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The Greatest EscaPE 

From Lyons Press

The Greatest Escape: A True American Civil War Adventure tells the story of the largest prison breakout in U.S. history. It took place during the Civil War, when more than 1200 Yankee officers were jammed into Libby, a special prison considered escape-proof, in the Confederate capitol of Richmond, Virginia.

The Greatest Escape: A True American Civil War Adventure

9781493071852 • Paperback • February 2023

$19.95 • 304 pages

About the Book


The Greatest Escape: A True American Civil War Adventure tells the story of the largest prison breakout in U.S. history. It took place during the Civil War, when more than 1200 Yankee officers were jammed into Libby, a special prison considered escape-proof, in the Confederate capitol of Richmond, Virginia.

A small group of men, obsessed with escape, mapped out an elaborate plan, and one cold and clear night, 109 men dug their way to freedom. Freezing, starving, clad in rags, they had to still travel 40 miles to Yankee lines and safety. They were pursued by all the white people in the area, but every Black person they encountered was their friend. In every instance, slaves risked their lives to help these Yankees, and their journey was aided by a female-led Union spy network. Since all the escapees were officers, they all could read and write well.

Over 50 of them would publish riveting accounts of their adventures. This is the first book to weave together these contemporary accounts into a true-to-life narrative. Much like a Ken Burns documentary, this book uses the actual words the prisoners recorded more than 150 years ago, as found in their many diaries and journals.

The Greatest Escape: A True American Civil War Adventure can be purchased at your local bookstore or by clicking here.

Civil War Times

This standout account of Rose's quest to free himself and fellow Union officers from Libby Prison and the adventures that followed is a remarkable story of determination and human endurance. "To enter Libby Prison in 1863,"writes Miller, "was to enter bedlam."  - George Skoch


Emerging Civil War

Of the thousands of Federal officers who were imprisoned in Richmond’s notorious Libby prison, 109 made a
daring attempt to escape in February 1864. Douglas Miller spins the tale of this breakout in a most engaging way – it reads like a suspense novel. Much of the story is told in first-person accounts.

Miller tells a gripping story, backed by solid research and primary accounts. His work paid off: it‘s definitely a fascinating read. - Doug Crenshaw


Paul Hoza, host of the podcast “Untold Civil War”

The GREAT drama, The GREAT entertainment, The GREAT adventure; these were the proclamations used to describe the film, The Great Escape, directed by Jud Taylor, Paul Wendkos, John Sturges, a 1950's adaptation of the book with the same name.   But today, a new, and seemingly more appropriate, book has come on the scene and can be awarded such hyperbolize verbiage. The Greatest Escape , a true Civil War exploit wonderfully documented by producer and cinematographer, Douglas Miller, is one for history lovers alike.   Douglas Miller was no doubt channeling his skills as a filmmaker because the action in this novel just flies off the pages.  At the same time, his analysis of primary sources confirms him as a solid historian.  For those who are tired of reading the same old narratives of the War, here is the Untold Civil War story you’ve been waiting for.

Ron Coddington, Military Images Magazine  Winter 2024



One of the best known prison escapes of the Civil war involved 109 Union officers that tunneled out of Richmond’s Libby Prison on a cold winter’s night in 1864. About half left behind firsthand accounts of the dramatic events that ended with a trek of some forty miles to safety.  These primary sources have never ben collected and presented in a single cohesive volume---until now.  “The Greatest Escape, a True Civil War Adventure”, relies on these personal accounts to tell a story of determination, courage and humanity.


Author Douglas Miller spins a narrative that seamlessly weave together the officers’ own words.  Miller, a writer, filmmaker, and photographer has written, produced, and edited programs for The History Channel and the Independent Film Channel. “The Greatest Escape” has benefited from Miller’s professional expertise.  Each of the 17 chapters reads like an episode in a mini-series.  Along the way, the reader meets participants, including the masterminds of the escape, Rebels, spies, and enslaved people. The book is illustrated mostly with period engravings.  Three officer portraits are featured.  The majority of officers are not visually represented.


Pick up a copy of “The Greatest Escape” It is an excellent read.



Rebels capture Union Soldier
Libby Prison, Richmond, VA 1864

Libby Prison, Winter, 1864

Chapter One


All soldiers go into combat thinking of being killed or, perhaps worse, of being maimed. They question their own bravery and worry whether they will let their comrades down.


However, a soldier seldom imagines becoming a prisoner of war.

Infantrymen in the Civil War would have witnessed the horrific consequences of being hit with the large, soft bullets of the era, but they really had no way to imagine life as a POW. For most of the war, guide-lines for captives were nonexistent, while penal systems were in a state of constant flux. Treatment varied widely from prison to prison and from year to year.


Virtually all the memoirs written by Libby prisoners expressed their total surprise at being captured. What will happen now? Where will I   be taken? Will I be forgotten and die far from home? Each capture was unique but the questions were the same.


Union Lieutenant Clay MacCauley was only 20 when, during the “ugly give and take” of the battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863, he came upon a dying soldier begging for water.



Douglas Miller, Author, The Greatest Escape

Douglas Miller’s writing, producing, and editing work includes programs for the Independent Film Channel (“Raw Footage with Alec Baldwin”) and The History Channel (notably the series “The Color of War,” “Modern Marvels,” and “Boneyards”). His film work has taken him all over the world and his photography has been exhibited in galleries from Paris to New York to Los Angeles. 


Miller is a writer, filmmaker, and photographer based in Los Angeles. He is best known for writing and producing the popular independent documentary “When Stand Up Stood Out,” about the “gold rush” of the 70s and 80s Boston Comedy scene, and for writing and editing the documentary “Bettie Page Reveals All,” which won “Best Feature Documentary” at the 2013 Garden State Film Festival. Douglas Miller is also the President of The Center for Military History.

Douglas Miller, Author

Mr. Miller grew up in the steel and coal town of Steubenville, Ohio.  He went on to become a finalist for a National Merit Scholarship and graduated with a BFA in filmmaking from the State University of New York at Purchase. There he studied under documentary filmmaker Willard Van Dyke, former head of the Museum of Modern Art’s Film Dept. and a founding member of the famed Group F64. 


He spent the 80s in Boston, writing and shooting documentaries, commercials, industrials, and music videos, including directing and producing the popular sports special “Fenway Park, Home of the Red Sox.” 


Mr. Miller lives in Studio City, California with his wife of 35 years, Hollywood costume designer Carol Ramsey. Their daughter Maren is a graphic designer and artist in New York City. 

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