|ESCAPE OF PRISONERS FROM JOHNSON'S ISLAND
In an interesting article by Lieutenant J. H.
Carpenter, of New Orleans, La., on Prison Life
"Few officers of inferior rank figured more conspicuously during the
late war than Captain Robert Cobb Kennedy. His career was short, thrilling,
full of daring, and its final end closed very sad. Captain Kennedy was,
we believe, a Georgian by birth, and a distant relative of one
"Soon after his imprisonment he commenced devising means of escape, and made several unsuccessful attempts. He finally succeeded, by long, weary nights of unceasing toil, in tunneling under a deep ditch and the parapets of the prison, eluded the vigilance of the guards, stole one of the officers' boots, and escaped to the opposite shore.
"He made his way through the country on foot, travelling most of the
time in the night. He finally crossed at Buffalo into Canada and joined
the faithful band of exiles and escaped Confederates who had taken refuge
within her borders. Soon afterwards he joined the secret expedition
to New York, was followed on his return by a detective, who kept close
There also appeared in the Richmond State of April
13, 1891, a correction of the assertion
The night of December 31, 1863, was intensely cold, as stated in the Sandusky papers, the coldest "in the memory of the oldest inhabitant." By 10 o'clock that night Lake Erie was frozen over to the main-land. There were no guards on duty within the prison. There were only the benumbed and head-muffled sentinels of the parapet. The opportunity seemed an auspicious one to the starving and restless spirits fretting in galling durance.
A number of them resolved to attempt to escape by scaling the enclosure and crossing the lake on the ice. Among them was Captain (subsequently Major) Waller M. Boyd, of the Nineteenth Virginia infantry, who has given some of the information here embodied. He was not well, and found himself unequal to the endurance involved. His bunk mate, Captain T. Herbert Davis, however, was one of those who was successful in the desperate undertaking. A scaling ladder, from portions of the enclosure was improvised, and with its said, as well protected from the cold as their scant resources of clothing afforded, the following gallant spirits, at about 9:30 o'clock P. M., a half an hour after the sounding of taps, successfully scaled the wooden walls: Colonel John R. Winston, Forty-fifth North Carolina infantry; Captain Charles C. Robinson, Ninth Virginia cavalry; Captain T. Herbert Davis, First Virginia infantry; Dr. Luke P. Blackburn, chief surgeon of the division of Sterling Price, of Missouri, and George Young and E. T. Osborne, of Morgan's cavalry.
They lowered themselves on the outside with a rope improvised of their blankets. The scaling ladder, at great personal risk, was taken away by an inside comrade after having subserved its purpose, that the escape might not be immediately discovered by the sentinels. The fugitives crossed the lake on the ice, reaching the Canadian shore early the following morning. Here they appropriated the horses of a farmer and made their way to Toronto, and later to Montreal.
At the latter place they were photographed in a group, and a copy of this picture, presented to him by his relative, Captain T. Herbert Davis, is now in the possession of Lieutenant Charles G. Bosher, of the Richmond Howitzers, a member of the firm of Messrs. R. H. Bosher's Sons. At Montreal the fugitives were duly supplied with money by Hon. James P. Holcombe, Confederate States Commissioner. They made their way to Nassau, from whence they ran the blockade, coming into the port of Wilmington, North Carolina. Their suffering from the cold in crossing the lake was great, and several of them narrowly escaped the loss of their hands and feet from frost bite.
Captain Davis was a native of Richmond, Virginia,
and was the son of William H. Davis, long
Captain Davis enlisted in Company B., First Virginia Infantry, Captain James K. Lee, April 21, 1861. He was soon afterwards promoted to sergeant and served as such at the first battle of Manassas. In September following, he was made first lieutenant of his company and on the 26th of April, 1862, after the death of Captain Lee, succeeded him in the command. At the second battle of Manassas he was wounded, taken prisoner and carried to Johnson's Island. Captain Davis, after returning to his command, was again taken prisoner at Sailor's creek, and a second time incarcerated on Johnson's Island. After the war he went with Major J. B. Ficklen to San Antonio, Texas, and with him established a transportation line which was operated by them for several years. He finally died with yellow fever and is buried in San Antonio.
Officer Logan S. Robins of the police force of Richmond served under Captain Davis as first lieutenant of Company B, and is cognizant of the facts herein given. Johnson's Island is distant from Sandusky about two miles, and from the Canada shore about eight miles.
A memorial of the prison, 1862-1864, with a view of the prison, list of the prisoners, and various effusions from their pens, is given in Volume VI, Virginia Historical Collections. New Series. 1887.