In the midst of the current Cultural Revolution when it has become fashionable to dishonor Confederate dead by vandalizing and removing monuments and in vogue to erase the memory of our history, The Washington Times posted The Confederate gift to the nation at the close of Memorial Day, 2018 on the origin of the national holiday. A wounded nation was inspired during post-Civil War years when Southern women decorated the graves of fallen soldiers, both Confederate and Union. People of that day who once fought each other as foes on the battlefield set the example for future generations by annually memorializing those who gave the last full measure. Memorial Day reminds us that reconciliation is possible and that it is honorable to remember.
I was captured in the afternoon of a beautiful Sabbath day, the fifth of July, 1863, in a hospital tent, in the midst of a religious service, surrounded by the wounded on every hand, to whom I was ministering, and at whose urgent solicitation I had voluntarily remained within the enemy’s line.
These were the words of Confederate Chaplain Thomas Dwight Witherspoon. Thomas was ordained in 1860 and installed as pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Oxford, Mississippi. He was influential in the lives of many university students within the community and enlisted with them when the call to arms came in 1861. Thomas served in the 11th Mississippi Lamar Rifles with Parham until, as the need for chaplains in the Confederacy increased, he was transferred to the 2nd and later to the 42nd. Providentially, both he and Parham were attached to Davis’ brigade at Gettysburg. It is possible that Parham, as an amputee, might have been in the hospital tent among the wounded on every hand during the religious service described above.
Upon being captured, Thomas and other chaplains remaining behind were allowed to continue ministering to their wounded at Camp Letterman until they and the medical doctors were transferred on August 7th to Union-controlled Fort McHenry, Fort Monroe, Fort Norfolk, and then back to Fort McHenry again. They were released on November 21st during a prisoner exchange.
July 4, 1863, the very day Jack Fernandez wrote the previously posted letter to Parham’s family, the Army of Northern Virginia began their escape from Gettysburg. Parham’s fellow 11th Mississippians were strategically placed at the rear where they victoriously defeated the 8th Illinois Cavalry in hot pursuit at Narrow Fairfield Gap.
Parham could not join the retreat; the day before during Pickett’s Charge a Yankee minie ball entered just above the right knee and passed directly through. As a result of this wound, Parham was left behind at Camp Letterman General Hospital near Gettysburg where he was taken as a prisoner of war and had his leg amputated at the thigh.
Hospital near Gettysburg
July 4th 63
I take it on myself at Parhams request to write to you and let you know how Parham is getting along with his wounded leg as I expect you will hear he is wounded before this He does not suffer much with his wound although it is a very severe one. The ball entered just above the right knee and passed directly through.
I expect it will be amputated.
Tell Mrs Luckie not to be uneasy about him as Newt Shaw and and myself are both with him he is in as good spirits as any body.
I would give a list of the killed and wounded but there are a great many missing who we don’t know whether they are killed or Prisoners. It was the most Horrible fight of the war. Our regiment in with 425 and came out with 65 we suffered I believe more than any other in the division. Our troops are still in very good spirits although we driven back.
I will close by again telling you not to be uneasy about Parham for Newt Shaw has got permission to stay with him
Parham will write in a day or two J.F.
- With respect to Parham’s wound, the ball entered just above the right knee and passed directly through. This may suggest Parham reached within Federal musket range during Pickett’s Charge somewhere between the vicinity of Emmitsburg Road and the stone wall near Brian’s Barn. See previous post on Pickett’s Charge.
- A History of Company G, Eleventh Mississippi Regiment, C.S.A. documents information about persons listed by name in this letter.
Pacolet (Jack) Fernandez, writer of this letter per Parham’s request, enlisted May 23, 1863, at Oxford, Miss., for one year. Born in South Carolina, and a student at College Hill, Miss.; seventeen years of age and single. He was present and took part in the battles of Freeman’s Ford, Thoroughfare Gap, and Second Manassas, two days at Gettysburg; Falling Waters, Bristol Station. In the engagements of August 22, 28, 29, and 30, 1862, he acted as an independent soldier. After the battle at Bristol Station he was on detailed duty, I think as a courier. Parham previously wrote of Jack’s family on January 17, 1863, stating that he learned Union forces occupied College Hill and burned the Fernandez house.
- William N. (Newt) Shaw, who was granted permission to stay behind with Parham at the hospital, enlisted August 9, 1861, at Bristol Station, Va., for one year. Born in Mississippi; a farmer near College Hill, Miss.; twenty-three years old and single. He was present at Seven Pines, two days; Gaines’s Farm, and was absent wounded until he was present second day at Sharpsburg, Gettysburg, two days; Falling Waters, Bristol Station, Wilderness, two days; Tolles Mill, Spotsylvania, Hanover Junction, Bethsaida Church, two days; then Weldon Railroad where he was killed on first day. Promoted to Corporal, November, 1864…Of the four (Shaw) brothers only one survived the war, and he was shot through the left lung. How dear was the cause that required such costly sacrifices! Is there any wonder that the memory of it should still be dear to every Southron? Whilst time lasts may this memory be cherished.
- The name “Fernandez” is noteworthy as it reveals the service of persons with Hispanic heritage in the town of College Hill, the state of Mississippi, and the Confederacy. Many Hispanic Confederates came from well established and prominent families; some traced their ancestry to explorers who settled in North America generations ahead of the English according to National Park Service article Hispanics and the Civil War.
- College Hill Presbyterian Church Cemetery list of buried reveals the Fernandez family was one of the early settlers in the community. A total of 18 persons bearing the name are buried there, including the writer of this letter.
- Pacolet was not the only Fernandez from the community who volunteered with the Lamar Rifles; Henry Gore also bore the name. Both Pacolet and Henry Gore Fernandez are listed by John O’Donnell-Rosales in a 90 page directory of Hispanic Confederates.
History Channel portrays a minute by minute description of the artillery barrage into which CSA Brigadier General Joseph R. “Joe” Davis led the 11th Mississippi. The long march from west of the tree line on Seminary Ridge to the stone wall near the Brian Barn, known as Pickett’s Charge, is believed by many to be the turning point of the War.
Below are the on-site monuments to the 11th Mississippi and their inscriptions about the fateful charge.
The 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, under the command of Col. Francis M. Green and Maj. Reuben O. Reynolds, formed west of the tree line on Seminary Ridge behind Maj. William Pegram’s Battalion of Artillery and immediately south of McMillan’s Woods on July 3, 1863. Shortly after 3:00 p.m., Color Sgt. William O’Brien of Company C, memorialized on this monument, raised the colors and the regiment stepped forward. Although clusters of men reached the stone wall near Brian’s Barn, the attack was driven back with heavy loss, and the remnants of the regiment reformed in this vicinity.
Combatants – 393
Killed in action/died of wounds – 110
Wounded/wounded captured – 193
Captured unwounded – 37
Non-casualty – 53
11th Mississippi Regiment
Company A – University Greys
Layfayette County – 1st Lt. Jonathan V. Moore
Company B – Coahoma Invincibles
Coahoma County – Capt. William D. Nunn
Company C – Prairie Rifles
Chickasaw County – Capt. George W. Shannon
Company D – Neshoba Rifles
Neshoba County – Capt. Jonathan R. Prince
Company E – Prairie Guards
Lowndes County – Capt. Henry P. Halpert
Company F – Noxubee Rifles
Noxubee County – Capt. Thomas J. Stokes
Company G – Lamar Rifles
Lafayette County – Capt. William O. Nelms
Company H – Chickasaw Guards
Chickasaw County – Capt. Jamison H. Moore
Company I – Van Dorn Reserve
Monroe County – Capt. Stephen C. Moore
Company K – Carroll County Rifles
Carroll County – Capt. George W. Bird, Jr.
July 3, 1863. The 11th Mississippi Infantry regiment, with its ranks growing thinner at every step, advanced with the colors to the stone wall near the Brian Barn.
The regiment was here ‘subjected to a most galling fire of musketry and artillery that so reduced the already thinned ranks that any further effort to carry the position was hopeless, and there was nothing left but to retire.
– Report of Brig. Gen. Joseph R. Davis
After a Confederate victory in Union country was secured, the plan was for the Army of Northern Virginia to march toward Washington, D.C. The hope was that the United States would recognize Confederate independence and agree to peace terms. Confederate and Union troops collided at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The three day battle which erupted has since fascinated historians and military tacticians around the world. Parham experienced first-hand what countless books, films, and documentaries have portrayed.
There is a 41 day gap from the previous posted letter and the next one dated on July 4, 1863 from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Shortly after the previous letter was written on May 24th, the Army of Northern Virginia was reorganized from two to three smaller Corps as a result of the death of CSA Lieutenant General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.
In early June, CSA Brigadier General Joseph R. “Joe” Davis was ordered to report to General Robert E. Lee in the vicinity of Fredericksburg, Virginia with the least practicable delay. From there, the Confederacy would take the War into the enemy’s country.
Steven H. Stubbs’ Duty-Honor-Valor: The Story of the Eleventh Mississippi Infantry Regiment provides a description of events Parham would have witnessed during the time gap from Southeast Virginia to Gettysburg. Below is a brief summary of what the before mentioned source provides in greater detail.
June 2: Order received to cook 3 days rations and prepare to move
June 3: 3:00 am reveille, marched two hours later, 10:00 am reached Ivor Station, 3:00 pm boarded railcars for Petersburg, arrived around 5:00 pm
June 4: Marched 23 miles through Petersburg toward Richmond
June 6: 4:00 am boarded Virginia Central Railroad cars in Richmond, rode north and changed to Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad cars to Fredericksburg, arrived that evening
June 7: Remained in trenches and breastworks at Fredericksburg
June 13: 11th Mississippi set-up theatrical performance in warehouse
June 14: Departed trenches and breastworks, marched through carnage from six week’s prior at battlefield of Chancellorsville
June 16: Up at 2:00 am, departed 11:00 am, halted mid-day beyond Chancellorsville, moved within 11 miles of Culpeper Courthouse
June 17: Marched about 1.5 miles beyond Culpeper Courthouse, stopped for night at 10:00 pm
June 18: Marched, very warm day, several overheated and fell out of ranks, camped on North side of Rappahannock, rained all night
June 19: Continued march at sunrise, passed through Sperryville, moved up east slopes of Blue Ridge mountains near Chester Gap, 27 miles marched
June 20: Early dawn, struggled to top of Chester Gap, rested on summit of mountains, marched down western side of Blue Ridge, camped three miles east of Front Royal
June 21: Moved-out 4:00 am, marched through Front Royal and down Winchester Turnpike, then east to parallel road toward Potomac River, passed through White Post and camped 3 miles from Berryville, 12 miles marched that day
June 22: Rested
June 23: Departed 11:00 am; passed through Berryville and Rippon, West Virginia; moved within three miles of Charleston, West Virginia and camped for night
June 24: Marched within two miles of Shepherdstown, West Virginia on the Potomac
June 25: Marched early dawn, crossed Potomac into Maryland and band played Maryland, My Maryland, camped south of Hagerstown
June 26: Departed about 9:00 am; marched northeast and crossed into Pennsylvania, met by several hundred observing girls as they marched past a school, several of whom demonstrated Confederate presence; stopped two miles south of Waynesboro
June 27: Moved north at 5:00 am for seven miles through Funkstown and Fayetteville, turned east and marched three miles
June 29: Marched toward Cashtown and within sight of Gettysburg that day
June 30: Some of CSA Brigadier General Joe Davis’ men stayed in camp as rain continued through day while others went on picket duty, camped at Cashtown that night
July 1-3: Battle of Gettysburg
July 4: Date of next letter