Diary of Captain Robert E. Park, Twelfth Alabama regiment. [Concluded.]
April 5th to 10th, 1865Our hospital life is monotonous and varied only by daily discussions of reports of General Lee's situation, gathered from the rabid, black Republican papers we are permitted to buy. The news to-day (10th) is dreadful indeed. “General Lee has surrendered” is repeated with hushed breath from lip to lip. No human tongue, however eloquent, no pen, however gifted, can give an adequate description of our dismay and horror at the heartrending news. The sudden, unexpected calamity shocked reason and unsettled memory. The news crushed our fondest hopes. On every countenance rests the shadow of gloom, on every heart the paralyzing torpor of despair. We move about, or sit on our beds, silent, almost motionless, in the speechless agony of woe, in the mute eloquence of unutterable despair. After four long weary years of battle and marches, of prayers and tears, of pain and sacrifice, of wounds and woe, of blood and death, such an ending of our hopes, such a shocking disappointment, is bitter, cruel, crushing. Few tears are shed; there is no time for weakness or sentiment. The grief is too deep, the agony too terrible to find vent through the ordinary channels of distress. Hope seems forever buried, and naturally too. After four years of gallant resistance, heroic endurance and incredible suffering, we find ourselves broken in fortunes, crushed, ruined; yet, amid our misery and wretchedness, though sad and sick at heart, we have no blush of shame. We feel deep, unutterable regret at our failure, but no humiliation. We have done nothing wrong. Our rights were trampled upon, our property stolen, and our liberties attacked, and we did but our sacred duty to defend them as well as we could. We freely offered up our lives and property in defence of principle and right and honor. A stern, conscientious sense of duty has influenced us to fight, bleed and suffer all these terrible years. The Yankees of New England first practiced and taught us the doctrine of. secession, and then by force forbade us to apply it peaceably. The heroic men who fought, bled and died, are in prison or in exile for this principle, this inherent right, ought not and will not be known in history as traitors. Sorrow has crushed us, defeat has ruined us, but we must not and shall not forget or cease to cherish the brave deeds of as brave hearts as the world ever produced. Our homes  are burnt, our land desolated, our wealth departed in smoke and ashes, our very hearthstones dyed in blood, our dear dead have fallen in vain, but we shall ever remember, honor and be grateful to them. But I will not admit that the cause is entirely lost. The armies of Generals Joseph Johnston, Dick Taylor and Kirby Smith are still in the field, and may snatch victory from apparent defeat yet. The Yankees guarding us, while jubilant at the news, are seemingly kinder than usual.
April 11th to 15thI was the only officer in our ward that succeeded in buying a morning's paper to-day (the 15th). The In quirer was brought me at a late hour, hurriedly and stealthily, by the nurse Curry. I was inexpressibly shocked at reading at the head of the first column, first page, the terrible words: “assassination of President Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth the Murderer.
attempted murder of Secretary Seward, John Howard Payne the supposed Assassin.” Then followed in detail the account of the assassination. I called aloud to my hospital comrades, and as I read, they left their bunks and crowded around me, listening with awe to the tragic recital. One of them remarked that he would gladly divide his last crust of bread with the daring Booth, if he should meet him in his wanderings. I said I looked upon Lincoln as a tyrant and inveterate enemy of the South, and could shed no tears for him, but deprecated the cruel manner of his taking off. While we were eagerly and excitedly discussing the startling news, the young galvanized renegade Curry came to my bunk and took down my card, saying, “the doctor says you must go to the barracks.” The order was given to no one else, and not having recovered sufficiently for the change, I replied that I would not go until ordered to do so by the surgeon in person. Curry left, and, in a few minutes, young Doctor Miller came in, and told me to get ready for the barracks. Protesting against the inhumanity of his order, I crawled on my hands, right foot and hips to the door of the ward, and near by, in a small ante-room, put on my old suit of clothes, laying aside my hospital garb. I was then directed to the door of the hospital, down a long, bleak, windy passage, near the gate to the officers' barracks. Here I waited for my crutches and further orders Very soon I saw Captain McSherry approaching, and others of my ward and those adjoining followed. Colonel James W. Hinton  was of the number. Colonel Hinton inquired of me, “what is the matter?” “I suppose we are to be punished as accessories to the murder of Abe Lincoln,” I replied. “Schoepff has ordered every man that can walk from the hospital to the barracks. He evidently regards us as accomplices of Wilkes Booth,” said the Colonel. Many who were quite sick — some of the scurvy afflicted among them — hobbled slowly and painfully out of their wards, and the long, cold hall was soon crowded with the sick, the lame and the halt. Such a rigid course is senseless and cruel. It shows weakness, cowardice and malice. Courage and humanity accompany each other; cowardice and cruelty are comrades. After alternately standing and sitting on the floor for hours, the gate of the dreaded barracks was opened, and we were again ushered into the prison proper.
A prison, heavens, I loathe the hated name,The plank walk near and space in front of the gate were filled with anxious and curious Confederate officers, who eagerly asked the news. No papers had been allowed them during the day. I headed the long procession, and repeated, as I walked, “Abe Lincoln was killed last night.” The news spread like wildfire, and a few thoughtless fellows seemed overjoyed at it, throwing up their hats, dancing, jumping, and even shouting aloud. Their imprudence caused General Schoepff to order his guards to fire upon any Rebel manifesting pleasure at the news, and he actually had the huge guns of the fort turned frowningly toward us. A large majority of the prisoners regret Lincoln's death, and in the wonderful charity which buries all quarrels in the grave, the dead President was no longer regarded as an enemy, for, with the noble generosity native to Southern character, all resentment was hidden in his death. My copy of the Inquirer was in great demand, was borrowed by officers in different divisions, and the astounding particulars of Lincoln's terrible death were read and reread to crowds of officers, all eager to drink in every word of the startling account. I occupied my old quarters in twenty-seven, with Captain Hewlett as my bunk-mate. My friends welcome my return very cordially.
Famine's metropolis,--the sink of shame,
A nauseous sepulchre--, whose craving womb
Hourly inters poor mortals in its tomb.