Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 02.djvu/243

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223
Diary of Capt. Robert E. Park, Twelfth Alabama Regiment.

having as a guard over him a coal-black, brutal-looking negro soldier, an escaped "contraband," as Beast Butler styles the stolen and refugee slaves from the South. Parkins says there is great destitution and suffering in the "Pen," their food is insufficient, many are in rags and without blankets, and very little wood is furnished for fires. He says that several of the negro soldiers guarding them were once slaves of some of the prisoners, and have been recognized as such. Some of them are still respectful, and call their young owners "master," and declare they were forced to enlist. A majority of them, however, inflated by their so-called freedom, are very insolent and overbearing. They frequently fire into the midst of the prisoners, upon the slightest provocation. One negro sentinel, a few days ago, shot a prisoner as he walked slowly and faithfully from sheer debility away from the foul sinks to his tent, simply because he did not and could not obey his imperative order to "move on faster dar." Instead of being courtmartialed and punished for the wanton murder, the villian was seen a few days afterwards exulting in his promotion to a corporalcy, and posting a relief-guard. This employment of former slaves to guard their masters is intended to insult and degrade the latter. Such petty malice and cowardly vengeance could originate only in ignoble minds. No generous heart could have ever devised or sanctioned such contemptible meanness and littleness. Parkins showed us some very amusing caricatures, or cartoons, depicting the humorous side of prison life. The pictures evinced real genius. Many of the men have dug deep pits, or cellars, beneath their cabins and tents, and use them as protection against the chilling winds and intensely cold weather, as well as receptacles for their little stores.

December 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th—Several Confederate officers were brought in from Fortress Monroe and Fort Fisher, North Carolina. Among them were Colonel J. W. Hinton, of Elizabeth City, North Carolina; Major R. C. Taylor, of Norfolk, Virginia, a brother of Colonel W. H. Taylor, A. A. General to General Lee; Lieutenant J. A. Morgan, of Hertford, North Carolina, and others. Our meals are growing exceedingly scanty, and there is universal complaint of hunger. The hours for meals are looked forward to with growing eagerness. Daily talk of the long-looked and longed-for exchange keeps us in comparatively good spirits, and with games of chess, cards and draughts, we manage to "kill time." Some of my own men are in the "Bull Pen," and I occasionally receive notes from them, brought by working parties and prisoners,