Southern Historical Society Papers/Volume 02/August/Diary of Captain R. E. Park, Twelfth Alabama Regiment
Diary of Captain Robert E. Park, Twelfth Alabama Regiment.
[Continued from July Number.]
September 26th,—1864 Miss Janet F—— , a very pretty and intelligent young lady, came to the office, and brought us some delicacies. She is a granddaughter of Brigadier-General Fauntleroy, perhaps the oldest officer on the rolls of the Confederate army, now over eighty years of age, and daughter of Captain Fauntleroy of the Confederate navy, now serving his country on the high seas, aiding Admiral Semmes, Captain Maffitt, Commodore Maury and other gallant seamen. My wound gives me constant pain. The torn flesh protrudes nearly two inches, and the severed nerves torture me much.
September 27th, 28th and 29th—Three days of great suffering. Small bones are constantly working their way out of my wound, and the separated nerves and sinews keep me awake night and day. The good ladies are ministering angels, so incessant are they in their kind attentions. They are doing most excellent service in the Confederate hospital, greatly assisting the surgeons. We owe them a debt of lasting gratitude.
September 30th—In the afternoon, while in conversation with the beautiful Miss N.—— K——, a sharp piece of bone, making its exit from my wound, cut an artery, and "secondary hemorrhage" was produced. Miss N.—— ran immediately for a surgeon, and, in an incredibly short time, returned with Dr. Hardy, who promptly applied sulphate of iron, and bandaged my leg very tightly from the foot to the knee, thus checking the dangerous hemorrhage. The blood flowed in jets from the artery, and I soon became very week and deathly sick. Drs. Weatherly and Hardy came to see me frequently during the day and night, and although they gave me two large doses of morphine, I could not sleep at all for pain. Poor John Attaway died of his wound at the residence of Mrs. Hist. He spoke often, while in his right mind, and in his delirium, affectionately of his mother, of Sergeant Stafford and myself. May his brave spirit rest in peace.
October 1st—Suffered much all day. The doctors were very, visiting me often. The ladies redoubled their kindness, sending delicacies, calling to see me, making inquiries, etc. Passed a sleepless night.
October 2d and 3d—Quite sick, ate very little, and slept none at all. The nerves in my left foot, below my wound, cause me real agony. My comrades in the office are cheerful and seem to improve. Sergeant Lynes, of the Fourteenth North Carolina, is a native of the North, but is a true Southerner in sentiment. Some of our best soldiers were born in the North, and deserve honor for their devotion to truth and their adopted homes.
October 4th—The Yankee Provost Marshal visited and paroled us. The precaution was unnecessary, as none of us are able to escape, if opportunity offered. Am much better to-day.
October 5th and 6th—Rumors are rife that General Early will attempt to retake Winchester soon. This is very improbable, as Sheridan's forces are too numerous. Reinforcements pass by the office every day, going to the front, and Early's army must be a mere handful of exhausted, illy equipped men, incapable of any offensive movement. The ladies bring us all kinds of reports, usually very cheering. They always look on the bright side. Mosby's men venture into the city quite often at night, to see relatives and friends, and gain all the information they can. They are greeted warmly, and secreted by the citizens until they are ready to leave the city. The risk they run is very great, but they are daring scouts, accustomed to danger, and fond of its excitements.
October 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th—My wound is slowly improving. I bought some tobacco with Confederate money, sold it for greenbacks, and bought a new hat for $3.00. My old military cap was lost as I was carried off the battlefield. The probability is that I will be unable to use my new one in many days to come. Miss Janet F—— sent off some letters for us through the lines to Southern Dixie, by means of some of Mosby's men, who are very often in the city. All of us wrote to the loved ones at home. These bold young scouts carry out haversacks filled with letters every night. Miss Josephine G——, of Berryville, came to see us, and supplied us with socks, drawers, etc., and a bushel of fine apples. She out-generaled the pickets to secure admittance to the city, and has our sincere thanks for her thoughtful kindness. Mrs. M——l, Mrs. W——n, the Misses B——n, S——d, and other ladies called to see us. Two or three young ladies call at the office late each afternoon, and give us the latest news. Some of the ladies of the city have been treated very rudely for declining to walk under the United States flag. They will cross to the opposite side of the street, or leave the sidewalk, and go in the street, until they pass the hateful and hated piece of bunting, and thus avoid walking under its folds. Its stars, ostensibly representing a State each, proclaim a lie, and the stripes are emblems of tyranny and cruelty. Reports come to us of the burning by Sheridan of numerous valuable flouring mills, well filled barns and costly residences, and the people are greatly distressed by his uncivilized and cowardly mode of warfare. He seems not to know how to discriminate between armed soldiers and helpless women and puling infants. I am glad our Southern generals, true to their high-toned, chivalrous instincts, were never guilty, when in the enemy's territory, of such wanton destruction of the private property of weeping women and little children. Sheridan understands the torch and axe better than the sword, and prefers their use. His models and examplars in history seem to be the merciless leaders of the Goths, Vandals and other relentless barbarians, who invaded and subdued Rome and Italy. He delights to imitate and excel them in their cruel, barbaric mode of war.
October 11th and 12th—Borrowed a Horace of Miss Lizzie S——, and employed myself reading his odes and satires. Mrs. W——n called with the intention of reading to me from her book of Common Prayer, but, seeing a Bible at the head of my bed, declined, although I urged it.
October 13th—Fresh reports of General Early's advancing upon Winchester. The ladies are much excited about it, and pray for his return. The enemy share in the excitement, and are having many of their wounded, as well as wounded prisoners, carried to Baltimore. The Federal surgeon of the post called at the office to examine us, and see whether we were able to bear transportation. I told him, as he looked at my wound, of my recent severe hemorrhage, and suggested that it might be dangerous for me to be moved for several days. He made no reply, but abruptly left us. Drs. W. and H. hearing that I was to be removed, called on the surgeon and protested against it. Two of the noble ladies who have been caring for us also called, and asked that I be allowed to remain until I became stronger. The Yankee surgeon coarsely replied that he knew his own business, and that he would not except me from his order. They reported their failure to persuade the surgeon, and spoke bitterly of his heartlessness, and feelingly of their regret at my sudden and compulsory departure. I, too, sincerely regret the harsh, peremptory order, for I loathe the idea of confinement in a Yankee prison, and deeply lament the forced necessity of parting with the unselfish, warm-hearted, glorious women who have so generously cared for me since my capture.
October 14th—About 11 o'clock an ambulance was driven in front of the office, and two Yankees came in to carry me to it. I was not able to walk a step, not with crutches even, and scarcely able to turn over in bed. Many of my lady friends came to bid me good-bye and express their regret at my leaving. They placed a nice lunch in my haversack, and in those of my companions, and, bidding them a reluctant, sorrowful farewell, I was lifted into the ambulance. Farewell, sweet friends, and may Heaven protect you from the ruthless foes by whom you are surrounded.
The pike to Martinsburg was very rough, and I was in constant dread of another hemorrhage from my wound. There was a strong guard of cavalry riding in front, in rear, and on either side of us. They seemed to fear an attack from Mosby. Our halts were frequent, and we did not reach Martinsburg before dark.
When the ambulance stopped in front of the Presbyterian church, of which Rev. Mr. Hughes is pastor, now turned into a hospital, I inquired for Miss Anna L. McSherry of some ladies on the sidewalk. I did this at request of Dr. W., and the ladies promised to tell her of my presence in Martinsburg. I was carried into the church, and placed on some straw beside my friend Captain Hewlett. In a short while the venerable Dr. McSherry, with his accomplished daughter, entered the church, and were conducted to me. They were very kind; gave us some lunch, and some writing paper, envelopes, United States stamps, etc. After my fatiguing ride, I slept well.
October 15—A number of ladies called to see the wounded Confederates, bringing excellent and welcome eatables with them. The Misses H——n took the address of my mother, and promised to write to her by the "underground railway"—i.e., Mosby's men. The South has a few true and tried friends in Martinsburg, but they are greatly outnumbered by the Unionists. The former are of true Old Virginia stock, while the latter are a rather low class of people. The noted Miss Belle Boyd lives here. Miss Mary A—— and Miss D——n came to the ambulance and bade me good-bye, just as we were sent to the cars, bound for Baltimore. The driver was surly, and unwilling to stop when they requested it.
October 16th (Sunday)—Rode all night on the floor in a rough box car, crowded with twenty-five wounded Confederates. Water was loudly called for, but none was furnished. Reached the Monumental City at 2 o'clock P. M. A crowd of people were at the depot, but the guard kept them at a distance from us. I fancied I could see some sympathetic faces as I was borne on a litter to an ambulance, and driven to West's Buildings Hospital. Was hoisted on a dumb-waiter to the third or fourth story, and assigned to Officers' Ward "B." The Patapsco river runs by the hospital, and Knabe's piano manufactory is just across the street.
October 17th—A large, gray-headed, stern-looking old doctor, called a "contract surgeon," as he is not commissioned, is in charge of the officers' ward. He is, I find, very unpopular with the wounded officers. His name is Knowles. In making his usual round, Dr. Knowles came to my bed, inquired carelessly about my wound, and requested me to remove the bandage, that he might see it. I did so, telling him at the same time of my recent severe hemorrhage, but that I thought the bone was knitting together. Without uttering a word in reply, he took hold of my leg, and began to roughly press the flesh surrounding the wound. I told him he was hurting me very much, but he continued to press the wounded leg until it began to bleed, and jets of arterial blood flowed from it, just as it had done before I left Winchester. I saw he had unnecessarily and designedly produced hemorrhage, and, for the first time in my life, I cursed. I denounced him as an inhuman wretch, as he stood smiling grimly and sardonically over me, and ordered him to leave my presence. The malignant old renegade did not offer to check the rapid flow of blood, but walked unconcernedly away, and out of the ward. The nurse of the ward, a young Southerner, came to my rescue, and wrapped strips of cloth very tightly around my wound, the blood saturating them through several thicknesses, but finally arresting the hemorrhage. The pain, caused by his rough treatment, tearing loose the bones and flesh which had begun to knit together, was intense, and kept me suffering all day and through a sleepless night. I am sorry that I lost my temper, and indulged in profanity, but the cruel provocation makes it look somewhat justifiable, and I trust the recording angel will drop a tear of pity upon the words, and blot them out forever, or, at least, that he will record them in Heaven's chancery on Mercy's page. This Knowles would suit as a companion for Sheridan, and ought to be on his medical staff. They are par ignobile fratrum. Both seem to delight in the infliction of pain and suffering. I learn Knowles is a Presbyterian elder, and a very bitter abolitionist. The puritanical old hypocrite has a soul so small it would have as much room in a mustard seed as a tadpole in the Pacific ocean.
October 18th—Ward "B" is pretty full of wounded officers. Major G. M. Hanvey, of Twelfth Georgia Battalion, is among the number. He was shot through the lungs at the battle of Monocacy, has an unpleasant cough, and looks very delicate. Our homes in Georgia are in neighboring towns, and I find him a very pleasant acquaintance. My lacerated wound caused me much pain to-day, and suppurated a great deal. Knowles did not inquire about my condition, merely passed by, looked sternly at me, and spoke to the next officer. I owe him thanks for his intentional slight and neglect of me. It is pleasant not to be noticed by so contemptible a ruffian. His conversation about the war news discloses the patent fact that he hates the "Rebels," as he delights to call us, with peculiar venom.
October 19th, 20th and 21st—Still suffering from Knowles' malicious treatment. A number of slightly wounded and convalescent prisoners have been sent away from the hospital, some to Point Lookout, and others to Fort McHenry. My meals are brought to me, and are very meagre indeed. The loss of blood and physical strength, caused by the drain through suppuration from my wound, have reduced me greatly. My cheeks and eyes are hollow and sunken, I have very little strength left, and need nourishing food, such as I had at dear old Winchester. I sadly miss the good women who cared for me there, and long for their generous fare. We are permitted to buy only the Baltimore American and Philadelphia Inquirer, two intensely bitter black Republican sheets. No Democratic papers are admitted in the building. Yet, once in a while, a copy of the New York News, Ben. Wood's popular paper, is smuggled in. Wood is a bold, defiant editor, and advocates General McClellan's election over Abe Lincoln. There is an important "personal" column in the News, of great interest to Confederate prisoners of war and their friends, North and South. These "personals" are advertisements from friends and relatives in Dixie, inquiring the fate and condition and whereabouts of prisoners in the North, as well as inquiries from good people in the North, seeking information concerning Southerners who are supposed to be confined in some unknown Northern prison. Frequently prisoners seek this means of getting and communicating news from and to Northern friends as well as to and from relatives in the South. It is a piece of petty meanness to deprive us of the prized privilege of reading these "personal" items. Surely our reading them cannot impair the integrity of the Yankee Union, or be aiding and abetting the "rebellion."
October 22d—Applied for crutches to-day, as I am literally worn out from lying thirty-three days helpless in bed. A very rude and awkwardly made pair were brought, and, after tying a strip of cloth around my neck and extending it around my knee also, to hold up my wounded limb and thus prevent the painful, unendurable rush of blood to my leg and foot, still very sore from the severed nerves and muscles, I attempted to walk a few steps. Every step jarred my wound, and gave me pain, but I persisted in the effort for some time. An officer came around to get our money to-day, but somehow failed to demand mine. A wounded captain from West Virginia exchanged some greenbacks for Confederate money with me at the rate of twenty of the latter for one of the former. With the pittance obtained I patronize the sutler, and get something to eat. Most of us, recovering from our wounds, are constantly suffering from hunger—this, too, in a land of plenty.
October 23d—Sunday. News of a fierce battle in the Valley, in which the American claims a signal victory for Sheridan over General Early. They boast greatly over very small advantages, and I hope the telegrams are exaggerated. The fight occurred at Cedar Creek, called in their papers Fisher's Hill.
October 24th—Further news from the decimated army of the Valley confirms previous reports, and the malignant Knowles curls his Satanic lip higher, and smiles his peculiar sardonic grin in a more repulsive manner than ever, as he recites the particulars, with extravagant additions doubtless, to his heartsick and suffering patients, who sadly need all the good cheer and encouragement possible, instead of the depression, incident to increased anxiety and trouble. I fear bad news from my brave and beloved company. Poor fellows! How I wish I were with them, instead of languishing in a Yankee!
October 25th—A number of slightly wounded, among them my good friend Captain Hewlett of Company "H." were sent off, we suppose, to Fort Delaware. Captain Hewlett is a very true friend and pleasant companion, and I regret his forced separation from me. These men are sent off to make room for the newly arrived wounded men captured at Cedar Creek, Virginia. I am pronounced too weak to accompany those sent off. Some of my own regiment have arrived, among them Sergeant Burton, of Company "B," from Coosa county, and "Tony," the Italian, belonging to Company "A," from Mobile. From them I learn that the Twelfth Alabama lost seven men killed, and a number wounded. Among the former was Sergeant Robert H. Stafford, who was in command of my company. Bob was an old college mate, a member of the same literary society, a studious, dignified, pious youth, bearing the impress of admirable home government. He left college with myself and several other students, and true to his fond parents and sisters, to his threatened country, to what he thought was the cause of freedom, humanity and right, he entered bravely into the terrible contest. His motives, his principles, his conduct has been such, during his noble career as a soldier, as to constitute a reliable basis, on which to predicate the sublime conviction that in death he secured everlasting safety. In him I lose one of my warmest friends. Peace to his memory! Sergeant Burton told me of the reception of the official papers retiring Captain McNeely, of his assignment to conscript duty, and of my own promotion to the captaincy. I am now the only commissioned officer on the roll of the company, and I am away from them, a helpless, wounded prisoner. There being no lieutenant elected, the company is now probably under command of Sergeant Clower, or Sergeant Reid. We have had four captains and nine commissioned officers since we entered service. Of this number Captain Keeling and Lieutenant Fletcher were killed, and Captain McNeely and Lieutenant George W. Wright disabled by wounds. I, alone, of the nine, am still connected with the company. A large bone, over an inch long, came out of my wound to-day.
[TO BE CONTINUED.]