Diary of Captain Robert E. Park, Twelft Alabama regiment. [continued from November No.]
January 1st, 1865New Year's Day--The first day of 1865 is far from bright and cheerful; it is snowing, cold and windy. Our little band of Confederates remain closely in quarters, discussing the past and speculating on the future, now apparently dark and gloomy, of our sorely pressed county. Recently captured prisoners tell us of the great straits to which General Lee's army around Richmond has been reduced, of the long, thinly scattered line of soldiers, pale and worn by hunger and constant watching, and of the gloom and despondency enveloping the heroic citizens of the beleaguered Confederate capital. They confirm also the disheartening accounts of the dastardly conduct of Sherman in my native State, dear old  Georgia, of his expelling the citizeus of Atlanta from their homes, and the destruction of the entire city, and of his bloodthirsty letter to Honorable J. M. Calhoun, Mayor of Atlanta, declaring his purpose “to shorten the war by increasing its severity.” The Northern papers, too, gloat over his cruel and boasted “march to the sea,” and of his capture of Savannah, December 21st. During his unopposed march, he put his cruel principles into rough practice. General Hood left Georgia for Tennessee, with the main body of his sadly diminished army, and only the gallant General Wheeler, with a small body of cavalry, offered any opposition. Totally disregarding all the laws and usages of civilized war, unrestrained and uninfluenced by the humane and Christian conduct of General Lee, when in Pennsylvania, Sherman says in his official report: “We consumed the corn and fodder in the region of country thirty miles on either side of a line from Atlanta to Savannah; also the sweet potatoes, hogs, sheep and poultry, and carried off more than 10,000 horses and mules. I estimate the damage done to the State of Georgia at $100,000,000, at least $20,000,000 of which inured to our advantage, and the rest was simple waste and destruction.” Here he confesses to have wantonly destroyed $80,000,000 worth of property of private citizens. Attila, Genseric and Alaric were not more cruel to the conquered Romans, than the brutal Sherman has been to the defenceless, utterly helpless old men, women and children of pillaged and devastated Georgia. No wonder our reflections and conversation on the first day of the new year were of a sad character. Added to our gloom at the news from the South was the painful intelligence that all hope of our exchange was now at an end, and we are to be carried to Old Capitol Prison as soon as transportation is furnished.
January 2dAfter 9 o'clock at night all the officers at Point Lookout, except Major Hanvey, who was too sick to be removed, were put on board the boat “Johnson,” and at 1 o'clock in the morning were carried to the mail boat “James T. Brady,” bound for Washington city, and sailed up the Potomac. The wind blew fearfully cold, and as we were compelled to sleep on deck and in the gangway, our suffering was severe indeed. Fortunately I got near the boiler, and fared better than the majority of the party. As we advanced towards the city, the river was blocked by ice, covering it several inches in thickness, from shore to shore. The passage was slow, as the ice had to be broken in front of the steamer every foot of the way. 
January 3dWe landed on the wharf at Washington at 9 o'clock A. M., and found it covered with snow and ice. In this uncomfortable place, with no shelter from the bleak wind, standing on the frozen snow, we remained under guard from 9 o'clock till 5 o'clock P. M. We had no fire, and only a few crackers and some wretched coffee for food. At dark we were carried in ambulances to the Old Capitol. This prison, situated on the corner of A and First streets, is an old brick building, erected in 1817, for the use of Congress, as the capitol building proper had been destroyed by fire by the British army under General Ross, August 24th, 1814. It was used by Congress until the capitol was rebuilt, and then fitted up as a boarding house. Honorable John C. Calhoun, of South Carolina, died in it. This pure and illustrious patriot and statesman — twice elected Vice-President of the United States, and the greatest of the great “Triumvirate,” Calhoun, Clay and Webster, the only one who has left any enduring work to perpetuate his fame — never dreamed that his own room, in sight of the Goddess of Liberty on the dome of the capitol, would some day be used as a prison dungeon for the victims of rampant, fanatical abolitionism and the advocates of a higher law than the constitution which they had sworn to uphold and support. Prisoners are taken into the office, near the entrance, on their arrival, questioned, their answers being written in a book, and rigidly searched by some officious and offensive subordinate officer. While my party was being searched, their pockets emptied, and their persons felt, I quietly and unobserved put my knife in my hat, and placed the latter on the floor. I surrendered to the fellow who did the searching about $20 in Confederate money, concealing the remainder in my drawers' pocket. The knife was saved, to the great joy of myself and room-mates, none of whom saved theirs. We reached Old Capitol at 7 o'clock P. M., and about two hours after nine of us were assigned to “room 9,” second floor. This room is about twelve feet by fourteen in size, and contained in one corner five sleeping berths or bunks, like those used in canal boats, one above the other, and about eighteen inches apart. The bunks are made of rough plank, three feet wide and six feet long. My comrades are Lieutenant James P. Arrington, A. D. C. of Forkland, Alabama; Captain M. Russell, Sixtieth Georgia infantry, Lafayette, Georgia; Captain J. G. Rankin, Thirty-eighth Georgia, Stone Mountain, Ga.; Lieutenant S. R. Murphy, Thirty-first Georgia, Hamilton, Georgia; Lieutenant Arthur Bryde, Fifth Louisiana, New Orleans, Louisiana;  Lieutenant J. T. Bagby, Twenty-first Georgia, Troup county, Georgia; Adjutant W. B. L. Reagan, Sixteenth Tennessee battalion, Athens, Tennessee; Captain Junius B. Browne, Ninth Virginia cavalry, Gloucester Courthouse, Virginia. Lieutenant A------and myself selected the lowest bunk. The berths had each a tick, containing a scanty quantity of old straw, which no doubt had done service for years. Each one was also furnished with a dirty quilt or blanket, and vermin held high carnival among them. The dingy walls were festooned with cobwebs, and darkened by smoke from the very small coal grate in one end of the room. A bench and two boxes were used for chairs. We have none of the comforts we have been accustomed to at home, though in close proximity to all the comforts and luxuries of civilized life, and near the headquarters of the Chief Quartermaster and Chief Commissary of the nation. We were given a very short piece of candle, and as we entered the room I looked around the grim dark walls, and its one narrow window, further darkened by heavy iron bars, through which its unhappy inmates might gaze, and I could but shudder at my future home. All my bright dreams of being exchanged and visiting my good mother were banished. The future looks dark and uncertain. I was depressed, but labored against gloomy thoughts. A good spirit whispered hope, and I resolved to bear up bravely as I could,
For lo! the heavier grief weighed down,No supper was offered us, and we retired hungry to our hard beds.
The higher hope was raised.