Here’s a very obscure and interesting fact about prison that a lot of people don’t seem to know: it’s hard to escape. I know this must seem mysterious and inscrutable, but it’s true. They built these things to keep people in. Guards, walls, snipers, barbed wire, fences, moats, guard dogs, cameras, floodlights, even the ocean — all designed to keep prisoners inside until the system says otherwise.
Still, there are more escape attempts a year than you might think. Predictably, most of these attempts were made through Dikembe Mutombo in Geico ads. Inevitably, a guard blocks you, wags his finger and plays a charming prank, “Not at my house.” This causes many jailbreak attempts to fail, and there are very bad results at best.
Prisoner-of-war camps in the American Civil War were vile. In general, conditions were atrocious. Camps were overcrowded, lacked food and clean water, and were riddled with disease. Historians have repeatedly compared them to concentration camps. That’s why in 1864, 109 Union POWs attempted one of the largest prison breaks in U.S. history from the Confederate Libby Prison.
Of the 109 escapees, 59 made it to the safety of the Union line. The remaining 50 were not so lucky. Two drowned while attempting to swim across the nearby James River. Of the remaining 48, most were transferred to the infamous Andersonville Prison, aka Camp Sumter. Andersonville was even worse than Libby, and the horror of its conditions was unparalleled.