Sunday, September 12, 2010

1LT G.W. Askew's Vicksburg Parole Certificate

As my father, brother, and I began our initial research into our family history … we didn’t have a lot of information. My father visited a distant cousin and was able to obtain access to several original documents. One of which was the original Vicksburg Parole certificate for 1st Lieutenant George Washington Askew of the 42nd Alabama dated July 10, 1863 and signed by a paroling officer from an Illinois Regiment. These were issued to Southern soldiers shortly following the July 4, 1863 Confederate surrender. Initially both the U.S. and Confederate governments relied on the traditional European system of parole and prisoner exchange. The terms called for prisoners to give their word not to take up arms against their captors until they were formally exchanged for an enemy captive of equal rank. These exchanges were completed on paper … while the soldiers remained in their unit Parole camp until formally exchanged. Later the parole system was abolished and the Prison Camp system was established by both sides during the War. On the back side is a note providing transportation and an approved 30 day leave of absence for my GGGrandfather at the end of which he will report to the Parole Camp at Demopolis, Alabama. The approved leave of absence is signed by his Regimental Commander, LTC Thomas Lanier on July 20, 1863.

Of course, my GGGrandfather’s Parole Certificate captured our curiosity as to the actions of the 42nd Alabama during the campaign and siege of Vicksburg. We conducted quite a bit of research which included several trips to Vicksburg National Battlefield Park. The positions for the 42nd Alabama are clearly marked and located just behind the Visitors center near the old city cemetery. During the siege the cemetery was the approximate location of the 2nd Texas lunette. The 2nd Texas was a sister regiment of the 42nd Alabama under the brigade command of General John C. Moore. The 42nd Alabama covered the right flank portion of entrenchments for the Brigade. The road in front of the Visitors Center cuts perpendicular through the 42nd Alabama positions. Their position of entrenchments ran from the current cemetery across the road and overlooked the railroad cut of the Southern Railroad of Mississippi.

The 42nd Alabama held this position from the beginning of May through the surrender on July 4th 1863. During the period of the siege the 42nd Alabama assisted in repelling two direct assaults on 19 and 22 May. It is difficult to imagine the conditions in which these soldiers lived for the remaining time until the surrender … little food, crowding, constant bombardment, and terrible sanitary conditions. I have included a telling quote from General Moore describing the worsening conditions, "From this time to the close of the siege (forty-seven days) our men were confined to the trenches night and day under a fire of musketry and artillery, which was often kept up during the whole night as well as the day. Only those who were a near witness of the siege of Vicksburg will ever have a true conception of the endurance and suffering of these men, who stood at their post until overpowered, not by the enemy, but by the wants of nature. Those who only think and read of the siege, and those who witnessed and shared its trials, may perhaps form widely different conceptions of its nature. Some idea may be formed of the artillery fire to which we were exposed, when I state that a small party sent out for that purpose collected some two thousand shells near and in rear of the trenches occupied by our brigade."

For more information of the 42nd Alabama’s participation in the campaign and siege of Vicksburg please feel free to read my web published articles.

The 42nd Alabama and the Campaigns for Vicksburg

The 42nd Alabama and the Siege of Vicksburg