion of the officers so entirely from the real object, to another very foreign from it. They thought it a manifestation of ability. In fine, I had gained such an ascendency over the prisoners, that they implicitly gave up to my opinion in all our little matters : and more particularly when any contentions arose among them, I generally succeeded in amicably terminating the difficulty without their proceeding to blows.
'I determined to be more careful in prosecuting my labor on the wall, for the future, and check that impatience which often hurried me on beyond the dictates of prudence. I now wrought with the greatest caution, and made slow but sure advances. After I had been employed in this business about a week, I found I could work to greater advantage if I had a small iron crow; therefore, I ordered one of the prisoners, who wrought in the shop, to make me one, about a foot long, and sharp at one end. This he found an opportunity to do, undiscovered by the overseer, and brought it to me.
'I found that with this crow, I could pry off half a brick at a time, without the least noise, after I had worn a hole with my nail sufficiently large to thrust in my
The rubbish which I took out of the wall, I put, every night, into a tub standing in the room for necessary occasions, and this was emptied by one of the prisoners, every morning, into the water.
After I had labored with unceasing assiduity for two months, I found one night, after I had pried away a brick, that I could run my arm out of the prison into the open air. This circumstance made my heart leap with joy. After such a length of labor, to find my toils crowned with such apparent success, gave me a tone of pleasure of which you can have no idea.
Upon examination, I found the breach through the wall was just below a covered way, so that it would remain unseen in the day-time, unless discovered by some accident. I had measured the height of the covered way by a geometrical operation, not being permitted to come near it: and this was done with an instrument made by my pen-knife. That pen-knife which had done me such excellent service in Northampton jail.
When the prisoners saw my measurement was exact, their idea of my profound knowledge was greatly raised; and they appeared to entertain the most sanguine assurance that their liberty was certain, when their operations were directed under my auspices.
After I had found the hole through the wall was entirely secreted by the covered-way, I proceeded to make it sufficiently large to pass through.
• After all this was accomplished, one difficulty still remained.
The sentry standing on the covered-way would undoubtedly hear us in going out of this hole: and moreover, if we should be so fortunate as to get, unbeard, into the coveredway, yet we must come out of that, within five feet of the place where he stood, and therefore could not prevent a discovery.
Under these circumstances, we found it necessary to lie quiet, until some rainy night should remove the sentry from his stand on the covered-way, to some place of shelter. This was generally the case, when the weather was foul or uncomfortable, unless some special cause should detain him to this particular spot. I recollect that soon after the officers had found me blacking my shoes with soot, the sentinels kept their post invariably on the covered-way in every kind of weather ; but they had by this time become more at ease in their feelings, and consequently would, at such time, retire into an alley leading through the bomb proof.
O cold Humanity !
Quickly now heed their cries,
While yet they need supplies :
When at the Judgment day
Ye hear them fiercely say: