Friday, January 26, 2007

Prison Notebook of Captain James M. McNeill

Louise McNeill, Pocahontas County's most famous poet, wrote a short piece about her paternal grandfather, called The Prison Notebook of Captain James M. McNeill, C.S.A.. Here's an excerpt:

James McNeill, "Grandpa Jim", grew up on the family farm at Buckeye, Pocahontas County. He remembered seeing the wild pigeons how all day long, flying over, their wings darkened the sun. Almost his first memory was of the big and the three smaller Indians who came to his mother's cabin when he was five or six years old. He remembered, too, going to "pay school" and cutting his bare feet on the crick ice....

[In the Battle of Droop Mountain, November 6, 1863] Jim McNeill was captured and started on his long journey to Fort Delaware. Driven north along the Droop road with the prisoners, he met his Yankee brother, Al, hurrying south with the Federal troops. "Howdy, Jim," said Al with a kind of narrow, Scotch-Irish triumph. But the Captain didn't even nod. "The Rebels ain't speakin' today." He looked straight ahead of him and went on to Fort Delaware prison where he was held prisoner till June 13, 1865....somehow, there he got hold of a pen and a little brown notebook and with only a few months of "pay school" for his literary stylistics began to write poems....

The notebook is a small, ledger-like book, some six by four inches in size, and is faded and torn. It has lain undisturbed in the top drawer of a black walnut highboy these 100 years and is filled with jottings and poems.Some of the poems are good poems, and many of them are written from a war prisoner's point-of-view.

1 comment:

Larry said...

Hi, Rebecca. Thanks for emerging from lurkerdom over at my blog.

I must confess I'd never given any thought to the subjects of Latvian mittens or the mechanics of lingerie-crafting.

Interesting blog you have! We share several interests; I'll link to you, and I'll be back.