“Escape from the Maple Leaf”










“On the 9th, about 2 P. M., we were transferred to the shipsteamer Maple Leaf, and immediately steamed up to Fort Norfolk, where we lay all night. On the morning of the 10th, forty seven other C. S. officers were taken on board, and we then started for Fort Delaware. The guard consisted of a detachment of twelve men, under command of Lt. Dorsey; there was then on board the Maple Leaf 96 Confederate officers. We lay off Fort Warren a short time; while there Judge McGowan, of Arizona, made known to me that the hour was near when we would be free; the Judge also made the matter known to other C. S. officers, in all about 25, and they were all who know what was going on. At about 1 P. M. we put out on our way to Fort Delaware, a gunboat following in our wake; some began to despair of success, but the gunboat was very slow, for we soon-left her far behind. When off Cape Henry Judge-McGowan collected a crown of probably ten of our officers, and moved near the guard stationed in the cabin; hearing the row commence below the Judge very easily seized three guns and handed them back to the other officers; one Yankees to run down. stairs, and I think refused to surrender, where upon the Judge gave him a blow over the head with a gun; not surrendering at this, a loaded gun was presented at him, upon which he surrendered.


Capt. Semmes then proceeded to demand the surrender of the Lieutenant of the guard. That gentleman, Lieut. Dorsey, was considerably surprised, and wished to reason about the matter; but Capt. S. told him it was of no use to reason — the boat was ours. He then demanded to see the Captain of the boat, which was, of course, refused him. Guards were placed over the engineer and pilot, with orders to keep the boat on the course she was then running. After running about six miles below Cape Henry we stood in towards land. When within about four hundred yards of the shore the steamer lay to, and seventy-one Confederate officers landed in Princes. Anne county, Va. Previous to landing the question as to what we should do with the boat was discussed and settled. We were landing on a shore of which we knew nothing. There were officers on board who could not walk; also, the wife of Capt. Dale, of the steamer. It was therefore concluded that Capt. Dale and Lieut. Dorsey should be placed under solemn oath to continue on their course to Fort Delaware, and not to communicate any of the circumstances of our escape to any one until their arrival at that place. They violated their oaths, but to no purpose. The route we traveled it would be imprudent to disclose. Suffice it to say we received the best of treatment from the patriotic citizens of North Carolina throughout our whole route, and although completely surrounded by Yankees we were to no danger of being betrayed by the citizens. This was the kind of Union sentiment ace found in North Carolina. The thanks and everlasting gratitude of the whole party are due to Capt. Saunders, of the Camden County Guerillas, and Lieut. Gordon, of Currituck, who, with their company, were untiring in their exertions in our behalf. Our escape was miraculous indeed--seventy one officers escaping through over seventy miles of country closely guarded by Federal pickets and scouting parties, consisting of 600 troops, who were constantly scouring the country in pursuit of us.    25 June 1863 Richmond Dispatch


Officers from the Maple Leaf were hidden in Camden County by Capt. Willis Sanderlin’s local guerrilla company. They camped on Wildcat Ridge, a sandy peninsula in the swamp near Sandy Hook. Arrangements were made and they made good their escape to Richmond.