A handbill posted on a burnt tree, dated 1862, announces that all those interfering with bridges, railroads and tunnels will be summarily executed. A condemned Civil War civilian prisoner — presumably found guilty of said crime — prepares to be hanged from a rural bridge by Union soldiers. The uniformed officers and NCOs pursue the execution with stately solemnity and ceremony. A vision of his home, with wife and child, flashes before the prisoner's eyes. As he is dropped, the rope breaks and he manages to free himself from his bonds and swim away. The soldiers attempt to shoot him in vain. Avoiding capture, he descends through swift flowing rapids, runs frantically through a forest and later along an eerily linear and orderly lane, arriving finally at the gates of his home where he sees his wife. Elated, he runs toward her and she toward him. Just as they are about to fall into each other's arms, the rope snaps to. The scene cuts back to the condemned man hanging off the bridge. The entire escape sequence is revealed to have been a dream or hallucination that he experienced in the seconds before his death.
Source : Wikipedia