Captured During a Religious Service

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.

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Click the image of Thomas Dwight Witherspoon to view source.

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.

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Prisoner of War Leg is Amputated

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.

Screen Shot 2019-04-13 at 1.42.30 PMParham 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.

 

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Click image to view American Battlefield Trust video about period amputations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

19th Letter: A Shot Overhead (May 12, 1862)

Click image to learn more about the "Campaign for Corinth."

Click image to learn more about the “Campaign for Corinth.”

Be sure and tell me how our friends came out at Corinth

Monday Morning May 12, 62,

Camp 20 miles South East of Richmond

Dear Mother-

May 12, 1862: page 1

May 12, 1862: page 1

Again I will scribble you a few lines with the faint hope of hearing from you all.  I have heard once indirectly that you were all well, but as yet I have not rcd a line from any of you though I know you have written as I have written 5 or 6 times.  I suppose you rcd my letter written at Ashland which was carried to Okolona and there mailed.

May 12, 1862: page 2

May 12, 1862: page 2

On the march from Fredricksburg my feet were blistered and so sore that when the Rgt left there for Yorktown I was not able to march 3 miles a day. There were at least 2 of the Rgt that were not able to go and among them Tubby and Dick Shaw- Staid there nearly two weeks, during which time we fared finely and my foot got entirely well- We were hearing awful reports about the Regt- that they had nothing to eat ???? ???? but crackers and Bacon – and were marching and tearing around all the time, expecting a fight.  The There were 180 men died in the Hospille at Ashland out of 5 Regts from the effects of that march, while I was there, being from 8 to 20 a day- The N.C. Regt in our Brigade lost over 80 80 men. IndianolaSteamer At last the Lt in charge of us, got transportation and took us to Richmond. Staid there a day and night and took the cars for West Point on York River a half days ride on a Steamboat to Yorktown.  Our Long before we reached the town we heard cannon roaring ???? ???? and thought they having a little fight. When in sight of the Landing we could see the smoke curling up and then directly the report and sometimes see the shells burst in the air.  It was our Batteries and the enemy shelling on another. Our boat stopped 1/2 mile front of the w wharf, the captain being afraid to venture any nearer. In about ten minutes I saw the smoke rise from the enemies battery,  throwing a shell not more than 200 yards from our boat which made the water fly, but did not burst. We were certain they had seen us and were shooting at us. But our captain that they were too far off to do any execution. While talking about it on the upper deck, we saw the smoke rise again and hearing a whizzing sound we began to hustle, but in less then half minute the ball whistled exactly our over our head and struck about the same distance as the other beyond us. That was getting rather warm and we got further back.  Took on some sick soldiers.

Click image to hear "Richmond is a Hard Road to Travel."

Click image to listen to “Richmond is a Hard Road to Travel.”

We heard that our army was evacuating Yorktown which proved to be false. We went back to Richmond and staid there over a week when we got orders to join our Regt which we done day before yesterday. The boys should be without tents a month now – marching nearly all the time and eating nothing but crackers and bacon and some kind of half rations. 3 crackers and 1/4 pound meat to the man- which is all that we get now- I suppose you have heard of the skirmishes and the fight at Williamsburg– Part of our division was in a skirmish but our Rgt so far been out of any of them, though we are moving slowly towards Richmond and I think that we will have an engagement here soon- the enemy are only a few miles from us- I must close for want of more paper- I will write again soon. You have not the least idea how anxious I am to hear from you all- Write soon- Give my love to all the family- Your devoted son, PM Buford

P.S. I forgot to mention that the 19th Miss Rgt was in the fight in Williamsburg and that Col. Moot was killed. I have heard none of the particulars.


Blogger’s Notes:

  • The first statement in this letter is be sure and tell me how our friends came out at Corinth.  Parham is inquiring about how family friends fared during the build-up to the Yankee siege upon Corinth, Mississippi which would take place just 13 days later on May 25, 1861.  Corinth was a major rail hub for Confederate soldiers and supplies, and Parham wrote in his first letter of passing through there as he headed to Manassas Junction in Northern Virginia.
  • Parham mentions Tubby (i.e. Goodloe Warren Buford, Jr.) and Dick Shaw are among the number that eventually could not keep up with the march.
  • The event that Parham witnesses from the deck of a steamboat on the York River when a ball whistled overhead is the Battle of Eltham’s Landing.
  • Parham writes in the post script of his letter that Col. Moot was killed during a fight in Williamsburg.  He misspells the name Mott.  It was Colonel Christopher H. Mott who was killed on May 5, 1861 during the Battle of Williamsburg.

16th Letter: Should I Take Furlough? (January 21, 1862)

Camp Fisher

Jan 21st 1862.

Dear Mother,             

Photo, courtesy of family (N.H.), is of young Parham Morgan Buford during pre-war years.

Photo, courtesy of family (N.H.), is of young Parham Morgan Buford during pre-war years.

I rcd your letter 4 or 5 days since, and thought as I had just written to Mary I would not answer yours immediately. I have nothing of importance to communicate. We are well and doing fine at present having nothing to do, but eat and Keep up fires, making rings and pipes.

One of our company has been quite sick with pneumonia but is now better. He is in the Regimental Hospital about 1/2 mile from camp. There is less sickness in camp now than any time since we have been here. But from signs out doors I think we are bound to have some sick before– ness before long, for the mud is at least 3 inches deep, any where you can go. We had a 3 inch snow last week which staid on the ground 2 days, when it com-commenced raining and has not yet ceased.

January 21, 1862: page 1

January 21, 1862: page 1

We perform not duty now except guard, which lighter than formerly, the number of guards being reduced.  Our Col took the guard off the Regt. altogether, but the Gen – came along one day and seeing no guard, told him to put them on again. Now we have only one around the Regt and his orders are to present arms to the Gen.

We are coming down to hard living again, nothing but beef and bread, occasionally sugar + coffee. They havent givin us any bacon in nearly a month. Occasionally we buy from the huxsters, but they ask very unreasonable prices.

January 21, 1862: pages 2 and 3

Our Col went to see Gen Johnson about the furlough, but he said he would have nothing to do with it.  I heard he was going to see the war department about it.  A I do not w know whether to to take it or not.  I thought though I would wait and hear your’s and the Papa’s views about it.  My reasons at present are that there will be a change of officers that won’t suit suit me. at least that is my opinion.

I heard fr rcd a letter from Aunt Polly. they are all well. If you can not get a good chance to send that Box-  just let it alone though I would like to get it very much. I will send a pipe first opportunity and some, rings to the girls. Give my love to all the family and write sooon. Your devoted son P.M.B.


Blogger’s Notes:

  • The Colonel (i.e. Col) Parham wrote about is likely Colonel William Hudson Moore.
  • Parham may have misspelled the name of Gen Johnson by leaving out a “t”.  It may be General Joseph E. Johnston he wrote about.