Sunday, March 29, 2009

I Could Not Resist My Country's Call Part 3

The journal of James Paton is one of only a handful of surviving manuscripts written by a member of the Confederate First Kentucky Brigade, known to posterity as the “Orphan Brigade.”

Paton and his comrades embraced the Confederate cause as their own and the Confederacy became their adopted country. Therefore, Paton felt “I could not resist my country’s defend her rights.”

James E. Paton was born in Bourbon County, Kentucky, in 1837, the son of James and Elizabeth Paton. Working as a clerk in Paris, Kentucky, he joined a group of friends who, in June 1861, went south to join their fellow Kentuckians at Camp Boone near Clarksville, Tennessee, who were enlisting in the Confederate army. On July 7, 1861, Paton and his comrades enlisted in the 2nd Kentucky Infantry. Their company, the Hamilton Guards, became Company G.

His journal, written in Camp Morton, Indiana, while a prisoner of war, covers his service from July, 1861, until his exchange from prison in August, 1862. It is not known if he continued his writing after this period. Original grammar has been left intact. This is the final section of that journal. Transcribed and edited by Sam Flora; original manuscript in the possession of Elizabeth Clay Witt.

We were marched aboard the steamer “Dr. Kane”, all ignorant of our destiny, guarded by a Co. of the 20th Ohio – Capt Updegrass – who did all in his power to make us comfortable. This however was policy on his part, for if we had been so disposed we could easily have taken the Boat and would have done it, had not Col. Hanson and other commissioned officers of the 2nd Ky opposed it. Nothing of importance transpired on our passage. The Boat landed at Paducah, Ky., Cairo, Ill. and just before day on the morning of the 22nd Feby. We landed at the wharf in St. Louis, Mo. At the break of day the roar of cannon and the music of a dozen bands greeted our ears – Not in honor of our arrival. But in celebrating the birthday of the one who set an example in bursting the bonds of tyranny – Geo. Washington.

From almost every window and every house waved the once honored and beloved, but now forever desecrated and dishonored Stars and Stripes. I conversed with gentlemen on the wharf in St. Louis who expressed the warmest Southern sentiments and assured us that the majority in that city were with us in our views.

We remained on board the Boat at the wharf in St. Louis until the following morning – Saturday – when we were taken to the Ill. Side and landed at Illinoistown, a small town opposite St. Louis, where we took the cars and on Sunday evening arrived at Indianapolis, Ind. Via Terre Haute. That night we remained in a large Depot where we obtained repose which we so much needed, having been six days traveling and having had but very little sleep during the time.

On the morning of the 24th Feby., we were marched to “Camp Morton”(that Hell on earth) about one mile from the city. There never was a more broken down and dejected set of men than we both physically and mentally. Here for the first time since leaving home I felt the hand of disease laid upon me , which lasted for about ten days, at the end of which time I was so reduced that when I looked into a glass, I often wondered if “this was Geems”. The weather was the gloomiest I ever saw. But spring, after wading through two months of almost incessant rain and mud, made her appearance and with it came recruiting health.

About this time the darkest cloud that ever overhung a new-born Nation, was plainly visible hovering over the South. Nashville had surrendered to the Federals, York Town evacuated and New Orleans surrendered. News from every source was of the most discouraging kind to the Confederates, but we never for a moment lost the confidence we had placed in our Generals and army and would find great consolation in the old adage that “The darkest hour is just before the break of day.”

Altho under a heavy guard and under the strictest orders, the brave spirit of the 2nd Ky was never known to droop. We claimed the right of expression of opinion and exercised it freely. Every conceivable idea of making an escape was adopted and in many cases executed. Numbers ran the guard lines of nights and were almost invariably fired at, they would frequently, after being fired upon tantalize the guard about their bad marksmanship. Several escaped by obtaining Federal uniforms and passing the guard in the day time. Those caught trying to escape were always sent to jail and kept in close confinement. The guard was constantly on the alert for a chance to shoot into our camp, which they did a number of times. A prisoner was seen looking through a crack in the fence and without a word the guard fired , the ball striking in a few inches of his head. Another time a prisoner was shot in the head for the same offense. Another time at night some one of the prisoners, without thinking of the consequence, threw a bone over the fence. The guard reported that the rebels were stoning them. They were ordered to fire into the camp which they did, wounding three men who were lying in their beds asleep, one of whom died. For a while not a night passed that minnie balls were not heard whistling through our camp. At this time I did not consider my life my own, but entirely at the disposal of the guard. (The 60th Ind. Regt., mostly Dutch.)

Being goaded almost to desperation and maddened by the many wrongs that we have received here at their hands, we will if ever released fight them with a desperation heretofore unknown to a civilized world.

Time passes. The pleasant days of spring are gone and the warm days of July are upon u. Yes, today is the 4th, the Federal National birthday. Is jus t one year ago today since I left home. Since I left those I loved to enlist in the cause of the glorious South. As I sit and think over the past year, sad thoughts intrude themselves upon me. How many family circles have been broken! How many firesides, that just one year ago today were cheerful and gay, now present a scene of sadness and mourning! And how many friends have gone to “That bourne from which no traveler returns.”

This is a dry old 4th with the prisoners. The Federals around camp (of whom there are about 1200) are exceedingly jubilant and all the artillery in the surrounding country are belching forth their thundering notes. Fears are entertained in camp that the battle so long impending before Richmond has finally been fought and that the Federal arms were victorious. Painful thoughts to us!

July 5th

Not a yell is heard from the Federals. A melancholy silence pervades their camp. The guard with a down cast look walks slowly and silently upon his “beat”. Soon the Cincinnati papers arrive in camp. The mysterious silence is soon explained. Long details of a great battle before Richmond are found in the papers. Defeat of the Federals acknowledged and McClelland retreating. It was our time to exult. As long accounts of the battle and McClelland’s inglorious defeat were read, prolonged cheers of the Rebels filled the air. The Rebel Camp throughout the day was a scene of tumultuous uproar. From all we can learn of the battle, we are led to believe that the federal lion has been bearded in his den. That the “Grand Army of the Potomac” had been put to flight and that the Confederates had won a most brilliant and glorious victory.

The prisoners had placed such confidence in the success of our arms at Richmond, that they for days past had been saving candles with which to illuminate the camp when the announcement was made and as soon as night came thousands of lights were seen scattered promiscuously over the camp – a more beautiful sight never met my eye and until “taps” loud cheers for our army and Confederacy filled the air.

July 14th

If I had ever wanted to commit some startling act or create great alarm & excitement, I should have selected just such a night as last night was. The heavens were a vast sheet and one continual blaze of lightning and the almost incessant peals of heaven’s artillery presented altogether a scene of almost inexpressible terror. At about ten o’clock when the thunder pealed the loudest and the lightning flashed most vivid, a number of at least fifty musket shots in quick succession were heard on the guard lines. A number of prisoners had attempted to escape and had been betrayed by someone in camp, a trap had been set for them, into which they unfortunately ran, altho finding themselves foiled they rushed past the guard. One was brought down by a musket shot, the rest pursued one was killed and another severely wounded. Several however made good their escape. I suppose there were not less than 50 who made the attempt to escape.

I will here remark that there are traitors and spies in camp who watch the movements of the prisoners and keep the Federal officers posted. They will meet with but little mercy at the hands of the prisoners if they are found out.

July 24th

This morning about 9 o’clock two more prisoners were shot. In fact shooting inoffensive prisoners has become almost an every day occurrence. Without the slightest provocation they are fired upon, insulted in almost every conceivable way and treated with all the inhumanity that a savage would scorn to resort to. Clothing sent to prisoners stolen and scarcely enough rations issued to sustain life tell me you admirers of Christian virtues , you lovers of justice and humanity, if any tortures are too great to be inflicted upon such tyrants! Tis useless to tell me that we will not reap a tenfold vengence. That the day is now fast approaching when we will breath upon them the sweet spirit of revenge.

A telegram in this mornings paper announces that “arrangements have been effected for the immediate exchange of prisoners. Our almost stifled hopes and drooping spirits are again cheered and we look forward with many anticipations when we will bid a farewell to Northern polluted atmosphere and when we shall again arrive in the consecrated land of Dixie.

August 4th

The rumors, probabilities of an exchange are now reduced to a certainty. Gladly we hail the happy day!

I willingly go again to mingle in the bloody scenes of the battlefield and I now say to the Indianaians Beware of the 2nd Ky. They know how to resent the many wrongs they have received from you and they will do it.

The oath of allegiance is again offered. But I am happy to say that there are very few here who will resort to such depths of degradation & cowardice as to accept the offer.

Friends in Kentucky, adue for a while, I willingly go again to lend a helping hand for Southern rights, Southern independence, Southern Liberty. Should I fall bleeding upon the altar of my adopted country, I do so knowing that I fall in defense of southern homes, of honor and of all that is just & right, battling against a merciless and invading foe. But I hope soon to hail the happy day when National troubles will have ended when the “Confederate States of America” will be a victorious Nation & the brightest star among all the great Nations of the earth and when honest men can live in Kentucky free from the clanking chains of Northern despotism.

James E. Paton

Indianapolis, Ind.

August 4th 1862

A list of officers and privates in Co. G when first organized.

Capt. John S. Hope, Promoted Major.

1st Lieut. E. F. Spears, Promoted Capt., wounded.

2nd Lieut. S. B. Hawes, Wounded, killed at Murfreesboro.

3rd Lieut. W. H. Skillman, Resigned

1st Sergt. J. L. White, Killed Camp Morton by D. Webster.

2nd Sergt. D. E. Turney, Promoted 1st lieut.

3rd Sergt. R. E. Hewitt, Killed Resaca.

4th Sergt. J. A. Allen, Elected 3rd Lieut., wounded at Chickamauga.

1st Corp. Eli Cheshire

2nd Corp. P. Punch

3rd Corp. J. E. Paton, Promoted Sergt.

4th Corp. F. Hurley


Allen, G. W.

Ardery, J. D., Died.

Allison, J. A.

Barry, Jno., Killed at Dallas, Ga.

Batterton, B. F., Promoted Sergt.

Bills, Lafayette, Promoted Corp.

Barlow, J. T., Died at Nashville.

Bickley, J. S., Died of wounds Hartsville, Tenn.

Butler, Wm.

Barnett, C. A.

Ballengal, J. F., Killed at Jonesboro.

Browning, Wm.

Biays, P. A.

Brooks, S. A., Killed at Murfreesboro.

Corrington, J. J. , Promoted to Sergt.

Crouch, John R.

Clark, Frank, Killed by Skillman.

Chiles, Jas. M., Killed at Dallas, Ga.

Davis, John C., Wounded & discharged

Fitzpatrick, W. P.

Gilvin, E. L.

Griffin, J. D.

Griffin, Anthoney, Wounded.

Howarth, J. H.

Howard, F. J.

Hibler, Geo. W., Wounded slightly.

Hite, Wm. O., Wounded at Mufreesboro.

Hite, Jno. W.

Hendricks, S. H.

Ivey, Chas. C., Pomoted 2nd Lieut. Breckinridge’s Staff.

Kirkpatrick, J. A.

Leer, W. H., Wounded Ft. Don.

Leggett, J. M.

Mann, Madison, Deserted.

Murphy, Peter, Killed at Chickamauga.

McIntire, G. W., Wounded slightly.

McGuire, J. M.

Mahone, Jno., Wounded 5 times.

McDonald, J. A.

McGhee, Jno. W., Promoted to 2nd Lieut.

Mernaugh, Jas., Wounded, promoted to Corp.

McKinney, Frank

McLane, Wm.

Nelson, H. R., Killed Ft. Don.

Nash, J. H., Wounded Ft. Don.

O’Neal, Wm., Killed Murfreesboro.

O’Brien, Mike, Wounded.

Purnell, W. J., wounded mortally.

Parris, J. M., Promoted 1st Lieut.

Phillips, E. T.

Phillips, L. W., Killed at Chickamauga.

Powers, Mike

Price, Vezey, Wounded Cynthiana, Ky.

Piper, H.

Priest, Jas.

Prather, R. M., Wounded Ft. Don.

Richardson, W. J., Wounded Ft. Don.

Richardson, H. C., Amnesty, Camp Morton.

Spraggins, S. L., Died Bowling Green.

Shields, W. T.,Wounded, killed at Murfreesboro.

Shannon, T. H., Promoted to Corp.

Smith, J. T., Wounded Ft. Don., Killed at Dallas.

Skinner, W. W., Killed at Chickamauga.

Sanders, J. L. Amnesty at Camp Morton.

Stone, W. G.

Trigg, Joe L.

Tucker, W. J.

Winston, J. M., Died.

Watts, Oscar, Wounded slightly. Killed at Resaca.

Waddell, James

Webster, Dan

York, Thomas

Young, Price R.

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