Sunday, February 11, 2007

A POWs Letter Home

A POWs Letter Home

I'm Cold, I'm Hungry and I think I'm Sick. No, that's not true I know that I'm sick. I've been in this damn POW camp for three months and my wound still aint healed. I'm not sure if anybody will ever get to read this but I hope my kids will. Maybe it will help them understand why I had to fight. I ain't normally a morose man but yesterday the guards shot Sgt. Lawson for trying to escape. Course he weren’t really trying to escape he just got too close to the fence. I ain't sure any of us are gonna get out of here alive.

I guess I oughta start at the beginning. I'm a farmer, I was born on my Daddy's farm back in 1835. I was a happy child, me and my brothers had lots of chores but we always had a lot of fun. At night Momma would gather us all around the big table and learn us our numbers and letters. I don't think Daddy thought that was important but Momma said a man needed to read in this modern age. At bedtime Daddy would tell us stories about the family. I'll never forget that look of pride he would get on his face when he told us how his Grandpa William had marched off to fight the British in 1774. He would tell us about his Uncle Richard figtin the English agin in 1812.

He told us that Flag was our family Crest, those red stripes were Hocutt blood and that if our country called it was our duty to answer. That old man would get to struttin around, wavin his arms around and telling us about how our family came over from England in the early 1700's. How they had helped to build this country. He would tell us about how his Daddy decided to take advantage of the free land being offered back in 1818 and loaded up his whole family into covered wagons. They crossed the wilderness, fought wild Indians and settled in the prettiest valley Daddy had ever seen.

Me and my brothers grew up proud and ready to do our duty. Then things started to change. Elijah started talking about state rights and how nobody in Washington DC had the right to tell him how to live. I can still remember when I was 10 and Uncle George came over and said to Daddy "Robert, South Carolina dun quit the United States. The Papers say the Yankee's are gonna send in troops." That was the first time I ever heard Daddy curse.

Of Course we learned a couple of weeks later that Carolina stayed in the country and how they compromised on free and slave states. I wanna tell you right now we didn't own no slaves, some of our rich Traywick cousins did but we were just poor dirt farmers. More and more folks starting talking about how Yankees couldn't make us Alabamans toe their line. My older brothers Rufus and Elijah would get into shouting fights with Daddy about it all.

I guess one of the saddest days in my Daddy's life was when we got word that Mr. Lincoln had been elected President and Alabama was gonna quit the Union. My brothers Rufus, Elijah and Felix went down to Tuscaloosa and joined the Infantry. I went over to Daddy's and talked to him about those stories he told us. I asked him if he would take care of my kids while I was away. Then I told him. He Said "Son, I understand your decision but you gotta know most folks around here won't."

The Next mornin I saddled up and rode off to Missouri. It took me a couple of weeks to get there but eventually I did. The reason I went all the way to Missouri to enlist was cause I didn't wanta have to face my own brothers on the battlefield. I gotta admit I was both proud and sad the day I put on that Blue uniform.

I did my duty, I fought the Rebels, fired on my neighbors and fellow southerners. I never enjoyed it but the nation must not be divided. I was never a hero just a common soldier serving his nation.

I got a letter last year from Momma, she said my brother Richard died in TN and two of my cousins were POW's somewhere up in New York. I don't know if I will ever see my farm back in Bama or my kids again, but if I do I hope the wounds caused by this terrible war don't destroy my family too. If I don't make it out of here I just want my brothers Rufus, Elijah and Felix to know I bear them no grudge for fighting for the Gray.

I don't think this damn war can possibly last much longer. The south has been chopped up and the guards were saying that General Sherman dun burned Atlanta to the ground. I'm hoping that they are right and the war ends soon. I would really like to see my kids again.

Alford Hocutt, Pvt
US Army
17th March 1865

NOTE: The facts in this article are true. The Names are true. I tried to imagine what Private Alford Hocutt would have said if I could have asked him why he left Tuscaloosa County Alabama to fight for the North. The Fact that he died in a Southern Prison Camp is both Ironic and sad.

2007 Update:

Several years ago while I was still actively doing Genealogy I met some of the descendants of this branch of my family. I was a bit odd but worth the drive to Northern Oklahoma to meet some family members that had an entirely different viewpoint of our family's "Southern" heritage.

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