Saturday, August 31, 2013

Old Soldiers (3): Way down yonder

Cpl. William H. Rich, 4th NH 
The Fourth and Seventh New Hampshire volunteer infantry regiments served much of the war along the Atlantic coast between Hilton Head, S.C., and St. Augustine, Fla. This was the area occupied, guarded and patrolled by the Union army's Department of the South. The department's job was to support the naval blockade aimed at limiting supplies to the Confederacy via Atlantic ports.

Gillmore medal obverse
Both the 4th and the 7th helped carry out the siege of Fort Wagner on Morris Island. The 7th lost heavily in the battle of July 18, 1863. Its colonel, Haldimand S. Putnam, was killed leading his brigade that night as it attacked behind the brigade that included the 54th Massachusetts.

Near the end of the war, the 4th also lost its colonel, Louis Bell, when he was mortally wounded during the Union capture of Fort Fisher near Wilmington, N.C. The fort was the last southern coastal stronghold. Bell died the next day, Jan. 16, 1865.

Gillmore medal reverse
The photographs at upper right and below are the last installment from a collection of soldiers who were members of Grand Army of the Republic Post No. 8 in Somersworth, in the eastern part of New Hampshire near the seacoast. The GAR was the main veterans' organization of the Union army and became a powerful political force during the late 19th century. Earlier posts in the "Old soldiers" series are here and here. As of 1902, the Post No. 8's membership was 68, and an inspector found it robust and active.

William H. Rich, the corporal pictured right above, was an 18-year-old from Somersworth when he volunteered for the 4th New Hampshire in July of 1861. Nearly three years later, in June of 1864, he was awarded the Gillmore medal, named for Gen. Quincy Gillmore, commander of the Department of the South. Gillmore created the medal and awarded it for gallant and meritorious service during the siege of Charleston. The medal depicts Fort Sumter in ruins on one side with a facsimile of Gillmore's signature on the other.

Daniel Davis of Somersworth joined the 4th
NH at age 45 and served till he was wounded
at Drewry's Bluff.
19 years old when he joined the 4th NH,
Hiram Hurd made first sergeant. 

Ivory Jones served in the 7th NH till war's end.

William E. Harmon entered the 4th NH from
Somersworth as a 17-year-old musician.
A 29-year-old Englishman living in Somersworth, John McLaughlin became one
of the Boys of '61 and served as a 7th NH private for three years.
Sylvester Card wears his veteran's medal
and GAR derby. He joined the 7th NH as
a 17-year-old private from Dover. 
James M. Lamos of Somersworth enlisted
in the 7th New Hampshire at age 18 in
1861. Though wounded at New Market
Heights, he served till July 1865.
Clarence L. Chapman joined the 4th NH as an 18-year-old corporal from Somersworth. Despite
being shot at Petersburg, he served till war's end

Thursday, August 29, 2013

One school's proud Civil War heritage

Jane Carver Fielder is the archivist at Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, N.H. Many alumni of the academy served during the Civil War, and several also serve star turns in Our War, my book about New Hampshire in the war.

A group of them joined the 9th New Hampshire in 1862 and appear as both greenhorns and battle-hardened veterans in the book. Our War also depicts the congressmen who became colonels of both the 1st and 2nd New Hampshire regiments. It tells stories about a chaplain from Concord at First Bull Run, a man who rode to Gettysburg at Col. Edward E. Cross's side and was mortally wounded at Petersburg, an officer who escaped a rebel prison camp and a captain from Chesterfield who became the local war correspondent for the Sentinel in Keene. All were KUA alums.

In her job as archivist, Jane Fielder has been researching these men and spreading the word about them within the school community. Recently she wrote me a letter and shared some of her research.

Oscar D. Robinson at about the time
of his graduation from Kimball Union.
One of the soldiers she mentioned was my inspiration while writing Our War. His name was Oscar D. Robinson. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may remember an officer who discarded his food and blanket on the way to battle at South Mountain but kept his pen, ink and paper. That was Robinson.

By email, Fielder shared these words from Robinson's address as valedictorian of the Kimball Union class of 1862:

"Classmates, the parting hour has come! The old chapel bell has summoned us for the last time! Already perchance our thoughts have wandered far beyond the distant hills where quiet homes and loving friends would bid us speak the sacred parting word. . . . . We realize we are called to serve no other bonds of friendship than those formed by engaging in a common pursuit striving for a common goal and reaping a common reward."

Three months later, Robinson and many of his classmates found themselves fighting on South Mountain and at Antietam.

Here is Jane Fielder’s letter, slightly edited, for which I am grateful: 

Your book, Our War, was recommended to a number of us by Michael Schafer, the Head of School at Kimball Union Academy, who had read a review of it in the Valley News. As the archivist at the Academy and having just helped compile a history of Kimball Union for our bicentennial celebrations this last year, I wanted to send a response to your book.

Gilman Marston, colonel of the 2nd NH
and a congressman.
Mason Tappan, colonel of the 1st NH
and a congressman.

I went through your index and made a list of the men who also appear in our directories and lists of the 200-plus Kimball Union Civil War veterans. Our librarian also bought a copy of your book for the history department and I thought it would be interesting to the teachers and any students who read it to know which men attended KUA.

This information is from KUA’s General Catalogue 1815-1880:

Gilman Marston, class of 1833; b. Orford, NH; KUA 1832-33; Col., 2d N.H. Vols., 1861-64; Brig. Gen. U.S. Vols., 1864-65.

Mason Weare Tappan non-graduate 1833; b. Newport, N.H.; KUA 1831-33; Col., 1st N.H. Vols., 1861.

Chaplain Henry E. Parker, 2nd NH.
Henry Elijah Parker 1837; b. Keene, N.H.; KUA 1836-37; Chap., 2d N.H. Vols., 1861-62.

George Smith n.1844; b. Bradford, N.H.; KUA 1843-44; Ass’t Surg., 53d Ill. Vols., 1861-65.

George H. Chandler 1851; b. Danville, Vt.; KUA 1849-51; First Lt., 88th Ill. Vols., 2 years.

Charles Peter Clark 1851, b. 1836; KUA 1851; Acting Ensign, Master and Vol. Lieut., U.S.N., 1862-65.

Samuel Augustus Duncan 1851; b. Meriden, N.H.; KUA 1848-51; Maj., 14th N.H. Vols., 1862-63’ Col., 4th U.S.C.T.; Bvt. Brig. Gen., Bvt., Maj. Gen. U.S. Vols., 1863-66.

Thomas Haley 1854, b. Saco, Maine; KUA 1851-54; Pri., 27th Maine Vols.

As lieutenant colonel of the 9th NH, Herbert
B. Titus borrowed a rifle and shot at
rebel soldiers at Burnside's Bridge at
 Antietam. He was wounded for his trouble.
Herbert B. Titus 1854; b. Chesterfield, NH; KUA 1852-54; Lieut. 2d N.H. Vols., 1861-62; Col. 9th N.H. Vols., 1862-65.

Francis Wayland Butler 1861; b. Greenfield, N.H.; KUA 1860-61; 2d Lt. – Capt., 5th N.H. Vols., ’61 till died of wounds, Bennington, July 30, 1864.

Orlando Wales Dimick 1861; b. Braintree, Mass.; KUA 1859-61; Lt. – Capt., 11th N.H. Vols.

William Reynolds 1861; b. W. Milton, Vt.; KUA 1860-61; 1st Lt-Capt., 6th Vt. Vols., Maj., 17th Vt. Vols., till killed before Petersburg, Va., July 30, 1864.

George Warren Barber, 1862; b. Warwick, Mass.; KUA 1860-62; Pri. 9th N.H. Vols. 1862-63 – (lost left arm, at shoulder joint, Fredericksburg, Va., Dec. ’62)

Franklin James Burnham 1862; b. Norwich, Vt., KUA 1860-62; Pri. – 1st Lt., 9th N.H. Vols.

Oscar Robinson 1862; b. Cornish, N.H.; KUA 1859-62; Pri. – Capt., 9th N.H. Vols

Elmer Bragg wrote stirring letters home about
the exploits of the 9th NH. He was wounded
and captured at Spotsylvania Court House
in May 1864 and died shortly after his
release from Libby Prison. 
Elmer Bragg, n. 1862; born Plainfield, N.H.; KUA 1860-62; Pri., 9th N.H. Vols. 1862 till he died Annapolis, MD, Aug. 20, 1864, just from Libby Prison.

Alonzo Allen, non-graduate 1863; born Croydon, N.H.; KUA 1857, 58 and 63; Pri. 5th N.H. Vols. 1861, 62 – “carries a confederate bullet in his body.” – KUA General Catalogue

Henry P. Wilson n. 1865; Springfield, Vt., KUA 1865; Pri., 15th Vt., Vols., 1863-64.

Last school year I wrote brief stories of graduates, founders of KUA, early principals, histories of buildings or different events mostly of the 19th century and sent one out each week by email to the school and then they were put on our web site for alumni, parents and friends to read.

Two of the men you wrote about I had included: Oscar Robinson, class of 1862, and Gilman Marston, class of 1833. I haven’t written about Samuel A. Duncan, class of 1851, but as you didn’t mention he was an alumnus, I thought you might like to know that the family is well-known in Meriden and were involved with KUA for many years.

Samuel Duncan left the 14th NH regiment to command
African-American soldiers. He and his sweetheart, Julia Jones
of East Washington, N.H., fell in love by mail. In Our War
they tell their story through their letters. 
Samuel Augustus’s father, Samuel Bell Duncan, was treasurer and a trustee here from 1830-1870 and his mother Ruth Ticknor Duncan was one of the first women to attend Kimball Union, class of 1819, although women didn’t actually graduate until the female department was officially added in 1839. Samuel Bell’s sister Hannah was also in the class of 1819.

Their children all graduated from here: John Ticknor, class of 1851, followed his father as trustee and treasurer in 1870 until 1902; Samuel Augustus, 1851; Robert Henry, 1853. Robert married Abbie Vining, class of 1858, and their eldest son, Harry Lee became a trustee in 1911-1917. 

Harry’s sister Annie, a 1901 graduate of Smith College, moved back to the family home on the KUA Hilltop after a few years of teaching and lived there until her death in 1961. She was a prominent member of the community and Congregational Church for all those years. The Duncan Family home is now owned by Kimball Union.

Here are a few other Kimball Union alumni that might interest you:

Cyrus Smith Richards, class of 1831, was born in Hartford, Vt., and was hired as principal here on the day he graduated from Dartmouth in 1835 and served until he retired in 1871. He was well-known as the “abolitionist principal.” During his tenure we know of four African Americans who were enrolled here. After retiring, he became a professor of Latin and Greek and Dean of the Preparatory Department at Howard University for over ten years.

Augustus Washington, class of 1843, became an African American daguerreotyper who took the well-known photograph of John Brown, the abolitionist. He wrote of Principal Richards and his acceptance at KUA: “He also expressed the opinion, that if there was a difference of treatment, it would probably be in my favor. This proved to be true, for I couldn’t have been better treated in London or Paris, than I was during the two years spent at that institution.”

Jonathan Gibbs, class of 1848, who was the third African American to graduate from Dartmouth College. Eighteen other colleges had refused him admission. He was also an abolitionist minister, writer and orator.

James D. Lynch, class of 1855, was sent to KUA “one of the few Northern schools accepting Negro students prior to 1860.” He was a chaplain for a colored regiment during the Civil War. His brother John also attended for one year.

I also wrote about Daniel Foster, class of 1836, from Hanover, N.H., who enlisted as a chaplain in the 33rd Massachusetts Volunteers Regiment but resigned a year later to become a captain in the 37th Regiment of U.S. Colored Troops.

And I included one of the few Confederate soldiers who attended Kimball Union, Major A. Sebastian Van de Graff, class of 1850, of Gainesville, Ala., of the 5th Alabama Volunteers, C.S.A., 1861-65. When he died in 1902, a Kimball Union classmate who had fought for the North wrote to his son, “I know he made an ideal soldier. . . . There was no one in my class to whom I was so much attached as to him & that began when I first met him at school in Meriden in 1848.”

I very much enjoyed reading your book, one that brought the personal lives of these men to life, many of whom, as Ken Burns said, could have been our great-grandfathers. I recommended your book to my brother who is the inheritor of our great-grandfather’s rifle, one that he carried in the war, and the daguerreotype of him in his Civil War uniform. Although he was from Maine, I’m sure his experiences were similar. (I inherited the desk and chairs he made in his carpentry shop in Portland, Maine, after the war!)

Thank you for your book,


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Vicksburg: 'Glory enough for one Fourth of July'

In May 1862, John B. Hoit, a 22-year-old from Manchester, N.H., joined a company raised to garrison Fort Constitution on New Hampshire’s coast. A few months later, he and the rest of the company were ordered to Concord and transferred to a new infantry regiment just forming: the 9th New Hampshire.

Hoit served as a corporal in the 9th’s Company E. Because this company included a group of former schoolmates who wrote detailed accounts of their battle-wearying service, it is the subject of three chapters of Our War. There is also a fourth chapter on the capture of Vicksburg on July 4, 1863, as seen through the experiences of George H. Chandler of Concord, the 9th's original adjutant and later its major.

Corporal Hoit also spent that momentous day at Vicksburg, and here is what he wrote home about it:

Snyders Bluffs, Miss
Saturday Evening, July 4th, 1863

Dear Brother & Sister Burnham,

Vicksburgh is ours at last, thank God. The Rebs defended it bravely but we forced them to hoist the White flag at 9 oclock this morning in order to save themselves from the Storm of Hellfire brimstone Iron & lead that we were agoing to hurl at them today. I was within easy musket shot of one of their forts when it was run up. The feeling of our men was not easily described, I assure you. The prisoners were estimated at 20,000. We have not had time yet to ascertain.

The 9th N.H. Regt. is camped about 10 miles in the rear. They marched at noon today toward the Blackwater River. All of our Troops are on the move tonight in that direction. They will give Jo Johnson [Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnson] hell unless he skedaddles.

Samuel & Henrys health is good and they seem in good spirits. We have visited several times in the course of the last fortnight. Samuel sent me a letter tonight Signed Niece Flora Bell, East Weare. I presume it is one of my relations, but I must confess I’m ignorant of who it is. But never mind. She says that Aunt Marthy’s health is better and the Bubby is fat as a pigg.

Well now, it looks as if you’ve been recruiting for the army I hope. But never mind. Since I have commenced to write I learn that the Rebel Adj General Reported 25,000 Rebels for duty this morning and 8,000 sick and wounded in the hospital.

If that statement is correct we have Glory enough for one 4th of July.

They say that they have lost 3,000 during the siege.

The stench arising from dead horses and mules killed in the forts was insufferable.

I have no Tent and the wind has nearly destroyed my candle, so I must close.

I would be pleased to hear from you.

My kindest regards to all,

Yours Truly,
J. B. Hoit

[Corporal Hoit served till the end of the war and lived afterward in Wilmot Flat, N.H. This letter is currently for sale on eBay. The asking price is $450.]

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Holmes and the real birth of free speech

Alan M. Dershowitz has a review in today’s New York Times Book Review of a new exploration of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.’s famous free-speech dissent in 1919. I cited this speech at the end of my blogpost the other day on Holmes’s Civil War experience. The case was called Abrams v. United States, in which the court upheld broad government powers to stifle free speech under the Sedition Act of 1918. Holmes dissented in the 7-2 vote.

The new book, by Thomas Healy, is The Great Dissent: How Oliver Wendell Holmes Changed His Mind – and the History of Free Speech in America. It shows how Holmes, in old age, came to a new understanding of free speech – a “full-blown defense” of it, in Dershowitz’s words.

In Healy’s view, Holmes’s dissent “incorporated nearly all the major themes of his life – his belief in the supremacy of experience over logic, his strange combination of confidence and doubt, his commitment to Darwinism. . . . his taste for battle. . . . It was almost as if Holmes had been working toward this moment his entire career, and now in one opinion, in one paragraph of that opinion – it had all come together in a brilliant expression of constitutional faith.”

Dershowitz writes: “The dissent introduced into American constitutional law ‘free trade in ideas – that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.’ ” Dershowitz dislikes the analogy, since markets are regulated, but embraces the idea.

He also likes Healy’s book, calling it “informative and readable.”

Thursday, August 22, 2013

'Without an opinion a historian would simply be a ticking clock, and unreadable besides.' – Barbara W. Tuchman

Earlier this month, my wife and I visited the beguiling bookstore in Lenox, Mass. Two things make it special, and both reflect the knowledge and care of the people who run it. One is the terrific selection – the shelves are full of surprises, including a big poetry section. The second is that a few bookcases are devoted to used books – not the usual suspects but books you seldom see.

Barbara W. Tuckman
A used book I found and could not resist was Practicing History, a 1981 selection of essays by Barbara W. Tuchman. When I first began to read history seriously decades ago, Tuchman was one of the authors who opened the world of the past to me. The Guns of August and The Proud Tower were my favorites; A Distant Mirror took me to the same locale six centuries earlier.

Tuchman, who died in 1989 at the age of 77, was a popular historian – a loaded term because academics sometimes use it as a putdown. I think there is some envy in this. Popular historians are often those who write well. They are storytellers. This does not mean, and certainly didn't mean in Tuchman's case, they are not dogged researchers as well.

I found Practicing History just as unputdownable as Tuchman’s history books. It is just what its title promises: an author’s thoughts about her craft. Some of the essays, which date back 50 years, were speeches or reviews in periodicals. Most share anecdotes about the research and writing that went into her books. 

As I contemplate which book to write next (I’m 60 percent decided), it was wonderful to explore Tuchman’s philosophy about history and writing. Often she expressed herself in eloquent aphorisms, and I thought I would share some of these nuggets of wisdom with you today.

“Being in love with your subject . . . is indispensable for writing good history – or good anything, for that matter.”

“One learns to write . . . in the practice thereof. . . . An essential element for good writing is a good ear. One must listen to the sound of one’s own prose. . . . Short words are always preferable to long ones; the fewer syllables, the better, and monosyllables, beautiful and pure like ‘bread’ and ‘sun’ and ‘grass,’ are best of all.”

“The historian is continually being beguiled down fascinating byways and sidetracks. But the art of writing – the test of an artist – is to resist the beguilement and cleave to the subject.”

“When I was eighteen or thereabouts, my mother told me that when out with a young man I should always leave a half-hour before I wanted to. Although I was not sure how this was to be accomplished, I recognized the advice as sound, and exactly the same rule applies to research.”

Tuchman won a Pulitzer prize for her
World I history "The Guns of August."
“Research is endlessly seductive, writing is hard work. One has to sit down on that chair and think and transform thought into readable, conservative, interesting sentences that make sense and make the reader turn the page.”

“If the historian will submit himself to his material instead of trying to impose himself on his material, the material will ultimately speak to him and supply the answers.”

“As . . . the explanation conveys itself to the writer, so will the implications or the meaning for our time arise in the mind of the reader. But such lessons, if present and valid, must emerge from the material, not the writer. I did not write to instruct, but to tell a story.”

“Evidence is more important than interpretation . . . I am content to define history as the past events of which we have knowledge and refrain from worrying about those of which we have none – until, that is, some archaeologist digs them up.”

“The contemporary has no perspective; everything is in the foreground and appears the same size. Little matters loom big, and great matters are sometimes missed because their outlines cannot be seen. Vietnam and Panama are given four-column headlines today, but the historian fifty or a hundred years hence will put them in a chapter under a general heading we have not yet thought of.” [This was written in 1964, but Tuchman’s view then of Vietnam and Panama as equivalents in the arc of history only emphasizes the point she is making.]

“There is no such thing as a neutral or purely objective historian. Without an opinion a historian would simply be a ticking clock, and unreadable besides.”

“The historian’s task is . . . to tell what happened within the discipline of the facts.

“It is wiser, I believe, to arrive at theory by way of the evidence than the other way around, like so many revisionists today. It is more rewarding, in any case, to assemble the facts first and, in the process of arranging them in narrative form, to discover a theory or a historical generalization emerging of its own accord. This, to me, is the excitement, the built-in treasure hunt, of history.”

Tuchman's "A Distant Mirror" is set in
northern France in the 14th century.
“Why cannot history be studied and written and read for its own sake, as the record of human behavior, the most fascinating subject of all? Insistence on a purpose turns the historian into a prophet – and that is another profession.”

“When I come across a generalization or a general statement in history unsupported by illustration, I am instantly on guard; my reaction is, ‘Show me.’ ”

“Words are seductive and dangerous material, to be used with caution. Am I a writer first or am I a historian? The old argument starts inside my head. Yet there need not always be dichotomy or dispute. The two functions need not be, in fact should not be, at war. The goal is fusion. In the long run the best writer is the best historian.”

“Why is it generally assumed that in writing, the creative process is the exclusive property of poets and novelists? I would like to suggest that the thought applied by the historian to his subject matter can be no less creative than the imagination applied by the novelist to his.”

“I have always felt like an artist when I work on a book but I did not think I ought to say so until someone else said it first.”

“When I say that I felt like an artist, I mean that I constantly found myself perceiving historical truth (at least what I believe to be truth) by seizing upon a suggestion; then, after careful gathering of the evidence, conveying it in turn to the reader, not by piling up a list of the facts I have collected, which is the way of the Ph.D., but by exercising the artist’s privilege of selection.”

“When it comes to language, nothing is more satisfying than to write a good sentence. It is no fun to write lumpishly, dully, in prose the reader must plod through like wet sand. But it is a pleasure to achieve, if one can, a clear running prose that is simple yet full of surprises. This does not just happen. It requires skill, hard work, a good ear, and continued practice.”

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Future justice Holmes faces death on his own terms

Two days after he was shot early in the Union army debacle at Ball’s Bluff, First Lieutenant Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. of the 20th Massachusetts Volunteers wrote his mother.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., the future U.S.
Supreme Court justice was an officer in the
20th Massachusetts, also known as the
Harvard regiment.
“I felt and acted very cool and did my duty I am sure,” he told her. “I was out front of our men encouraging ’em on when a spent ball knocked the wind out of me & I fell. Then I crawled to the rear a few paces & rose by help of the 1st Ser’gt, & the Colonel who was passing said ‘That’s right Mr. Holmes – Go to the Rear’ but I felt that I couldn’t without more excuse so up I got and rushed to the front where hearing the Col. cheering the men on I waved my sword and asked if none would follow me when down I went again by the Colonel’s side.

“The first shot (the spent ball) struck me on the belly below where the ribs separate & bruised and knocked the wind out of me. The second time I hope only one ball struck me entering the left & coming out behind the right breast in wh[ich[ case I shall probably recover and this view is seconded by finding the ball in my clothes by the right hand wound. I may be hit twice in which case the chance is not so good.”

The Civil War produced many such wounds and many such letters. But after telling his mother he now felt well and hopeful, he added an uncommon element to his account.

The night after his wounding, he wrote, “I made up my mind to die & was going to take that little bottle of laudanum as soon as I was sure of dying with any pain.” He related this plan to the doctor, and the doctor advised him not to do it.

Sometime after Ball’s Bluff, Holmes returned to this subject in his diary. He reflected that he had been “struck with the intensity of the mind’s action” during battle and with its “increased suggestiveness” after his wound.

“I felt as if a horse had kicked me and went over,” he wrote of being shot. The first sergeant dragged him to the rear, opened his shirt and saw the two holes in his breasts. He squeezed a ball out of the right breast and gave it to Holmes.

Holmes worried that he had been shot in each lung and that a second ball might still be lodged in his chest. “I spit – Yes – the blood was already in my mouth.” His thoughts turned to a children’s book in which a man shot through the lungs by a robber had “died with terrible haemorrhages & great agony.”

Holmes felt in his waistcoat pocket for the laudanum bottle. He was glad it was there but, feeling no pain, wanted to see the doctor before deciding whether to take it.

The doctor equivocated. Although Holmes had a chance, the blood pouring up into his mouth did not bode well. But Holmes “didn’t feel sure there was no chance.” His thoughts soon became confused, possibly from a combination of loss of blood and a dose of “opiate,” which he believed was laudanum.

On one point his recollection was clear. He was a Unitarian with no belief in a particular creed. Thus, if he died, “the majority vote of the civilized world declared that with my opinions I was en route for Hell.” This thought bothered him at first, but then he wrote: “I die like a soldier anyhow. I was shot in the breast doing my duty up to the hub. Afraid? No. I am proud.” He decided he “could not be guilty of a deathbed recantation.”

Holmes had the advantage of having discussed this very possibility before the war with his father, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., a doctor and frequent writer for the Atlantic. They equated a deathbed conversions with “but a cowardly giving way to fear.” The young Holmes asked himself: “Has the approach of death changed my beliefs much?”

The answer was no. If he were to die, “I am to take a leap into the dark – but now as ever I believe that whatever shall happen is best . . . and so with a ‘God to forgive me if I am wrong’ I slept.”

Holmes in 1902, the year he joined the Supreme Court.
Holmes was just 20 years old when he was shot. He survived this wound and others at Antietam and Chancellorsville. After his three-year term of service, he left the 20th Massachusetts and went to Harvard Law School. He was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1902 and served as a justice for 30 years. He died in 1935 at the age of 93.

In his obituary the New York Times included this quotation from Holmes in an opinion favoring freedom of expression for protesters in time of war. Although his argument did not carry the day, his words seem a distant echo of his brief for freedom of thought as he lay wounded in 1861:

“When men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe . . . that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas – that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes can be carried out. That, at any rate, is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment.”

[The source for the quotations from Holmes's wartime letters and diary is Touched with Fire, a 1946 compilation edited by Mark DeWolfe Howe. Howe wrote in his preface that the letters and diary were discovered in the bottom of a box of Holmes's papers a few years after his death. Sometime after the Civil War, both Holmes and his mother had written notes on the envelopes containing the letters. Howe believed it was "reasonably clear that [Holmes] destroyed an appreciable number of his letters to his family." Much of his diary was also missing. The book is nonetheless interesting not only because of Holmes's postwar prominence but also in its own right.]

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Headlines matter, maybe

As a journalist, I wrote my first newspaper headline in 1961 and my last in 2008. I mention this because I have come to think that the headlines on blog-posts make a huge difference. That is the only way I can explain the heavy readership during the last month of the new most popular post at

The headline is "Urgent! Telegram from Gettysburg." It is an old post. The only way I can explain its surge since June is that the words "Urgent!" and "Gettysburg" attract readers.

But maybe I'm wrong about the importance of headlines. Another recent riser is "Exeter's Civil War General." This is a "label head," as journalists would say. Newspapers discourage label heads -- or at least I always did as an editor -- because they lack the pizzazz of headlines with verbs (e.g., FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD).

Here are the top ten posts as of mid-August. The numbers in brackets indicate where these posts stood a month ago. Those in parentheses indicate how many months the posts have been in the top ten. FYI, readership for these posts ranks from 140 to 350.

2. Farewell, my teacher [1] (3)

8. My friend Chester [5] (6)

10. History’s touch [10] (4)

And the next five . . .

Also popular during the last month:

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Battle awaits across the river

Cross's letter (transcript below) refers to this map of the armies' positions just before Fair Oaks, Va. 
One great thing about historical research is how things keep turning up. I almost said new things, but the item I have in mind is not new at all. It was sold at auction in 2008, and it was written more than 150 years ago. I am once again grateful to my friend Dave Morin for finding it.

Dave and I share a particular interest in this one. It is a letter from Col. Edward E. Cross of the 5th New Hampshire Volunteers to his father in Lancaster, N.H. The letter adds only a little to the story of Cross and his regiment. What's exciting about it is that it was written just a couple of days before Cross began his legendary Civil War combat career.

Many details of the Cross have emerged during the last 20 years. Mark Travis and I researched and wrote My Brave Boys, a history of Cross's regiment, during the 1990s. The next year, after Walter Holden donated his Cross collection, including Cross's journal, to the University of New Hampshire, Walter, Bill Ross and Elizabeth Slomba brought out Stand Firm and Fire Low, Cross's Civil War writings. Robert Grandchamp discovered several new Cross war letters in researching his new biography, which came out last year.

Cross was a prolific writer before and during the war, and as time goes by, more and more of his letters reappear. This one is to his father Ephraim, a hatter in Lancaster who had once been a lieutenant colonel in the local militia and was known locally as Colonel Cross.

Colonel Cross of the 5th wrote the letter on May 26, 1862, just before he led a labor detail from his regiment and others in building the Grapevine Bridge across the Chickahominy River. A large part of McClellan's army marched to battle across this bridge.

The 5th New Hampshire reached the other side late on May 31, just as the battle of Seven Pines was ending. The next morning Cross led the 5th into battle at Fair Oaks. He was shot through the thigh as his well-trained regiment pushed back the rebels. His men told a newspaper correspondent that Cross "raged like a lion" during the battle. He wrote a friend that "in all seven balls struck my person." One went through his thigh. "When his long body fell," the paper reported, "he went down like a pine tree."

This was only the beginning of Cross's close acquaintance with musket balls and shell fragments on Civil War battlefields.

Here is a transcript of the letter:

Headquarters 5th NH Vols
Camp near Richmond May 26, 1862

Dear Father

We are now close to the river on the other side of which the enemy are encamped, about 100,000 strong. Their line of battle is formed in front of Richmond about 7 miles from the city, in a rolling, open country.

To-day the position of the armies is about as below

[See map in letter image above.]

The position of the rebel army is very strong, being covered by this muddy country in front and flank. But all depends upon whether we can get our artillery to bear on them. If we can, they are one, for we have 3,000 pieces.

To-day we are cooking three days rations to take with us. Some Regiments are making bridges and big rafts, and some cutting roads and putting down logs so as to bear up the artillery. I have 800 officers and men for duty – 200 more than any other Regiment.

All well
In haste
Very affectionately
E.E. Cross


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Confederate captain at Gettysburg: 'We fear defeat in the enemy’s country, but hope and pray for victory'

This is an encore – or prequel – to the recent three-post condensation of Captain Robert Emory Park’s POW diary. It covers the march of his regiment, the 12th Alabama Infantry, into Pennsylvania, its fight at Gettysburg and Park’s ambulance journey south afterward.

The 12th served in Maj. Gen. Robert E. Rodes’s division of Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell’s corps. On July 1, 1863, the first day of the battle, the regiment helped drive Union soldiers through the town of Gettysburg to Cemetery Ridge.

Traveling with Richard Ewell's corps, Park's regiment eventually approached
Gettysburg from Carlisle, to the north on this map. (Map source: Wikipedia.) 
Let us begin as Park and his regiment, with the rest of the Army of Northern Virginia, start toward Pennsylvania.

June 2-3, 1863 – Ordered to prepare to move next morning.

June 4 – Began a tramp through valley of Virginia and Maryland, and marched about 18 miles, halting near Spotsylvania C. H.

June 5-7 – On the march to Culpeper C.H. Stayed there a day supporting Stuart’s Cavalry, while he drove back some raiders near Brandy Station.

June 9-18 – On the road to Maryland. Captured Berryville, Bunker Hill and Martinsburg.

June 19 – Crossed Potomac by wading at Williamsport, Md., and marched through Hagerstown. A majority of the people seem to be Unionists, though there are some delightful exceptions. Bivouacked at Funkstown. Dined at Mr. Sylvester’s, a good Southerner. Gave 75 cents in Confederate money for a pound of stick candy.

June 20 – Gave $2.12½ for a black hat. With Captain Hewlett and Lieutenant Oscar Smith, of 3d Ala., called on Misses Mary Jane and Lizzie Kellar, young ladies just from a Pennsylvania Female College, and heard them sing and play Southern songs.

Belle Boyd, the famed Confederate soy, worked
out of her father's hotel in Royal, Va.
June 21 – Attended divine services at M E. Church in Hagerstown. At tea met Miss Rose Shafer, and found her to be a brave Belle Boyd in her words and acts.

June 22 – Took up line of march to Pennsylvania. Passed through Hagerstown in columns of companies. Crossed Pennsylvania line near Middleburg, and camped at Greencastle.

June 23 – Quiet in camp. . . .

June 24 – Marched towards Harrisburg, and passed through Marion and Chambersburg. We see many women and children, but few men. General Lee has issued orders prohibiting all misconduct or lawlessness, and urging utmost forbearance and kindness to all.

June 25 – Breakfasted with a citizen, who refused all pay, though I assured him Confederate money would soon take place of greenbacks.

June 26 – Marched through Greenvillage and Shippensburg. Rained all day. Had a nice bed of wheat straw at night, and slept soundly, undisturbed by dreams or alarms.

June 27 – Marched through several small towns, and two miles beyond Carlisle on Baltimore turnpike, at least 25 miles. Ate an excellent supper at Mr. A. Spotts’.

June 28 – Breakfasted at Mr. S’s. Went to Episcopal Church in Carlisle, and after leaving, was passing some well-dressed ladies, to whom I lifted my hat, when one spoke to me very kindly, told me their minister was an Alabamian, from Florence, Ala. Went alone to National Hotel for dinner, registered in midst of an unfriendly and scowling crowd of rough looking men. Had a poor dinner, rather ungraciously served by a Dutchy looking young waitress.

June 29 – Crossed Blue Ridge Mountains at a gap at Papertown. Marched on turnpike to Petersburg, and took the Frederick City road, bivouacking at Hiedlersburg.

July 1 – Marched through Middletown towards Gettysburg. This proved one of the most eventful days of my life. We could hear and see the shelling in front of Gettysburg, and were soon in range.

Rodes’ Division was actively engaged in a very short time. His old Alabama brigade, under Col. E.A. O’Neal, was shelled fiercely. Capt. Jas. T. Davis of Co. ‘D’ was killed near me, and his brains scattered upon me. He was a brave, good man. Another shell exploded in my company and wounded Corporal J.H. Eason and Private Lucius Williams while we halted in a hilly woods.

We passed the woods and a wheat field, where Private Rogers, our Baptist preacher, had his knee shattered by a minie ball. We continued to advance, and soon made a charge upon the enemy, not far from a seminary or college. We ran the enemy some distance and were halted.

There Lieut. Wright was wounded in the head by my side. I gave him some water from my canteen, and made him lie down close to the ground, as balls were falling thick and fast around us, and whizzing past and often striking someone near.

Capt. Hewlett and Lieut. Bridges and Private Lester were wounded near me. While urging my men to fire and keep cool, I received a ball in my hip. It was a wonder, a miracle, I was not afterward shot a half dozen times, but a merciful Providence preserved me.

After long exposure to heavy fire from a superior force of the enemy, we were ordered to fall back to a stonewall. Capt. J.J. Nicolson, of Co. ‘I,’ kindly helped me as I hobbled along, though I urged him to abandon me and save himself. Col. Pickens sent me to hospital on Major Proskauer’s horse. Our gallant Jew Major smoked his cigars calmly and coolly in the thickest of the fight.

At the field hospital, an old barn, I was put in a tent with Captain Ross and Hewlett, Lieutenants Wright and Fletcher, Corporal Eason and Henry Lamar. Poor John Preskitt was mortally wounded and died. He died saying: ‘All is right.’

My company had all three of its officers wounded, and about half its men. Every officer, except Captain Thomas, on right wing of the regiment was either killed or wounded. The brigade suffered severely. Ben Ingram was wounded in the arm. Our division drove the enemy through the town, capturing many prisoners, including nearly all of their wounded. Surgeon Whitfield was very busy and kind.

July 2 – Limped inside barn and saw Preskitt’s body, and urged a decent burial of ambulance corps. He leaves a very helpless family. Lieut. Fletcher died by my side. He was of Co. ‘G,’ a modest, brave young fellow. Nine in my company were wounded yesterday. Price Ware returned to company in time for the fight. Our forces fought Meade’s command all day, and the cannonading was wonderfully distinct and terrific.

July 3 – Friday. Heavy cannonading and musketry without cessation. Attempted to storm the heights, but failed. Stuart sent by a large number of captured wagons. Our anxiety for news was dreadful. We fear defeat in the enemy’s country, but hope and pray for victory. We have every confidence in Lee and Stuart.

July 4 – A memorable, historic day! All able to walk were sent towards Maryland, and the badly wounded were hauled away. Dr. Whitfield was very kind and placed me in his first ambulance, driven by Sam Slaton, of my company, in company with Lieutenant Wright and Captains Ross and Hewlett.

The night was a dark, dreary, rainy one. At one o’clock A. M., we started, after a long halt on Fairfield road, towards Hagerstown, riding over the worst possible mountain road. We were suffering, wet, anxious. The Yankee cavalry attacked our train, and took several of our wagons, including the third one to our rear. They were firing uncomfortably near.

My ambulance broke down at this critical time, and we woke up a farmer, got his small market wagon, left one horse, and drove the other on to Hagersown. Captain Pickens, Acting Quartermaster, aided us much. At Washington Hotel, in H., the proprietor gave us sandwiches and a bottle of whiskey, and spoke cheeringly.

July 5 – We reached Williamsport, after a gloomy night, at 6 A. M. We drove our horse across the Potomac and reached Martinsburg at 2 P. M. Had our wounds dressed, ate dinner in the hospital, drove four miles towards Winchester, and spent the night at Mr. Stanley’s.

July 6 – Arrived at Winchester at 4 o’clock, turned over our horse and wagon to Assistant Proost Marshal Captain Cullen, and left W. on mail coach, reaching Woodstock at 11 o’clock at night, and slept on hotel floor. Citizens are anxious for news, and ask many questions.

July 7 – Breakfasted and left on stage for Staunton, eating dinner at Harrisonburg, where a generous stranger paid our bill. Money is not plentiful with us. Reached Staunton at 8½  o’clock, night, and stopped at American Hotel hospital.

July 8 – Drew a month’s salary of $90.00, obtained transfer to General Hospital, Richmond. Captain U. and I hired a horse and buggy for $12.00 to carry us to Middle river, 6 miles distant, to get our valises from Captain Haralson, Quartermaster. Telegraphed home.

July 9 – Reached Richmond 5 P. M. Went to Hospital No. 4, Dr. J.B. Reid.

July 10 – Had gray coat cleaned and mended for $6.00, and bought a knife for $10.00.

July 11-13 – Called on by many newspaper men and sick officers. We were first to reach the capital from the Gettysburg field. Moved from hospital to Mr. Hatton’s on Mayo street between Broad and Franklin.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Confederate captain's war diary, 1864-5 (part 3): 'My last, fond hope was completely crushed.'

Capt. Robert Emory Park was just 20 years old when he was badly wounded and captured at the third battle of Winchester, Va., on Sept. 19, 1864. In this, the third and concluding  part of a condensation of his late-war diary, he remains a die-hard Southern firebrand as he moves from prison to prison and the war news turns grimmer and grimmer for his cause.

His reactions to Sherman’s March, Richmond’s fall, the surrender of the Confederate armies, the Lincoln assassination and the capture of Jefferson Davis are sharp and emotional. He struggles with his conscience over whether to take the loyalty oath required of rebel prisoners wishing to go home.

We begin just after New Year’s Day of 1865. Park, still suffering from his leg wound, is debarking a mail boat that delivered officers transferred from Point Lookout, Md., to the Old Capitol Prison in Washington, D.C.

Jan. 3, 1865 – We landed on the wharf at Washington at 9 o’clock A. M., and found it covered with snow and ice. In this uncomfortable place, with no shelter from the bleak wind, standing on the frozen snow, we remained under guard from 9 o’clock till 5 o’clock P. M. We had no fire, and only a few crackers and some wretched coffee for food.

John C. Calhoun, one of Park's heroes.
At dark we were carried in ambulances to the Old Capitol. This prison, situated on the corner of A and First streets, is an old brick building, erected in 1817, for the use of Congress, as the capitol building proper had been destroyed by fire by the British army under General Ross, August 24th, 1814. It was used by Congress until the capitol was rebuilt, and then fitted up as a boarding house.

Honorable John C. Calhoun, of South Carolina, died in it. This pure and illustrious patriot and statesman – twice elected Vice-President of the United States, and the greatest of the great “Triumvirate,” Calhoun, Clay and Webster, the only one who has left any enduring work to perpetuate his fame – never dreamed that his own room, in sight of the Goddess of Liberty on the dome of the capitol, would someday be used as a prison dungeon for the victims of rampant, fanatical abolitionism and the advocates of a higher law than the constitution which they had sworn to uphold and support. . . .

We reached Old Capitol at 7 o’clock P. M., and about two hours after, nine of us were assigned to “room 9,” second floor. This room is about twelve feet by fourteen in size, and contained in one corner five sleeping berths or bunks, like those used in canal boats, one above the other, and about eighteen inches apart. The bunks are made of rough plank, three feet wide and six feet long. . . .

The berths had each a tick, containing a scanty quantity of old straw, which no doubt had done service for years. Each one was also furnished with a dirty quilt or blanket, and vermin held high carnival among them. The dingy walls were festooned with cobwebs, and darkened by smoke from the very small coal grate in one end of the room. A bench and two boxes were used for chairs. We have none of the comforts we have been accustomed to at home. . . .

All my bright dreams of being exchanged and visiting my good mother were banished. The future looks dark and uncertain. . . .

Jan. 4 – I awoke early, looked out from my bunk, and scanned my narrow, crowded room more closely. It was used as a committee room of the old Congress, and had probably been repeatedly tenanted by Calhoun, Crawford, Webster, Forsyth, Tyler and other leading statesmen of their time. Phantoms of the past rose before me, and I fancied I could hear the voices of the departed orators, as they declaimed against the abuses and errors of the day, and gave their powerful aid to the sacred cause of personal liberty and State sovereignty. . . .

The Old Capitol prison in Washington, D.C., a symbol of tyranny for Park.  
They never imagined that the very walls which re-echoed the eloquence of freedom would ere long confine the victims of a sectional despotism. . . . Those who took solemn oaths to obey the constitution and laws do not scruple to violate their oaths, and perjure themselves. This Government, these apostles of liberty, these tender-hearted lovers of the nigger, who shudder at the bare idea of the African’s fancied wrongs, do not hesitate to cast into dungeons, in open day, without accusation or form of trial, any one of their white fellow countrymen or countrywomen whom they may suspect of want of fealty to their arbitrary domination. . . .

January 6-8 – Sunday has come and gone; and I, in common with most of my fellow prisoners, accepted an invitation given to hear Rev. Dr.—— preach in the mess-room. Dr.—— preached an ordinary sermon, which received polite attention from the prisoners, and afterwards walked into the open ground, 100 feet square, where we were allowed to exercise half an hour each day at dinner time, and began to distribute tracts to the prisoners.

He handed me one, at the head of which was a picture in colors of the “old flag,” that emblem of hate and oppression, called by Horace Greeley “a flaunting lie.” . . . What connection could there be between the stars and stripes and the pure religion of Jesus Christ? It was insulting, not only to us, but to the Almighty, to circulate such sacrilegious literature. . . .

I threw my tract upon the ground and stamped it with my crutch and heel, which the young men heartily applauded, throwing down their tracts also, and some of them crushing the emblems of sectional hate and Yankee fanaticism beneath their feet. The Yankee’s love for the flag is all sentiment, false and hollow, as they do not care at all for or regard the principles it was originally intended to symbolize. . . .

Jan. 9-11 – Our daily bill of fare consists of bread and tea for breakfast, and a small piece of pork, some beans and bean soup in a tin cup, with one-third of a loaf of bread, for dinner. Sometimes beef and beef soup is furnished in lieu of pork and bean soup.

Jan. 13 – This is my birthday, and I am twenty-one years old. This is an important epoch in a man’s life, when he “becomes of age,” a “free man,” and enjoys the privilege of voting. Its arrival, however, does not bring “freedom” to me.

Jan. 26-30 – A sentinel summoned me to the Superintendent’s office, where I found Mr. Clark, who directed me to a receipt for a box of clothing, just forwarded by express by my excellent friend, Mr. J. M. Coulter, of Baltimore.

The box had been opened and its contents examined by Clark, who ordered the guard to carry it to room 9, where I gladly looked at the welcome and much needed articles. It contained a gray jacket, a pair of pants, two over and two undershirts, two pairs drawers, two pairs socks, two silk handkerchiefs, one pair shoes, two bars of soap and two combs.

Next stop for Captain Park was the Fort Delaware prison.
Feb. 3 – All the officers, who had been confined at the Old Capitol any length of time, were today very suddenly and unexpectedly ordered to “pack up for Fort Delaware,” and, soon after, were marched (I on my crutches, with my one legged friend, Adjutant Reagan, by my side) to “Soldiers’ Rest.”

At 4 o’clock we took the cars for Baltimore, arriving there at half-past 6 o’clock, and there took the train for New Castle, Delaware, via Havre de Grace. I am getting accustomed to being dragged about from prison to prison, and think I will soon know all about Yankee bastilles, and see also a good deal of the country, traveling at the Government’s expense.

Feb. 4 – We walked a mile from the depot, through New Castle, to the wharf. The noble ladies of the town cheered us by sympathizing looks and kind words, as we trudged along, several of us on crutches, and a few of them brought us tempting lunches of ham, chicken, biscuit, preserves and fruit.

These lovely Delaware women are our own kith and kin, and our cause is their cause too. Little Delaware is a slave State, and she has furnished some great orators and statesmen. . . .

We reluctantly left the good ladies of New Castle, and entered the boat bound for the dreaded fort, five miles distant. We reached it at 1 o’clock, landed, and marched on a plank walk (the street or road was mud itself), till we were near the entrance to the barracks, and then halted.

Here we were ordered to “front,” and a close search of our persons and baggage was instituted. Every pocket was emptied, and watches, jewelry, knives, greenbacks and Confederate money were taken possession of. My canteen, one I had captured in the Valley, was confiscated. I suppose the authorities feared I would use it as a buoy to aid me in swimming across the bay some dark night.
After the rigid search, we were ushered into the officers’ barracks yard, where, crowding near the gate, along the plank walk, and at the windows and doors of the nearest “divisions” (as the rooms of the barracks were designated), we were greeted by hundreds of fellow prisoners, all eager to catch a glimpse of the new arrivals. As the gate swung open and we entered, suddenly the shout “Fresh Fish” was raised, and the different “divisions” were speedily emptied of their inmates, who rushed eagerly toward us, inquiring “where we were from,” “the latest news from Dixie,” etc.

Feb. 5 – My sleep was a very cold and uncomfortable one last night, and I rose early to warm myself by the single stove in the “division.” The “pen,” as our quarters are called, embraces an area of near two acres. The building, a mere shell, unceiled and unplastered, is on three sides, with a high, close plank fence on the fourth side, separating us from the privates’ barracks. . . .

Each division is heated by one large upright stove, which the prisoners keep very hot when sufficient coal can be obtained. The room is so open and cold, however, that a half-dozen or more stoves would be required to heat it. Several poor fellows, who have no bunk-mates and a scarcity of covering, sit up around the stoves and nod all night. . . .

Feb. 7-8 – The majority of the prisoners are worn and feeble by sickness, want of necessary food, wounds, scurvy, personal care, anxiety and privation. Many are sadly depressed on account of long confinement and cruel delay in exchanges. Some are in complete despair. Others make Dixie and home themes of constant thought and conversation. They dream and sigh, and talk and long for home and its loved ones.

A few constitutional cowards, who have a mortal horror of the battlefield, seem contented here. They prefer to risk the annoyances, inconveniences, hunger, insults and diseases of prison to the lesser but more dreaded dangers of the field of battle. This class of persons is very limited. Over 2,000 officers and 7,000 non-commissioned officers and privates are in the two prison pens.
Brigadier-General A. Schœff, a Hungarian, is in command, and has two very unpopular and insolent officers, Captain G. W. Ahl and Lieutenant Woolf, as his adjutants. . . .

Feb. 9 – A few officers were paroled to-day for exchange. Why am I not among the number? Very few here are more helpless than I, and the fortunate parties are strong and well. It is difficult to be patient and calm under such treatment.

Feb. 10-12 – There is a tent of sutler’s supplies near the mess hall, kept by an avaricious Yankee, named Emery, who is believed to be a partner of General Schœff. Tobacco, matches, oil for cooking lamps, stationery, baker’s bread, pies, cakes, apples, onions, etc., all of very poor quality, are kept for sale, and from 500 per cent, to 1,000 per cent, profit is charged.

February 13-16 – The privy is on the beach, where the tide comes in, 150 feet or more distant from the nearest division. It is open and exposed in front, and is in sight of Delaware city. . . . The sea water proves no disinfectant, and the constant frequenters of the place are sickened by the offensive odors which are wafted to their sensitive olfactories.

Diarrhea and dysentery are so prevalent, and the pen is so crowded, that parties are very often compelled to wait an hour or longer before they can be relieved. The floor and seats are too filthy and nauseating for description; yet very many who suffer from the diseases mentioned visit the foul place dozens of times, day and night, in rain, wind, hail, sleet and snow, and in spite of the most intense cold and blackest, most impenetrable darkness, pollution is scarcely avoidable on such occasions.

Feb. 21-24 – The newspaper accounts of Sherman’s march from Georgia through South Carolina are heartrending. . . . Would that the prisoners at Fort Delaware could be exchanged and sent to confront this ruthless, heartless destroyer of the homes and subsistence of helpless women and children. We would teach him a wholesome lesson.

Feb. 25-26 – The terrible reports of Sherman’s cruelty during the burning of Columbia, and of his subsequent march into North Carolina, are appalling and disheartening to us all. The Carolinians are specially grieved and indignant.

Sherman’s whole course in the South is in bold and dishonorable contrast with the gentle and generous conduct of Lee and his veterans in Maryland and Pennsylvania. I well remember that memorable march into the enemy’s territory, far more daring and heroic than the unopposed marches of the brutal Sherman through Georgia and Carolina. . . .

Feb. 28 – One hundred and three officers, of those earliest captured, were paroled to-day for exchange. We are growing hopeful of a speedy return to our homes and all are in fine spirits.

March 3-6 – The parapet between our pen and that of the privates, on which the sentinels walk, had several ladies and gentlemen walking upon it a day or two ago, and they looked kindly and compassionately upon the emaciated, ragged, suffering Rebels in the two pens. One of the ladies carried her handkerchief to her eyes to wipe away the generous tears, as she gazed pityingly upon the abject misery and wretchedness before her. . . .

Prisoners at Point Lookout line up to take the oath of allegiance. Park resisted it, seeing the rebel cause as 'just and holy.'
March 7-12 – A number of prisoners, mainly from the privates’ pen, have signified a willingness to take the hated oath of allegiance, and are now kept in separate barracks, clothed in blue suits and given better rations. They are called “Galvanized” men, and sometimes “Company Q.”

These weak and cowardly men are willing to betray their own country and people, and swear to support a government which they can but detest. Such men could not have been of any real value to the South, but rather skulking nuisances, and they are to be pitied as well as despised.

March 16 – Miss Eliza Jamison, my fair unknown friend of Baltimore, sent me five dollars, promised to correspond with me herself, and enclosed a bright, sparkling letter, full of wit and humor, from a young lady friend of hers, signed “Mamie,” offering to “write to me once in awhile to cheer me in my prison life.” . . .

Mr. J. W. Fellows, of Manchester, New Hampshire, writes he has sent me twenty-five dollars, but it has never been received. Such a handsome remittance would be a God-send to me now. I suppose the letter examiner pocketed it. . . .

March 19 – To my surprise I received a letter from Abe Goodgame, a mulatto slave belonging to Colonel Goodgame of my regiment, who was captured in the Valley, and is now a prisoner confined at Fort McHenry, having positively refused to take the oath. He asks me to write to his master when I am exchanged, and tell him of his whereabouts, and that he is faithful to him. I replied to Abe in an encouraging way, and showed his letter to several officers of my brigade.

The blatant Abolitionists of the North would scarcely be convinced of the truth of this negro slave’s fidelity to his master, if they were to see it. They are totally ignorant of the real status of the divine institution of slavery, and would be shocked at such an evidence of love for and faithfulness to his master as this slave exhibits. . . .

March 25-26 – Deaths from smallpox, pneumonia, scurvy, fevers, dysentery, and various other diseases, are alarmingly frequent. There is honor and glory in death on the field of battle, amid the whistling of bullets, the shrieks of shells, the fierce roar of cannon, and the defiant shouts of the brave combatants, but the saddest, most solemn and painful of deaths is that within prison walls, far from home and loved ones. . . .

April 2-3 – The appalling news of the evacuation of Richmond and Petersburg has reached us, and the Yankee papers are frantic in their exultant rejoicings. We have feared and rather expected this dreaded event, for General Lee’s excessive losses from battle, by death and wounds, prisoners, disease and desertion, with no reinforcements whatever, taught us that the evacuation of the gallant Confederate capital was inevitable.

I suppose our peerless chieftain will retreat to Lynchburg, or perhaps to North Carolina, and there unite his shattered forces with the army of General Joseph E. Johnston. “There’s life in the old land yet,” and Lee and Johnston, with their small but veteran armies united, having no longer to guard thousands of miles of frontier, will yet wrest victory and independence for the Confederacy from the immense hosts of Yankees, Germans, Irish, English, Canadians and negroes, ex-slaves, composing the powerful armies under Grant and Sherman. . . .  

April 10 – The news to-day is dreadful indeed. “General Lee has surrendered” is repeated with hushed breath from lip to lip. No human tongue, however eloquent, no pen, however gifted, can give an adequate description of our dismay and horror at the heart-rending news. . . .

After four long weary years of battle and marches, of prayers and tears, of pain and sacrifice, of wounds and woe, of blood and death, such an ending of our hopes, such a shocking disappointment, is bitter, cruel, crushing. . . . We feel deep, unutterable regret at our failure, but no humiliation. We have done nothing wrong. Our rights were trampled upon, our property stolen, and our liberties attacked, and we did but our sacred duty to defend them as well as we could. . . .

The Yankees of New England first practiced and taught us the doctrine of secession, and then by force forbade us to apply it peaceably. The heroic men who fought, bled and died, are in prison or in exile for this principle, this inherent right, ought not and will not be known in history as traitors.

Some prisoners cheered news of the
assassination. Captain Park expressed
ambivalence about it even though
he considered Lincoln a scoundrel.
April 11-15 – I was the only officer in our ward that succeeded in buying a morning’s paper to-day (the 15th). The Inquirer was brought me at a late hour, hurriedly and stealthily, by the nurse Curry. I was inexpressibly shocked at reading at the head of the first column, first page, the terrible words:

John Wilkes Booth the murderer.
John Howard Payne the Supposed Assassin.”

I called aloud to my hospital comrades, and as I read, they left their bunks and crowded around me, listening with awe to the tragic recital. One of them remarked that he would gladly divide his last crust of bread with the daring Booth, if he should meet him in his wanderings. I said I looked upon Lincoln as a tyrant and inveterate enemy of the South, and could shed no tears for him, but deprecated the cruel manner of his taking off. While we were eagerly and excitedly discussing the startling news, the young galvanized renegade Curry came to my bunk and took down my card, saying, “the doctor says you must go to the barracks.” . . .

Protesting against the inhumanity of his order, I crawled on my hands, right foot and hips to the door of the ward, and nearby, in a small ante-room, put on my old suit of clothes, laying aside my hospital garb. I was then directed to the door of the hospital, down a long, bleak, windy passage, near the gate to the officers’ barracks. Here I waited for my crutches and further orders. . . .

Many who were quite sick – some of the scurvy afflicted among them – hobbled slowly and painfully out of their wards, and the long, cold hall was soon crowded with the sick, the lame and the halt. . . . The plank walk near and space in front of the gate were filled with anxious and curious Confederate officers, who eagerly asked the news. . . . I headed the long procession, and repeated, as I walked, “Abe Lincoln was killed last night.”

The news spread like wildfire, and a few thoughtless fellows seemed overjoyed at it, throwing up their hats, dancing, jumping, and even shouting aloud. Their imprudence caused General Schoepff to order his guards to fire upon any Rebel manifesting pleasure at the news, and he actually had the huge guns of the fort turned frowningly toward us.

A large majority of the prisoners regret Lincoln’s death, and in the wonderful charity which buries all quarrels in the grave, the dead President was no longer regarded as an enemy, for, with the noble generosity native to Southern character, all resentment was hidden in his death.

April 24-25 – Captain Ahl came into the pen, arranged the officers in three sides of a hollow square, and had the roll called alphabetically, offering the oath of allegiance to all, with a promise of early release, if accepted. Nearly 900 out of 2,300 agreed to take it.

It was a trying and exciting time as each name was called and the response “Yes” or “No” was announced. I answered “No” with emphasis and bitterness. Born on Southern soil, reared under its institutions, nurtured upon its traditions, I cannot consent to take the hated oath. The very thought is repulsive in the extreme.

April 26-29 – The distressing news of the surrender of General Johnston to Sherman in North Carolina is announced in words of exultation by the Northern papers. The cup of bitterness and sorrow seems full.

Those officers who had declined the oath were again ordered out, the roll called a second time, and the oath again offered. Hundreds who had promptly and boldly replied “No” when their names were called after Lee’s surrender, now faintly and reluctantly answered “Yes.” . . . When my name was called, I promptly and defiantly answered at the top of my voice “No.”

April 30-May 4 – Another offer of the villainous oath, and only 165 of the entire number of officers in the barracks now continue to resolutely decline it. I again refused. . . .

The Confederate cause is right and holy, and I cannot swear not to aid or comfort it and its still faithful defenders. None but a base and cowardly despotism would force a man to swear against his own conscience, to do something he can only do through perjury. To swear under such circumstances is to suppress the noblest impulses of the heart.

May 5-10 – General Dick Taylor has surrendered to General Canby all the forces east of the Mississippi river. Everything grows darker and more hopeless. The Trans-Mississippi army, under General Kirby Smith, alone remains.

A few of us, “like drowning men catching at straws,” still hope for exchange and deliverance through this source.

May 19-31 – The mortifying news of the capture of President Davis, near Washington, Georgia, is received, and the false report of his attempt to escape in female attire is circulated and maliciously harped upon by the fanatical Yankee newspapers. While I feel sure the report is totally untrue, yet I confess I think he would have been entirely justified in it, if he had sought to escape by such means. . . .

The illustrious, undaunted head of our Confederacy is a manacled prisoner. Our honored, beloved President a chained captive, his Cabinet prisoners or fugitives, our cause lost, our country ruined, our native land desolated, our gallant armies surrendered. The grand head, the noble embodiment of our holy cause, the faithful friend and servant of the South, President Davis, is now shut up in the dreary prison walls of Fortress Monroe.

On the 26th my last, fond hope was completely crushed. General Kirby Smith surrendered his forces in the Trans-Mississippi Department to General Canby at Baton Rouge. . . . What shall I do? If the alternative of banishment from the country was offered, I would unhesitatingly accept it. But it is the hated oath of allegiance or perpetual imprisonment. Both are terrible, revolting. . . .

June 1-5 – I am collecting the autographs of the brave men who to the last have refused the oath of allegiance, nearly all of whom now, since the surrender of Kirby Smith and his army, are willing to take the oath when again offered, in accordance with the proclamation of President Johnson.

The faithful forty have at last most reluctantly come to the sad and painful conclusion that further resistance is useless, and will no longer refuse the oath if offered. . . .

June 13-15 – Transportation for all the crippled officers was obtained, and in company with Captain Russell and Captain Rankin, of Georgia, Adjutant Reagan, of Tennessee, and a large number of other wounded officers, I was escorted to the fort, where the oath was read to us, while we stood with our right hands raised aloft. I managed to drop to the rear and lowered my hand during its reading. Soon we took a boat for Philadelphia, and began to realize that the war was indeed over, and we on the way to our respective homes.

Next: A prequel: Capt. Park at Gettysburg