John McElroy / Andersonville: A STORY OF REBEL MILITARY PRISONS – FIFTEEN MONTHS A GUEST OF THE SO-CALLED
SOUTHERN CONFEDERACY / 1879
Beginning of Ch 22 DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ALABAMIANS AND GEORGIANS–DEATH OF “POLL PARROTT” –A GOOD JOKE UPON THE GUARD–A BRUTAL RASCAL.
There were two regiments guarding us–the Twenty-Sixth Alabama and the Fifty-Fifth Georgia. Never were two regiments of the same army more different. The Alabamians were the superiors of the Georgians in every way that one set of men could be superior to another. They were manly, soldierly, and honorable, where the Georgians were treacherous and brutal. We had nothing to complain of at the hands of the Alabamians; we suffered from the Georgians everything that mean-spirited cruelty could devise. The Georgians were always on the look-out for something that they could torture into such apparent violation of orders, as would justify them in shooting men down; the Alabamians never fired until they were satisfied that a deliberate offense was intended. I can recall of my own seeing at least a dozen instances where men of the Fifty-Fifth Georgia Killed prisoners under the pretense that they were across the Dead Line, when the victims were a yard or more from the Dead Line, and had not the remotest idea of going any nearer.
The only man I ever knew to be killed by one of the Twenty-Sixth Alabama was named Hubbard, from Chicago, Ills., and a member of the Thirty-Eighth Illinois. He had lost one leg, and went hobbling about the camp on crutches, chattering continually in a loud, discordant voice, saying all manner of hateful and annoying things, wherever he saw an opportunity. This and his beak-like nose gained for him the name of “Poll Parrot.” His misfortune caused him to be tolerated where another man would have been suppressed. By-and-by he gave still greater cause for offense by his obsequious attempts to curry favor with Captain Wirz, who took him outside several times for purposes that were not well explained. Finally, some hours after one of Poll Parrot’s visits outside, a Rebel officer came in with a guard, and, proceeding with suspicious directness to a tent which was the mouth of a large tunnel that a hundred men or more had been quietly pushing forward, broke the tunnel in, and took the occupants of the tent outside for punishment. The question that demanded immediate solution then was:
“Who is the traitor who has informed the Rebels?”
Suspicion pointed very strongly to “Poll Parrot.” By the next morning the evidence collected seemed to amount to a certainty, and a crowd caught the Parrot with the intention of lynching him. He succeeded in breaking away from them and ran under the Dead Line, near where I was sitting in, my tent. At first it looked as if he had done this to secure the protection of the guard. The latter–a Twenty-Sixth Alabamian –ordered him out. Poll Parrot rose up on his one leg, put his back against the Dead Line, faced the guard, and said in his harsh, cackling voice:
“No; I won’t go out. If I’ve lost the confidence of my comrades I want to die.”
Part of the crowd were taken back by this move, and felt disposed to accept it as a demonstration of the Parrot’s innocence. The rest thought it was a piece of bravado, because of his belief that the Rebels would not injure, him after he had served them. They renewed their yells, the guard again ordered the Parrot out, but the latter, tearing open his blouse, cackled out:
“No, I won’t go; fire at me, guard. There’s my heart shoot me right there.”
There was no help for it. The Rebel leveled his gun and fired. The charge struck the Parrot’s lower jaw, and carried it completely away, leaving his tongue and the roof of his mouth exposed. As he was carried back to die, he wagged his tongue rigorously, in attempting to speak, but it was of no use.
The guard set his gun down and buried his face in his hands. It was the only time that I saw a sentinel show anything but exultation at killing a Yankee.