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A blog of Nineteenth Century history, focusing, but not exclusively, on the American Civil War seen through the prism of personal accounts, newspaper stories, administrative records and global history.
A thousand tales. A miscellany. A maze of historical tangents.

A Capitol View

A Capitol View
Images of 1861 juxtaposed- Union Square, New York vs. Capitol Square, Richmond

Monday, January 20, 2014

Of Levers and Pistols Full of Wax

Attempt to escape.
--We were informed yesterday that a number of the convicts at the Penitentiary made a daring attempt to escape on Monday night. They had by some means contrived to fill the muskets of the guard with wax, and at a preconcerted signal a number of them assembled in the inner yard, when the movement being observed, an alarm was given. The guard, finding their arms useless, resorted to the device of sounding an alarm of fire, which caused a number of persons to assemble, and prevented all possibility of a successful events. None of the convicts escaped.
Since the above was in type, we have been furnished with the following additional particulars respecting the attempted stampede.
Only thirty of the prisoners united [ in in ] the attempt. By means of a false key and an ingeniously constructed lever they succeeded in opening thirty-two cells, when their key broke. The inner guard, composed of two citizens, employed for the purpose, were in their room and asleep at the time. They were aroused by the efforts of the prisoners to open their door, and hearing one of them remark, "God d — n them, go in and kill them," they drew their pistols and attempted to fire, but soon found that the tubes had been waxed, and that the cape would not explode. They then screamed aloud for help, and attracting the attention of the Corporal of the Public Guard, who was on outside duty, was soon relieved by him and his seven men, each armed and ready for execution. The prisoners took to their cells on the appearance of the soldiers, and were afterwards looked up for trial and punishment.

The Daily Dispatch (Richmond, Va.) April 23, 1862.

The Resent attempt to escape from the Penitentiary.
--Speaking of this affair, Lieut. E. S. Gay, commanding Public Guard, under date of yesterday, says:
"In your issue of yesterday, in noticing the affair at the Penitentiary on the night of the 21st inst., you say the muskets of the guard were filled with wax. As the detachment of the Public Guard always kept at the prison is the only guard there armed with muskets, the public is led to believe from your paragraph that it was the arms of that corps which were waxed, instead of the pistols of the citizen interior guard. A court of inquiry, held at these quarters yesterday, establishes the fact, from the evidence of Col. Pendleton and every other witness called, that the Public Guard was prompt and efficient in discharging its duties, while the sergeant in charge testifies that be examined the muskets of his guard, and found them in good order."

The Daily Dispatch (Richmond, Va.) April 25, 1862.

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