Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 02.djvu/319

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309
Diary of Captain Robert E. Park.

Lieutenant J. T. Bagby, Twenty-first Georgia, Troup county, Georgia; Adjutant W. B. L. Reagan, Sixteenth Tennessee battalion, Athens, Tennessee; Captain Junius B. Browne, Ninth Virginia cavalry, Gloucester Courthouse, Virginia. Lieutenant A—— and myself selected the lowest bunk. 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, though in close proximity to all the comforts and luxuries of civilized life, and near the headquarters of the Chief Quartermaster and Chief Commissary of the nation. We were given a very short piece of candle, and as we entered the room I looked around the grim dark walls, and its one narrow window, further darkened by heavy iron bars, through which its unhappy inmates might gaze, and I could but shudder at my future home. All my bright dreams of being exchanged and visiting my good mother were banished. The future looks dark and uncertain. I was depressed, but labored against gloomy thoughts. A good spirit whispered hope, and I resolved to bear up bravely as I could,

"For lo! the heavier grief weighed down,
The higher hope was raised."

No supper was offered us, and we retired hungry to our hard beds.

January 4th—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 the declaimed against the abuses and errors of the day, and gave their powerful aid to the sacred cause of personal liberty and State sovereignty. They never imagined that the very walls which re-echoed the eloquence of freedom would ere long confine the victims of a sectional despotism. How shocked they would have felt at hearing the memorable words of Secretary Seward to Lord Lyons, the British Minister, September 14th, 1861, early after the war began: "My Lord, I can touch a bell on my right hand,