Saturday, March 1, 2014

Prattville Dragoons Camp Meeting for February 2014 - Part 4

The guest speaker at the Dragoons February 2014 Camp Meeting was Colonel (retired) Mark Anderson who provided a presentation on Robert E. Lee, his father Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee and Stratford Hall where Lee was born and raised.  The following was provided by Col. Anderson detailing his presentation.

Martin Parks was a member of the West Point class of 1826. He was a senior during Lee's plebe year. He resigned from the Army in 1828 and became a minister. As such, he served as chaplain at West Point from 1840-1846. While at West Point, Parks was offered the position of Bishop of Alabama. He declined.

Thomas Jackson had entered West Point in 1842, so Parks was the chaplain during Jackson's West Point years. Almost immediately after graduation and commissioning as an artillery officer, Jackson became involved in the Mexican War. In that capacity, he accompanied Gen. Scott on the march from Vera cruz to Mexico City. It was in Mexico that he met Robert E. Lee for the first time. By the end of that War, though officially only a first lieutenant, Jackson had earned the brevet rank of Major and was known as "Major Jackson" for the next 13 years.

After the War, his next assignment was a posting to New York City where, as fate would have it, Martin Parks was serving as assistant rector of Trinity Parish.         Parks' assignment was to the little St. Paul's Chapel, located near the Battery where Jackson was stationed.       It is said that it was in that chapel that Stonewall Jackson received his first communion--from Martin Parks. As a final note, this little church, St. Paul's Chapel, completed in 1766, is the oldest surviving church building in Manhattan.            Its address is 209 Broadway, but its rear is on Church Street, directly across from the World Trade Center. This little church is the one that survived the collapse of the Twin Towers.

Walter Taylor was Gen. Lee's adjutant. Taylor wrote a letter to his sister on June 29, 1863, from Chambersburg, Pa., about his time in Hagerstown, Md. The letter is quoted in the book Lee's Adjutant. As it appears there, he wrote "I called on Mr. Parks, Mrs. Osborne &c."
In the same book, there is a July 17th letter from Taylor to his older brother, Maj. Richard Taylor, in which he says: "I expect Mrs. Parks will write to Norfolk & advise of the safety of all of us." Remember that by this time, Norfolk was in Union hands and, once the Confederates were back across the Potomac, the mails were open between Hagerstown and Norfolk. Lt. William W. Chamberlaine, a native of Norfolk, said that on his return from Gettysburg, he visited with "the family" of a former rector of Christ Church in Norfolk, "Mr. Parks".

Martin Philips Parks, who was graduated from West Point in 1826 was that rector. He had served as rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Norfolk from 1837 to 1840, before returning to West Point as its chaplain. During his time in Norfolk, he had christened Walter Taylor. So that's why Taylor visited the family.  Based on this information, it is obvious that either the editor of Taylor's letter misread it, or the publisher misprinted it, and that Taylor wrote that he had visited Mrs. Parks.

In the 1860 Washington County, Maryland, census, there is a Mary Osborn, a 21 year old Viginia Native, along with a 4 year old Charles Osborn, living in the household of Mrs. Mary E. Beatty, a Pennsylvania native. The Parks family was in the same household.

Rev. Leighton Parks, Martin Parks' youngest son in 1903 wrote a book, Turnpikes and Dirt Roads, that he published in the 1920s. In these works, he states that his mother was a widow and that she had known Maj. Taylor "since he was a lad". Turnpikes is a semi-autobiographical work in which Leighton describes his taking a basket of raspberries to Gen. Lee's camp. The raspberry incident also appears in Freeman's R.E. Lee.

In Turnpikes, appears that famous description of the Confederate soldiers as they passed through Maryland:

They were the dirtiest men I ever saw, a most ragged, lean, and hungry set of wolves. Yet there was a dash about them that the northern men lacked. They rode like circus riders . Many of them were from the far South and spoke a dialect I could scarcely understand. They were profane beyond belief and talked incessantly. There was a great deal of laughing and good-natured banter. But, like all soldiers, they were kind to children,-­
indeed to everyone. I shall always think it wonderful that, considering what those men had undergone, they should have borne themselves so gently in the enemy's land.

It is those ragged, lean and hungry men that we remember. Men who for four years upheld the honor of the South, always against odds.

In the movie "Gettysburg", there's an exchange between Gen. Lewis Armistead and the English Col. Frernantle, just before the fateful charge. Armistead says:

We're all sons of Virginia, here. That major out there commanding the cannon, that's James Dearing, first in his class at West Point before Virginia seceded. And the boy over there with the color guard, that's Pvt. Robert Tyler Jones. His grandfather was president of the United States. The colonel behind me, that's Col. William Aylett. Now his great-grandfather was the Virginian Patrick Henry, who said to your King George the Third, 'Give me liberty or give me death!'

"There are boys here from Norfolk, Portsmouth, small hamlets along the James River, from Charlottesville and Fredericksburg, the Shenandoah Valley. Mostly they're all veteran soldiers now. The cowards and the shirkers are long gone. Every man here knows his duty. They would make this charge even without an officer to lead them. They know the gravity of the situation and the mettle of their foe.They know that this day's work will be desperate and deadly. They know that, for many of them, this will be their last charge. But not one of them needs to be told what is expected of him. They're all willing to make the supreme sacrifice to achieve victory here, the crowning victory, and the end of this war.

And now, it is we, in whose veins their blood flows, who are left to keep the faith and defend the Cause. God help us to honor our heritage.

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