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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37th Letter: Dreaded News (July 4, 1863)

Hospital near Gettysburg

July 4th 63

Mr Luckie

Unknown

Click image of hospital at Camp Letterman 1.25 miles east of Gettysburg to learn more about where wounded Parham was taken.

Dear Sir

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

                                                                                                                              Yours truly

Jack Fernandez

Parham will write in a day or two                                                                                             J.F.

 

 

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Blogger’s Notes:

  • 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.
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      Click image of Pacolet (Jack) Fernandez to view source.

      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.

“We Rely Upon Your Strong Arms and Uncoiled Hearts”

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Image Source of Miss Sallie Wiley: ancestry.com

True to the time, 21-year old Miss Sallie Wiley gave a resounding speech to embolden local young men, her peers, of the Lamar Rifles. She shows a truly articulate speech calling on strong arms and uncoiled hearts before the town of Oxford, Mississippi on March 9, 1861.  On that day, Miss Wiley presented a flag to the Lamar Rifles on behalf of the women of Oxford.  Parham was likely  present among the ranks listening to the speech. North and South entered into war a little more than one month later on April 12, 1861 when Confederate artillery opened fire upon the Union occupation of Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina.

Captain Green and Volunteers of Lamar Rifles: I have been deputed by the ladies of Oxford and vicinity, to deliver to you the flag which I hold in my hand. Before doing so, however, it is expected that I should say a word. In the progress of every nation there are times of security and quietness, and times of difficulty and danger. In times of peace the minds of men become engaged with their business relations. The pursuit of gain so absorbs the mind that it excludes all other ideas and makes it difficult to introducing people to desist from the objects of their aims. These pursuits tend to effeminacy and tend to destroy that lively sensibility to their rights which characterize proud and independent freemen. The glory of a people depends upon their watchfulness and readiness to maintain the integrity of their rights and the full possession of the liberty which has been secured to them. Encroachment must be resisted. If we sleep upon our posts, it is certain we will be betrayed. Our country has reached that period in her history when our safety is in danger and our honor is compromised. To submit not only dishonors us in the esteem of all true and patriotic men, but it is convincing proof that the spirit of liberty which inspired the fathers of the Revolution, has passed from our midst. Our noble State, looking the danger full in the face, has resolved that she will submit to no inequality of, or denial of her rights. And by your volunteering to bear her flag against all opposers, you have shown your determination to uphold her in her lawful stand. She believes she has a right to maintain her honor and equality without the resort to force. But it may be otherwise. It may be that fanaticism, bloated with ambition and maddened with the possession of power, may attempt to invade our land and lay waste our fields, in order to constrain us to submit to degradation. When that hour comes, if come it should, we rely upon your strong arms and uncoiling hearts to defend our rights, protect the mothers, shield the honor of the maidens of the land, and give security and peace to our firesides. When you yield, our cause is hopeless.

It is on this account we feel so much interest in your organization, and we desire to present to you this memorial of our confidence and our approval. We hope you will accept it and bear it with you on the tedious march, the tented field, and in the hour of danger. As you gaze upon it you must remember that our eyes are upon you. We will sympathize with you in your labors and discomfitures, and rejoice in your triumphs. But we have no misgivings, no apprehensions that it’s honor will ever be tarnished. Whenever and wherever its folds are unfurled, we feel assured your stout hearts will rally to the rescue and we shall be safe. There is one consideration, however, which gives us pain. Those whom you expect to meet as foes ought to be our friends. Instead of trespassing upon our rights, they should be among the foremost in their defense. Ten thousand recollections of the past should impel them to throw their shields over our rights, and to draw their swords in defense of our honor and their equality. But we fear that patriotism has abandoned their bosoms, and mad ambition spurs them on to our subjugation. If it must be so, let the trial come; our brothers will prove sufficient for the protection of ourselves and our country.

Click image to listen to "The Young Volunteer."

Click image to listen to “The Young Volunteer.”

As man cannot love and cherish woman bereft of honor, so one cannot reverence and honor man devoid of courage. We commit the flag into your hands. It is an emblem of the independence of Mississippi, and that proud position of our State must be maintained at any cost or sacrifice. We rely upon you to do it.