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.

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