Robert Watson
Book: Escape!


The Story of the Confederacy’s Infamous Libby Prison and the Civil War’s Largest Jail Break

Robert P. Watson
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

ISBN 13:
ISBN 10:


This is the story of one of the worst and deadliest prisons in American history, one where senior Union officers suffered and died in alarming numbers. Located in the heart of the Confederacy’s capital—Richmond—the infamous prison was used for propaganda purposes by southern leaders and took on symbolic significance far beyond that of just a prison. However, it was also the site of a bold and daring prison break by a group of high-ranking Union officers, an event that captivated the nation, outraged the South, and sparked one of the largest manhunts in American history.

Praise for Escape!

Robert Watson has done it again! His insightful and historically rich narrative brings to life the ingenuity of the prisoners in the “Confederate Bastille” who undertook one of the most remarkable and daring escapes this country has ever witnessed, the largest in US history and one that, sadly, has been long forgotten.

Richard Yon, Director of the Terrorism Studies Program, US Military Academy at West Point

Relying heavily on the memoirs and diaries of the survivors of the Confederacy’s Libby Prison, Robert Watson draws attention to the centrality of the prison experience during the Civil War and the lessons it holds for understanding the capacity of seemingly ordinary men for cruelty and violence. Watson’s vivid prose is at its best when conveying the humanity, valor, and ingenuity of the United States 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 nineteenth century American history and culture.

Glen Asner, Military historian, Pentagon

Until very recently, there has been astonishingly little attention paid to the submitted of prisoners of war. Yet, to understand the present, it is critical to look back at history. In Escape! Robert Watson takes us to a time when the rules were far different than today. Overcrowding and poor sanitation at the prison led to an intolerable death toll, even for the times. Because of this, Libby Prison is generally regarded as only second in notoriety to Andersonville Prison in George. Escape! shines a bright and well written light on the camp conditions, the men living under them, and the extraordinary endurance of those who managed to escape.

Cheryl Ann Cerbone, CEO American Ex-Prisoners of War

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.

Harold Holzer, Winner of the Lincoln Prize, former vice president of the Met, former chair of the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission