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    Chapter 53

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    Chapter 54
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    FRANK REVERSTOCK'S ATTEMPT AT ESCAPE--PASSING OFF AS REBEL BOY HE REACHES
    GRISWOLDVILLE BY RAIL, AND THEN STRIKES ACROSS THE COUNTRY FOR SHERMAN,
    BUT IS CAUGHT WITHIN TWENTY MILES OF OUR LINES.

    One of the shrewdest and nearest successful attempts to escape that came
    under my notice was that of my friend Sergeant Frank Reverstock, of the
    Third West Virginia Cavalry, of whom I have before spoken. Frank, who
    was quite small, with a smooth boyish face, had converted to his own use
    a citizen's coat, belonging to a young boy, a Sutler's assistant, who had
    died in Andersonville. He had made himself a pair of bag pantaloons and
    a shirt from pieces of meal sacks which he had appropriated from day to
    day. He had also the Sutler's assistant's shoes, and, to crown all, he
    wore on his head one of those hideous looking hats of quilted calico
    which the Rebels had taken to wearing in the lack of felt hats, which
    they could neither make nor buy. Altogether Frank looked enough like a
    Rebel to be dangerous to trust near a country store or a stable full of
    horses. When we first arrived in the prison quite a crowd of the
    Savannahians rushed in to inspect us. The guards had some difficulty in
    keeping them and us separate. While perplexed with this annoyance, one
    of them saw Frank standing in our crowd, and, touching him with his
    bayonet, said, with some sharpness:

    "See heah; you must stand back; you musn't crowd on them prisoners so."

    Frank stood back. He did it promptly but calmly, and then, as if his
    curiosity as to Yankees was fully satisfied, he walked slowly away up the
    street, deliberating as he went on a plan for getting out of the City.
    He hit upon an excellent one. Going to the engineer of a freight train
    making ready to start back to Macon, he told him that his father was
    working in the Confederate machine shops at Griswoldville, near Macon;
    that he himself was also one of the machinists employed there, and
    desired to go thither but lacked the necessary means to pay his passage.
    If the engineer would let him ride up on the engine he would do work
    enough to pay the fare. Frank told the story ingeniously, the engineer
    and firemen were won over, and gave their consent.

    No more zealous assistant ever climbed upon a tender than Frank proved to
    be. He loaded wood with a nervous industry, that stood him in place of
    great strength. He kept the tender in perfect order, and anticipated,
    as far as possible, every want of the engineer and his assistant. They
    were delighted with him, and treated him with the greatest kindness,
    dividing their food with him, and insisting that he should share their
    bed when they "laid by" for the night. Frank would have gladly declined
    this latter kindness with thanks, as he was conscious that the quantity
    of "graybacks" his clothing contained did not make him a very desirable
    sleeping companion for any one, but his friends were so pressing that he
    was compelled to accede.

    His greatest trouble was a fear of recognition by some one of the
    prisoners that were continually passing by the train load, on their way
    from Andersonville to other prisons. He was one of the best known of the
    prisoners in Andersonville; bright, active, always cheerful, and forever
    in motion during waking hours,--every one in the Prison speedily became
    familiar with him, and all addressed him as "Sergeant Frankie." If any
    one on the passing trains had caught a glimpse of him, that glimpse would
    have been followed almost inevitably with a shout of:

    "Hello, Sergeant Frankie! What are you doing there?"

    Then the whole game would have been up. Frank escaped this by persistent
    watchfulness, and by busying himself on the opposite side of the engine,
    with his back turned to the other trains.

    At last when nearing Griswoldville, Frank, pointing to a large white
    house at some distance across the fields, said:

    "Now, right over there is where my uncle lives, and I believe I'll just
    run over and see him, and then walk into Griswoldville."

    He thanked his friends fervently for their kindness, promised to call and
    see them frequently, bade them good by, and jumped off the train.

    He walked towards the white house as long as he thought he could be seen,
    and then entered a large corn field and concealed himself in a thicket in
    the center of it until dark, when he made his way to the neighboring
    woods, and began journeying northward as fast as his legs could carry
    him. When morning broke he had made good progress, but was terribly
    tired. It was not prudent to travel by daylight, so he gathered himself
    some ears of corn and some berries, of which he made his breakfast, and
    finding a suitable thicket he crawled into it, fell asleep, and did not
    wake up until late in the afternoon.

    After another meal of raw corn and berries he resumed his journey, and
    that night made still better progress.

    He repeated this for several days and nights--lying in the woods in the
    day time, traveling by night through woods, fields, and by-paths avoiding
    all the fords, bridges and main roads, and living on what he could glean
    from the fields, that he might not take even so much risk as was involved
    in going to the negro cabins for food.

    But there are always flaws in every man's armor of caution--even in so
    perfect a one as Frank's. His complete success so far had the natural
    effect of inducing a growing carelessness, which wrought his ruin.
    One evening he started off briskly, after a refreshing rest and sleep.
    He knew that he must be very near Sherman's lines, and hope cheered him
    up with the belief that his freedom would soon be won.

    Descending from the hill, in whose dense brushwood he had made his bed
    all day, he entered a large field full of standing corn, and made his way
    between the rows until he reached, on the other side, the fence that
    separated it from the main road, across which was another corn-field,
    that Frank intended entering.

    But he neglected his usual precautions on approaching a road, and instead
    of coming up cautiously and carefully reconnoitering in all directions
    before he left cover, he sprang boldly over the fence and strode out for
    the other side. As he reached the middle of the road, his ears were
    assailed with the sharp click of a musket being cocked, and the harsh
    command:

    "Halt! halt, dah, I say!"

    Turning with a start to his left he saw not ten feet from him, a mounted
    patrol, the sound of whose approach had been masked by the deep dust of
    the road, into which his horse's hoofs sank noiselessly.

    Frank, of course, yielded without a word, and when sent to the officer in
    command he told the old story about his being an employee of the
    Griswoldville shops, off on a leave of absence to make a visit to sick
    relatives. But, unfortunately, his captors belonged to that section
    themselves, and speedily caught him in a maze of cross-questioning from
    which he could not extricate himself. It also became apparent from his
    language that he was a Yankee, and it was not far from this to the
    conclusion that he was a spy--a conclusion to which the proximity of
    Sherman's lines, then less than twenty miles distant-greatly assisted.

    By the next morning this belief had become so firmly fixed in the minds
    of the Rebels that Frank saw a halter dangling alarmingly near, and he
    concluded the wisest plan was to confess who he really was.

    It was not the smallest of his griefs to realize by how slight a chance
    he had failed. Had he looked down the road before he climbed the fence,
    or had he been ten minutes earlier or later, the patrol would not have
    been there, he could have gained the next field unperceived, and two more
    nights of successful progress would have taken him into Sherman's lines
    at Sand Mountain. The patrol which caught him was on the look-out for
    deserters and shirking conscripts, who had become unusually numerous
    since the fall of Atlanta.

    He was sent back to us at Savannah. As he came into the prison gate
    Lieutenant Davis was standing near. He looked sternly at Frank and his
    Rebel garments, and muttering,

    "By God, I'll stop this!" caught the coat by the tails, tore it to the
    collar, and took it and his hat away from Frank.

    There was a strange sequel to this episode. A few weeks afterward a
    special exchange for ten thousand was made, and Frank succeeded in being
    included in this. He was given the usual furlough from the paroled camp
    at Annapolis, and went to his home in a little town near Mansfield, O.

    One day while on the cars going--I think to Newark, O., he saw Lieutenant
    Davis on the train, in citizens' clothes. He had been sent by the Rebel
    Government to Canada with dispatches relating to some of the raids then
    harassing our Northern borders. Davis was the last man in the world to
    successfully disguise himself. He had a large, coarse mouth, that made
    him remembered by all who had ever seen him. Frank recognized him
    instantly and said:

    "You are Lieutenant Davis?"

    Davis replied:

    "You are totally mistaken, sah, I am -----."

    Frank insisted that he was right. Davis fumed and blustered, but though
    Frank was small, he was as game as a bantam rooster, and he gave Davis to
    understand that there had been a vast change in their relative positions;
    that the one, while still the same insolent swaggerer, had not regiments
    of infantry or batteries of artillery to emphasize his insolence, and the
    other was no longer embarrassed in the discussion by the immense odds in
    favor of his jailor opponent.

    After a stormy scene Frank called in the assistance of some other
    soldiers in the car, arrested Davis, and took him to Camp Chase--near
    Columbus, O.,--where he was fully identified by a number of paroled
    prisoners. He was searched, and documents showing the nature of his
    mission beyond a doubt, were found upon his person.

    A court martial was immediately convened for his trial.

    This found him guilty, and sentenced him to be hanged as a spy.

    At the conclusion of the trial Frank stepped up to the prisoner and said:

    "Mr. Davis, I believe we're even on that coat, now."

    Davis was sent to Johnson's Island for execution, but influences were
    immediately set at work to secure Executive clemency. What they were
    I know not, but I am informed by the Rev. Robert McCune, who was then
    Chaplain of the One Hundred and Twenty-Eighth Ohio Infantry and the Post
    of Johnson's Island and who was the spiritual adviser appointed to
    prepare Davis for execution, that the sentence was hardly pronounced
    before Davis was visited by an emissary, who told him to dismiss his
    fears, that he should not suffer the punishment.

    It is likely that leading Baltimore Unionists were enlisted in his behalf
    through family connections, and as the Border State Unionists were then
    potent at Washington, they readily secured a commutation of his sentence
    to imprisonment during the war.

    It seems that the justice of this world is very unevenly dispensed when
    so much solicitude is shown for the life of such a man, and none at all
    for the much better men whom he assisted to destroy.

    The official notice of the commutation of the sentence was not published
    until the day set for the execution, but the certain knowledge that it
    would be forthcoming enabled Davis to display a great deal of bravado on
    approaching what was supposed to be his end. As the reader can readily
    imagine, from what I have heretofore said of him, Davis was the man to
    improve to the utmost every opportunity to strut his little hour, and he
    did it in this instance. He posed, attitudinized and vapored, so that
    the camp and the country were filled with stories of the wonderful
    coolness with which he contemplated his approaching fate.

    Among other things he said to his guard, as he washed himself elaborately
    the night before the day announced for the execution:

    "Well, you can be sure of one thing; to-morrow night there will certainly
    be one clean corpse on this Island."

    Unfortunately for his braggadocio, he let it leak out in some way that he
    had been well aware all the time that he would not be executed.

    He was taken to Fort Delaware for confinement, and died there some time
    after.

    Frank Beverstock went back to his regiment, and served with it until the
    close of the war. He then returned home, and, after awhile became a
    banker at Bowling Green, O. He was a fine business man and became very
    prosperous. But though naturally healthy and vigorous, his system
    carried in it the seeds of death, sown there by the hardships of
    captivity. He had been one of the victims of the Rebels' vaccination;
    the virus injected into his blood had caused a large part of his right
    temple to slough off, and when it healed it left a ghastly cicatrix.

    Two years ago he was taken suddenly ill, and died before his friends had
    any idea that his condition was serious.
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