Confederate Captain R. D. Chapman, a prisoner of war being transported from Ohio to Maryland, leaped from a train just south of York, Pa. and escaped into the night. He planned to travel southwesterly to Emmitsburg, Md., but unknowingly he has been wandering for two nights through southern York County toward Manchester, Md., well east of his intended destination. He needs directions, food, and a warm place to stay.
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Let’s pick up his fascinating story.
Late in the night, Chapman passed through a countryside finally devoid of farm dogs. It was a relief not to be challenged by barking canines as he pushed forward in the icy cold night of February 12, 1864. The road was rough and rocky, and the night dark and bitter. By now, the fugitive soldier was suffering greatly from blistered feet, physical exhaustion, and hunger, having not eaten anything since his train stopped in Harrisburg two days ago.
Dawn would only compound his problems. The daylight “would soon expose me to the criticism of an unfriendly people, but I could no longer wander in darkness or hide during the day in secret places without food,” he wrote. “…I had no knowledge of when or how I would get relief. I had been wandering all night in darkness among crossroads and forked roads, through a rough, hilly country; lost and misled from any desired course…”
He sought rest in a secluded place beneath the frost-covered boughs of some fallen trees a short distance from the road. There he could recover some of his strength as he made plans for the day’s travel. For the first time since leaping from the train’s window, he examined his injuries and bruised. They were “healing up nicely but I was a little disfigured.”
He soon made up his mind on a course of action.