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Walter Edgar's Journal: 'Captured Freedom' - a compelling photo tells a harrowing story of survival

Captured Freeedom
Library of Congress
Group of Union officers who escaped from Confederate prison at Columbia, S.C., in the fall of '64 also three guides procured in the mountains of Tennessee.

In Captured Freedom (2023, Steve Procko), author Steve Procko tells the true story of nine Union prisoners-of-war who escaped from a Confederate prison in Columbia, South Carolina, in November 1864, and traveled north in brutal winter conditions more than 300 miles with search parties and bloodhounds hot on their trail. On the difficult journey they relied on the help of enslaved men and women, as well as Southerners who sympathized with the North, before finally reaching Union lines in Knoxville, Tennessee, on New Years Day 1865.

On that day, hoping to commemorate what they had accomplished, the nine officers and their three mountain guides found a local photographer and posed together for a photograph. The instant, frozen in time, showed twelve ragged men with determination strong on their faces – a compelling image that moved Steve Procko to search for their stories.

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Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.