The escape of William Independence Rasin from Capitol Prison

Captain William I. Rasin of the 1st Maryland Cavalry Co. E    July 4th, 1841-June 18th 1916. Born  near Still Pond Maryland in Kent County, Rasin was the youngest son of McCall Medford Rasin and Margaret Ann Boyer Rasin.  Rasin lived in Maryland until the death of his father in 1848 and then Rasin and his older brother McCall were sent to live with their uncle Unit Rasin in St. Louis, MO.  William attended school in St. Louis and then moved to Leavenworth, Kansas in 1858 to begin a business career. 

 When war broke out in 1861, Rasin volunteered to serve with Sterling Price  in the State Guard however his unit is not known. After the battle of Lexington September 13th-20th, Rasin decided to head back to Maryland.  Arriving in Maryland he finds out his native state is under martial law. While visiting the Price family at Stoneton near Unionville in Kent County, Maryland, Rasin is arrested February 12th, 1862 by  detectives. From there Rasin was taken in a closed carriage to Elkton, MD and then on to Washington D.C. to be tried as a spy. Convicted by Military Courts as a spy, Rasin who is being held in  Capitol Prison in Washington, D.C. is sentenced to be taken to Ft. Warren in Boston, MA for the duration of the war.

While in  Capitol Prison, Rasin’s roomates were Captain Harry Steuart and Rudolph Jenkins and Judson J Jarboe of St. Mary’s County, Maryland. Rasin, Watkins and Steuart became fast friends and were determined to find an escape route.  The three became aware of a rope made from an old manila doormat by a political prisoner (Mansfield Walworth) who was now in solitary confinement.  Using a table knife fashioned into a saw, the three prisoners took turns and in two weeks had sawed through the heavy wooden bars.  After about a month of waiting for the right time to try their escape, they decided on a dark stormy night to make their attempt. Drawing cards to see who would go out the window  first, Rasin drew the high card and the first attempt. After securing the rope, Rasin swung himself out the window and started down the rope hand over hand. The rope suddenly broke and Rasin fell with a loud thud. Fearing they had been exposed and Rasin was dead or injured, Steuart and Watkins pulled the remaining rope up and burned it to destroy the evidence.  However Rasin fell feet first and landed on a wooden cellar door. The loud wind from the storm carried the sound away from the guards. Rasin proceeded to walk towards the guards who were flirting with a young lady. Gathering all his courage, Rasin walked by the guards and gave a salute. Thinking he was an officer they returned the salute.  Rasin hid out in Washington D.C. for three days while the Union Army scoured the city and countryside looking for him.

William Rasin eventually headed to Salisbury, North Carolina to procure enough horses to outfit  his future command. He would be elected Captain of Co. E of the 1st Maryland Cavalry.

Published in: on July 4, 2009 at 7:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

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