Southern Historical Society Papers/Volume 03/May and June/Diary of Captain R. E. Park

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Southern Historical Society Papers: Volume 3, Number 5  (1877)  by Robert Emory Park
Diary of Captain R. E. Park
Southern Historical Society Papers, May and June 1877

Diary of Captain Robert E. Park, Twelfth Alabama Regiment.

[Concluded.]

April 5th to 10th, 1865—Our hospital life is monotonous and varied only by daily discussions of reports of General Lee's situation, gathered from the rabid, black Republican papers we are permitted to buy. The news to-day (10th) 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. The sudden, unexpected calamity shocked reason and unsettled memory. The news crushed our fondest hopes. On every countenance rests the shadow of gloom, on every heart the paralyzing torpor of despair. We move about, or sit on our beds, silent, almost motionless, in the speechless agony of woe, in the mute eloquence, of unutterable despair. 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. Few tears are shed; there is no time for weakness or sentiment. The grief is too deep, the agony too terrible to find vent through the ordinary channels of distress. Hope seems forever buried, and naturally too. After four years of gallant resistance, heroic endurance and incredible suffering, we find ourselves broken in fortunes, crushed, ruined; yet, amid our misery and wretchedness, though sad and sick at heart, we have no blush of shame. 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. We freely offered up our lives and property in defence of principle and right and honor. A stern, conscientious sense of duty has influenced us to fight, bleed and suffer all these terrible years. 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. Sorrow has crushed us, defeat has ruined us, but we must not and shall not forget or cease to cherish the brave deeds of as brave hearts as the world ever produced. Our homes are burnt, our land desolated, our wealth departed in smoke and ashes, our very hearthstones dyed in blood, our dear dead have fallen in vain, but we shall ever remember, honor and be grateful to them. But I will not admit that the cause is entirely lost. The armies of Generals Joseph Johnston, Dick Taylor and Kirby Smith are still in the field, and may snatch victory from apparent defeat yet. The Yankees guarding us, while jubilant at the news, are seemingly kinder than usual.

April llth to 15th—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:

"ASSASSINATION OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN,
John Wilkes Booth the Murderer.
ATTEMPTED MURDER OF SECRETARY SEWARD,
John Howard Payne the Supposed Assassin."

Then followed in detail the account of the assassination. 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." The order was given to no one else, and not having recovered sufficiently for the change, I replied that I would not go until ordered to do so by the surgeon in person. Curry left, and, in a few minutes, young Doctor Miller came in, and told me to get ready for 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 near by, 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. Very soon I saw Captain McSherry approaching, and others of my ward and those adjoining followed. Colonel James W. Hinton was of the number. Colonel Hinton inquired of me, "what is the matter?" "I suppose we are to be punished as accessories to the murder of Abe Lincoln," I replied. "Schoepff has ordered every man that can walk from the hospital to the barracks. He evidently regards us as accomplices of Wilkes Booth," said the Colonel. 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. Such a rigid course is senseless and cruel. It shows weakness, cowardice and malice. Courage and humanity accompany each other; cowardice and cruelty are comrades. After alternately standing and sitting on the floor for hours, the gate of the dreaded barracks was opened, and we were again ushered into the prison proper.

"A prison, heavens, I loathe the hated name,
Famine's metropolis, —— the sink of shame,
A nauseous sepulchre ——, whose craving womb
Hourly inters poor mortals in its tomb."

The plank walk near and space in front of the gate were filled with anxious and curious Confederate officers, who eagerly asked the news. No papers had been allowed them during the day. 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. My copy of the Inquirer was in great demand, was borrowed by officers in different divisions, and the astounding particulars of Lincoln's terrible death were read and reread to crowds of officers, all eager to drink in every word of the startling account. I occupied my old quarters in twenty-seven, with Captain Hewlett as my bunkmate. My friends welcome my return very cordially.

April 16th to 19th—Most of the officers are greatly discouraged, and have given up all hope of the success of our cause. I still have hope from the Southern Fabius, General Joseph Johnston. He is prudent and skillful. We have been deprived of mails for several days, and have had many minor but desirable privileges taken from us. The guns of the fort are still turned towards us, and the guards are very harsh and peremptory in their orders. The barracks have been enlarged for the reception of more prisoners, and field and staff officers separated from the others and placed in a newly erected division to themselves. General R. L. Page and General Rufus Barringer are the ranking officers of the party. I attend surgeon's call every morning. The doctor is a drunken sot, and seldom attends his nine o'clock morning sick call, but sends his detailed Rebel clerk, a young Mississippi lawyer, from the privates' pen, who sits on the outside of the fence and listens to the grievances of the sick officers through a "pigeon hole," size eight by twelve inches, which the sick approach, one by one, in his turn, and, peeping through, make known their wants. This little "hole in the wall" is crowded for hours frequently, and the young, inexperienced, but accommodating Rebel substitute for the Yankee surgeon does his best to serve his patients. He tries to supply such medicines as are called for. Itch is a very common disease, and some of the neatest of the officers suffer from its trying annoyance. Calls for sulphur and lard or grease, and epsom salts are numerous. A number of officers "take in washing," calling for clothes every Monday, or as their customers may direct. Five cents per garment is the charge, and the washermen pull off their coats, roll up their sleeves, and work with a vim, using the water from the ditch.

April 20th to 23d (Sunday)—A large mail was delivered to-day (23d). I received a letter from my beloved sister, Mrs. M. C. H., dated La Grange, Georgia, February 6th, and postmarked Old Point Comfort, Virginia, March 31st, and Point Lookout, Maryland, April 11th. It had been sent from the latter place to Old Capitol, Washington, D. C., and thence to Fort Delaware. It told me of the reception of one of my letters by brother James, the latest and only one since October 27th, and pained and saddened me by news of my dearest of mothers having had her arm broken in December. She was reported nearly well though. No particulars were given, as all flag of truce letters are limited to one page. Brothers John and Lemuel are in service at Andersonville prison. The former is major of the First Georgia, and the latter is a sergeant under Captain Wirz. I know they are kind to the prisoners under their charge. Major Sherrar, of Maryland, slapped or kicked some cowardly fellow, who had solicited the oath and release from prison, and, when reported to Ahl, was ordered to the pen occupied by the "galvanized" men. Here he was seized, and placed violently and forcibly upon a blanket, and swinging him rapidly was hurled repeatedly high in air, until exhausted and almost dead from the shameful violence. All are justly indignant at such tyrannical conduct on the part of the ignoble Ahl. An adjutant of a Virginia regiment bribed a sentinel to mail a letter to his sweetheart in Baltimore for him, but the letter was discovered and detained. The adjutant was sent for and asked to explain how he mailed the letter, which he declined to do. Whereupon he was hung up by the thumbs, sustaining his entire weight in that painful position. Occasionally he was lowered and again the name of the guard who mailed his letter demanded, but he invariably refused to tell. His thumbs were almost torn from his hands, their joints were torn apart, and the poor, brave, faithful, honorable fellow fainted at last from excess of pain from the cruel torture. He cannot now use his swollen hands, and is fed by his messmates. He is entirely helpless so far as his hands and arms are concerned. Such conduct as this on the part of Schoepff and Ahl does not soften our asperity towards the Yankee Government, nor make us willing to swear fealty to it.

April 24th and 25th—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 26th to 29th—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." What a painful mental struggle they must have passed through. My own messmates pronounced the fatal "Yes," but they do not allude to it in our conversations. When my name was called, I promptly and defiantly answered at the top of my voice "No." My messmates are very reticent, and are evidently dissatisfied, grieved and humiliated. I am sorry for them, and feel some indignation at their course. The armies of Dick Taylor and Kirby Smith are still left, and no one should give up the cause so long as there is an armed man in the field, and I feel that I would be disgraced if I should consent to such a course while we have an army ready to do battle, and our President is still firm and resolute, and even now perhaps with the army of his brother-in-law, General Taylor. A bold young North Carolinian, Lieutenant Hugh Randolph Crichton, in my division, openly denounces the precipitation of those who have agreed to swallow the detested oath. Captain J. W. Fannin, of Tuskegee, Alabama; Captain A. C. Gibson, of La Grange, Georgia; Lieutenant William A. Scott, of Auburn, Alabama; Major N. R. Fitzhugh, of Scottsville, Virginia, and others, come to my bunk frequently and earnestly discuss our exciting and heart-sickening surroundings. All of them have declined the oath, and the two former say they will remain firm as long as I do. Officers are having meetings by States, and trying to take united action. The Alabamians assembled in Division 24. Colonel Steedman, of the First Alabama, was called to the chair, and several short speeches were made, but no definite action was taken. I was a quiet spectator, but mentally resolved not to be bound by any action looking to taking the oath.

April 30th to May 4th—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. Lieutenant Crichton proposed to me that we accept banishment in preference to the oath. I replied that I preferred anything to the latter. My friends are calling my attention to my crutches and helpless, crippled condition, and warn me not to excite the anger of the Yankees by my persistent refusal of the oath. My lady friends—among them Mrs. Mary F. Chandler, of City Spring, Richmond, Virginia, the only sister of Captain Keeling, Miss Jamison, of Baltimore, and others—write urging me to consent to take it. I appreciate their motives, but feel it my duty to refuse it to the last extremity. My resolution is determined and unwavering. To take it would be swearing against my wishes and my conscience. 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. Is it not cruel and contemptible to take advantage of our misfortunes, of our dire extremity, and offer us the oath so repeatedly and insultingly, especially when it is well known we would never take it except under compulsion? Those prisoners who still refuse the oath held a consultation meeting in Division 22. General Barringer made a long speech, urging all of us to accept the terms of the Yankees and go home, and declared that we would be banished from the country if we persisted in declining the proffered oath. I sat on a bunk near Major Fitzhugh, of Virginia, and Captain W. H. Bennett, of Georgia, and when General Barringer concluded his speech, amid profound silence, the cry of "Fellows! Fellows!" arose, and Captain John W. Fellows, of General Beale's staff, from Arkansas, but formerly of New York city, mounted a box and eloquently responded to the call. He began by saying: "General Barringer says if we do not tamely submit, we shall be banished from the country. What's banished but set free from daily contact with the things we loathe? Banished! we thank you for it! T'ould break our chains, etc., etc." He was applauded throughout, and rapturously as he closed urging us to remain faithful unto the bitter end. Colonel Van H. Manning, of the First Arkansas, followed in the same line, and made an excellent speech, full of fire and stirring eloquence.

May 5th to 10th—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. Captain Brown has received some money from Mr. J. M. Bruff, of Baltimore; Lieutenant Arrington from Mrs. Kearney, of Kearneysville, Indiana; Captain Hewlett from friends in Clarkesville, Tennessee; and I from Misses McSherry and Jamison. We live very well by making purchases from the sutler.

May 11th to 18th—I have little heart for conversation, and employ myself reading and indulging bitter fancies. My nights are restless, and hours are spent in anxious, troubled thoughts. It is said there are only forty left who still decline the oath. The others have yielded to the great pressure. Lieutenant Critchton and Captains Gibson and Fannin remain firm and counsel with me daily. Received ten dollars from Mrs. Martha J. Sullivan, of Baltimore, with a noble letter, full of sweet, womanly sympathy, counseling me to yield to the requirements of the Yankee Government, and secure release from longer confinement. Miss Gertie C—— now at Baltimore Female College, sent me her photograph, a very handsome one. A prison newspaper, all in manuscript, has made its appearance. It is a single sheet of foolscap, all written neatly with the pen, and evidently by several hands. "The Prison Times" is its name. It is divided into columns, and every page has its contents properly classed. The head is prettily done in ornamental letters. The motto is "en temps et lien." The number out is the second issue. There is a prospectus and a salutatory. There is a column of miscellany followed by a column of advertisements. "Lieutenant White, of Thirty-third North Carolina, will execute on metal all kinds of engravings;" "Lieutenant B. F. Curtright, Division 24, manufactures gutta-percha rings, chains and breastpins; "tailoring is done by Griggs and Church;" "washing and ironing by J. G. Davenport, of Tenth Georgia battalion, and by Lieutenant J. C. Boswell, Thirty-third Georgia regiment;" "Broughton and Walker keep a shaving and shampooing shop." The editors are George S. Thomas, Captain Sixty-fourth Georgia; W. H. Bennett, Captain and Adjutant same regiment, and F. J. Cassidy, Lieutenant Eleventh South Carolina volunteers. The editorials consist of a "Salutatory," "Our Prison World," "A Good Work," "A Local," "Our Paper," "Miscellaneous," "Report of the Markets," and there are several original communications.

May 19th to 31st—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. Louis Napoleon once escaped from a dungeon in female garb, and no disgrace or shame attaches to him for it. But it is a ringing and lasting shame to the Yankee nation that our great chief has been compelled to endure the severest, bitterest attempt to humiliate him and disgrace his people by being basely manacled with irons. While thoroughly indignant we feel that the disgrace of the cruel deed all belongs to President Johnson

and Secretary Stanton, none whatever to our great, beloved, vicarious sufferer. Our hearts were chilled, our countenances grew pale, and we trembled with agony, as we heard whispered from lip to lip "Jeff. Davis is captured." We were sickened, palsied by the painful, overpowering announcement. 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. He is our uncomplaining, dignified, heroic, vicarious sufferer. How dull and leaden must be the heavy hours in his weary, weary prison cell. May a Gracious God sustain and comfort him in his wretchedness and misery.

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. My very last hope has gone. 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 1st to 5th—A novel, called "Too Strange not to be True," received from Miss McSherry, and promptly read. Farther O'Connor, of Philadelphia, made a visit to the Catholic prisoners. It is a notable fact that no Protestant minister in the entire North has ever, to my knowledge, visited the prison. A few Catholic priests have been more considerate. The "Prison Christian Association" has weekly lectures from its members. Colonel Hinton delivered a very fine one on "Benevolence." Rev. Mr. Kinsolving, Captain Harris and others will doubtless follow. Prayers continue to be offered by some officer in each division at nine o'clock every night. 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. Among these true men whose autographs I have are Major J. Raiford Bell, Twelfth Mississippi infantry, Satartia, Mississippi; Adjutant Francis E. Ogden, Seventh Louisiana regiment, Natchez, Mississippi; Lieutenant Collin W. Gibson, Twelfth Mississippi regiment, Natchez, Mississippi; Lieutenant J.

W. Lawrence, Seventeenth North Carolina regiment, Greenville, North Carolina; Adjutant Alex. S. Webb, Forty-fourth North Carolina regiment, Oaks, North Carolina; Lieutenant Hugh R. Crichton, Forty-seventh North Carolina regiment, Louisburg, North Carolina; Lieutenant A. H. Mansfield, Eighth North Carolina regiment, Greenville, North Carolina; Captain George Sloan, Fifty-first North Carolina regiment, Fayetteville, North Carolina; Lieutenant William M. Sneed, Twelfth North Carolina regiment, Townesville, North Carolina; Lieutenant Patrick H. Winston, Eleventh North Carolina regiment, Franklinton, North Carolina; Adjutant David W. Gates, Thirty-seventh North Carolina regiment, Charlotte, North Carolina; Colonel James M. Whitson, Eighth North Carolina regiment, Poplar Branch, North Carolina; Colonel J. T. Morehead, Fifty-third North Carolina regiment, Greensboro,' North Carolina; Captain J. W. Fannin, Sixty-first Alabama regiment, Tuskegee, Alabama; Adjutant S. D. Steedman, First Alabama regiment, Steedman, South Carolina; Lieutenant-Colonel M. B. Locke, First Alabama regiment, Perote, Alabama; Lieutenant R. H. Wicker, Fifteenth Alabama regiment, Perote, Alabama; Adjutant William R. Holcombe, Ninth Alabama regiment, Athens, Georgia; Lieutenant W. A. Scott, Twelfth Georgia artillery, Auburn, Georgia; Lieutenant Frederick M. Makeig, Fourth Texas regiment, Bold Spring, Texas; Lieutenant William H. Effinger, Eleventh Virginia cavalry, Harrisonburg, Virginia; Major Norman R. Fitzhugh, Chief Quartermaster Cavalry Corps, Army Northern Virginia, Scottsville, Virginia; Captain Julian P. Lee, A. A. General, Richmond, Virginia; Colonel R. C. Morgan, P. A. C. S., Lexington, Kentucky; Captain M. B. Perkins, Sixth Kentucky cavalry, Somerset, Kentucky; Captain C. C. Corbett, M. D., Fourteenth Kentucky cavalry, Florence, Georgia; Colonel T. W. Hooper, Twenty-first Georgia infantry, Rome, Georgia; Captain A. C. Gibson. Fourth Georgia infantry, La Grange, Georgia; Captain L. J. Johnson, Twenty-fifth Tennessee regiment, Cooksville, Tennessee. These are the names of twenty-nine of the faithful forty who firmly declined all offers of the oath of allegiance to the United States Government until after the surrender of the last armed body of Confederates. I am proud of being one of the forty, and wish I had all of their names. We have waited until even Mosby has surrendered his Partisan Rangers. Yet I accord equal courage and equal patriotism with myself to those gallant men who thought best to accept President Johnson's terms after the surrender of Lee and Johnston. They merely felt the utter hopelessness of further resistance earlier than I did, and accepted the dreaded but inevitable situation sooner. The faithfu 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 6th to 12th—Captain Waldhauer, of Georgia Hussars, from Savannah, Georgia, a small, quiet, gentlemanly officer, who had lost his right arm in battle, but on recovery, returned to the command of his company, and was captured while bravely fighting below Petersburg, has been released. He sent me from Philadelphia a large blank book, of which I propose to make a prison Album. Several of my friends have contributed articles, at my request, writing brief biographical sketches of themselves, giving their war histories, the battles in which they have been engaged, circumstances of their capture, prison life, etc. Articles which I value very highly have been written by Captain J. W. Fannin, Sixty-first Alabama; Lieutenant W. S. Bird, Eleventh Alabama; Captain T. W. Harris, Twelfth Georgia regiment; Lieutenant G. R. Waldman, Forty-fourth Virginia; Captain J. Whann McSherry, Thirty-sixth Virginia; Captain W. A. McBryde, Third Alabama; Lieutenat H. C. Pool, Tenth North Carolina troops; Lieutenant James K. Kinman, Twelfth Georgia battalion infantry; Lieutenant A. H. Mansfield, Eighth North Carolina; Lieutenant W. A. Scott, Twelfth Georgia artillery; Captain A. E. Hewlett, Twelfth Alabama; Captain W. H. Harrison, Thirty-first Georgia, and Colonel J. W. Hinton, Sixty-eighth North Carolina.

June 13th to 15th—Miss Jamison has sent me a satchel, a citizen's coat and other articles, stating that they were presented by a beautiful Cuban girl, Miss Susie Matthews. I owe them both many thanks.[1] 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.

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  1. I am happy to say that as soon as possible after my return home I took occasion to pay back all moneys received during my imprisonment to Mr. J. M. Coulter, Miss E. Jamison and Mrs. M. J. Sullivan, of Baltimore, and Miss A. L. McSherry, of Martinsburg. They were true friends to me while "sick and in prison," and my gratitude to them for their disinterested kindness will end only with my life. May kind heaven prosper them.

    R. E. P.