James Coyle's Escape From Confederate POW Camp
The Old Army Boys
Reunion of the Twentieth Illinois - Adventures of James Coyle
Published in Kendall County Record Jun 22, 1892
To the Editor:
James Coyle is president of the Twentieth Illinois Infantry Regimental association. Before the war, Comrade Coyle's home was near Plattville. Today he is a successful businessman in St. Louis. He was in the ranks for four years and three months, and was continually at the front. At Vicksburg he had charge of a Negro to execute a piece of work in the trenches. A bullet from the enemy passed through the Negro, killing him instantly, and Coyle was badly wounded by the same bullet. Near Atlanta he was captured, as was most of the regiment, and sent to Andersonville. He escaped from Andersonville but was recaptured after some time and sent to another prison. From this he also escaped by digging a hole through a brick wall. He again started for the Union lines, avoiding the roads and marking his course by the stars. One morning he sighted a Negro in the woods and hailed him. He revealed himself to the colored man and asked him to bring him something to eat. The Negro willingly consented. Coyle retired a distance from the place and watch and waited. The Negro came back in course of time bringing corn cakes. He said he had told the other Negroes and that they manifested a great deal of excitement, which was observed by the white folks, and it was not safe for him to stay there. He started immediately, but was not much more than out of sight of the Negro when he heard the baying of a pack of hounds. He was overtaken by the dogs and was attacked by them and badly bitten. He used a club on the hounds with all the energy he possessed and disabled one of them. The men soon came up; one fellow, a boy, was furious because his dog was hurt. He assaulted Coyle and might have shot him bur for the interference of an older man. Coyle was not taken back to the prison from which escaped. The officer in charge was about to put a ball and chain on him. Coyle told the officer that he now had enough of trying to escape. He would not try it again and the officer refrained from putting him in chains. Coyle says anything is right in war and he did not keep his promise. He put pegs in a high stockade wall, by means of which he climbed to the top and jumped down on the other side, and away he went again. This time he was more successful. After a journey of 150 miles he reached the Union lines. As he neared the end of his journey he had to move with the utmost caution, as the pickets of both armies were close together. On the morning of the last day he climbed a small tree and took observations. He saw the men in camp and knew his deliverance was close at hand.
Previous page: Andersonville Prison
Next page: Charles F. Sweetland's POW Experience at Andersonville