And the young people of Decatur, young ladies and little boys, were planning to give him a surprise party. And among these loving attentions was a visit from King, the faithful.
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The flowers bloomed prettier, the birds sang sweeter, because of their presence; but time waits for no man, and we were admonished by low conversations and suggestive looks that these men, officers in the army of the Confederacy, were planning their departure. Many amusing incidents, as well as those of a horrible character, were told of their prison life in Camp Chase.
To illustrate the patriotism of Southern men, Colonel Deshler, as a prisoner of war, figured conspicuously; and many anecdotes, ludicrous and pathetic, [Pg 66] quaint and original, revealed the deep devotion of his love for the South. In one of these word-paintings, he was represented as sitting on his legs, darning the seat of his pantaloons, when a feminine curiosity seeker came along.
When she perceived his occupation, she said with a leer that would have done credit to Lucifer:. Without looking at her, he whistled in musical cadence the contempt he felt for her and her ilk; and the imprecations, he would not have expressed in words, were so distinct and well modulated as to leave no doubt as to their meaning.
Life During Wartime - Janine Di Giovanni, Harper's Magazine | Warm Foundation
The time had come for the nature of the low-toned conversations referred to, to be revealed, and Thomie was chosen to make the revelation. Planning to have mother and sisters present, he discussed the duties of patriotism, and the odium men brought upon themselves by not discharging those duties. Instead of yielding to grief, we repressed every evidence of it, and spoke only words of encouragement to these noble men who had never shirked a [Pg 67] duty, or sought bomb-proof positions in the army of the Confederacy.
After this interview, Thomie abandoned himself to cheerfulness, to almost boyish gaiety. He kept very close to his mother. She had grown old so rapidly since the troubles began, that she needed all the support that could be given her in this ordeal. This he perceived without seeming to do so, and left nothing within his power undone for her encouragement. My vote was cast for the secession of my state from the union of states which existed only in name, and I would not have accepted any position tendered me which would have secured me from the dangers involved by that step.
I was willing to give my life if need be, for the cause which should be dear to every Southern heart. Every one present responded to these noble sentiments, for were we not soldiers, too, working for the same noble cause, and aiding and abetting those who fought its battles? Before retiring to our rooms, Captain Lauderdale, as usual, led in prayer, fervent, deep and soul supporting, more for our mother and ourselves than for himself and his comrades in their perilous positions.
And dear Thomie, whom I had never heard pray since his cradle invocation,. The effect was electrical. Tears and sobs were no longer repressed, and all found relief from long pent-up feelings. O, the blessedness of tears! Morning came, clear as crystal, and cool and exhilarating.
The household were up at early dawn. A strong decoction of coffee was prepared, and fresh cream toast and boiled eggs, meat relishes being served cold. Knapsacks—there were knapsacks now—were packed, and blankets rolled and buckled in straps, and our ebony Confederates, Toby and Telitha, stood ready to convey them to the depot.
The gentlemen said it would never do for soldiers to start off to report for service with negroes carrying their knapsacks and blankets. They had no muskets to shoulder, for of these they had been divested at Arkansas Post, months ago, when captured by the enemy. Lieutenant McMurray, who was in feeble health, announced himself unable to report for duty, and remained with us several weeks longer. As the time of his departure had drawn near, Thomie had sought opportunities to tell me much of the young girl in Texas, who had healed the lacerations of his youthful heart, and won the admiration of [Pg 69] his manhood, and whom he had made his wife.
Upon her devotion he dwelt with peculiar pathos and gratitude; and he concluded these conversations with the request that under any and all circumstances I would be a sister to her. We knew that Thomie, if alive, must be a prisoner, but could hear no tidings from him. Our suspense continued until the latter part of March, when ma received a letter from our loved one, written at Camp Chase military prison , Ohio, February 10th.
This letter she forwarded to me, and I received it March 21st, with heart-felt emotions of gratitude to Him who had preserved his life. A few weeks afterwards another letter came, saying he expected to be exchanged in a few days, and then for several weeks we heard no more. He looked older, thinner, and more careworn, and gray hairs are sprinkled among his dark brown curls.
His health had been poor in the army, and then, when he left Camp Chase, he, as well as the other prisoners, was stripped by the Yankees of nearly all his warm clothing.
He left the prison in April, and was exchanged at City Point. How strange the dealings of Providence. Truly was he led by a way he knew not.
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He went out to Texas by way of the West, and returned home from the East. God be thanked for preserving his life, when so many of his comrades have died. He is a miracle of mercy. After their capture, they were put on boats from which Yankee small-pox patients had been taken. Some died of small-pox, but Thomie has had varioloid and so escaped.
He was crowded on a boat with twenty-two hundred, and scarcely had standing room. May he never go through similar scenes again!
Memories of my father.
Went to Cartersville to church. Some time elapsed before preaching commenced. A soldier came in, sat down rather behind me, then, rising, approached me. It was Thomie. I soon found for we did talk in church that he had an order to join Kirby Smith, with a recommendation from Bragg that he be allowed to recruit for his regiment. Fortunately there was a vacant seat in the [Pg 71] carriage, so he went out home with us. Monday 15th, Thomie left. I rode with him a little beyond the school-house, then took my books and basket, and with one kiss, and, on my part, a tearful good-bye, we parted.
As I walked slowly back, I felt so lonely.
I turned and looked. He was driving slowly along—he turned a corner and was hidden from my view. Shall I see him no more? Or shall we meet again?
What Saul Bellow Saw
God only knows. After a fit of weeping, and one earnest prayer for him, I turned my steps to my little school. Even in the spring and summer of , the shadows began to deepen, and to hearts less sanguine than mine, affairs were assuming a gloomy aspect. I notice in this same journal from which I have quoted the foregoing extracts, the following:. Among our generals, Zollicoffer, Ben McCulloch, Albert Sidney Johnston, and the saintly, dauntless Stonewall Jackson, are numbered with the dead; while scarcely a household in our land does not mourn the loss of a brave husband and father, son or brother.
Their brave and dashing chief had been captured, but had made his escape from the Ohio penitentiary, and was daily expected. They usually had substantial boots made while here, by Smith, the Decatur boot and shoe maker, which cost less than those they could have bought in Atlanta.
Among the latter we have always remembered a young man from Alabama, James Duncan Calhoun, of remarkable intellectual ability, refreshing candor and refinement of manner. Ever since the war Mr. Calhoun has devoted himself to journalism. Among the former we recall Lieutenant Adams, Messrs. These gentlemen were courteous and intelligent, and evidently came of excellent Kentucky and Tennessee families. One evening several of these gentlemen had taken tea with us, and after supper the number of our guests was augmented by the coming of Dr.
Ruth, of Kentucky, and Dr. Haynie, surgeon of the 14th Tennessee Cavalry. Haynie was an elderly, gray-haired man, of fine presence, and with the courtly manners of the old school. Haynie sang it with fine effect. The Island itself will do well enough, But the flat-footed Dutch are filthy and rough, Oh! Chorus —And its home, dearest home, etc. Spoiled beef and bad soup is our daily fare, And to complain is more than any dare; They will buck us and gag us, and cast us in a cell, There to bear the anguish and torments of hell.
Chorus — Oh! Chorus — The barracks were crowded to an overflow, Without a single comfort on the soldier to bestow; Oh, there they stood shivering in hopeless despair, With insufficient diet or clothing to wear! Chorus — [Pg 76] The mother stood weeping in sorrows of woe, Mingling her tears with the waters that flow; Her son was expiring at Fort Delaware, Which could have been avoided with prudence and care. Early one morning in the February of the winter just referred to that of , as my sister lay awake, she heard some one step upon the portico and knock. He had left Marshall, Texas, the 28th of January, having made the trip in one month, and having walked four hundred miles of the way.
Under the circumstances, we were both glad and sorrowful at his return. Parting from him was a bitter trial to our mother, who wept silently as we walked back to the desolate home, no longer gladdened by the sunny presence of the only son and brother. We are now in Dalton doing provost duty our regiment , which is a very unpleasant duty. The regulations about the town are very strict. No one under a brigadier-general can pass without approval papers.
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