Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sad Story of Tallahassee's Mystery Soldier

When the War Between the States came to an end, a mysterious soldier was left behind in a Tallahassee hospital.

So little was known about him that no one could identify him and because he had been wounded in battle, he could tell those caring for him nothing about himself. More than a full year after the end of the war, the people of Tallahassee could do nothing to help return him to his lost friends and family.

It was speculated that he had been wounded by a shell during the Battle of Natural Bridge (please click here to learn more about that engagment near Tallahassee), but otherwise nothing was known about him.

The strange case finally attracted the attention of The New York Times. The paper re-published the following item on the mystery man from the Tallahassee Sentinel on July 13, 1866:
Our exchanges, by answering our query, may bring joy to some fond heart, that mourns as dead, an unfortunate man whom we saw at the hospital in this place on yesterday. So sad a picture as his anxious face presents it has not often been our lot to look upon. No account whatever can be gathered of him here. When the United States forces took possession of Tallahassee they found this man in the (then) Confederate hospital, and he has not been heard to speak since. His face ever wears an expression of most anxious care. The moment any one enters his room he turns with an imploring glance, intensified by an expression of fear. Oh! That look can never be forgotten – so full of petition, dread and woe! He wrings his hands incessantly, and seems just uttering some earnest request; but never speaks. Repeated efforts have been made to induce him to write. But he takes the pen mechanically, as he does everything else, and gazes up into your face with that same earnest look of undefined supplication and dread.

When he is left alone with his food he eats heartily, and until recently his general health has been good. He is now a little emaciated. Occasionally he has been known to creep stealthily to his window, and open it cautiously. But in doing so he seems to dread some catastrophe.

We have made considerable inquiry about him in the city, and can gather no clue as to the exact time when he was brought to Tallahassee, or from where. One account supposes that he was brought up here a month or two before the surrender from the hospital in Monticello. Another says that some Confederate soldier, who has seen him here, remembers that he saw him in the Natural Bridge fight – that he was then wearing a Major’s star, and that he fought bravely. He supposes that the explosion of a shell near his head paralyzed his speech and deprived him partially of reason.

It is strange that he should have remained here so long without being identified. He is a man of commanding figure, we should think six feet one or two inches in height, if strong and robust would weigh about 160 pounds, seems to be between 35 and 40 years of age, has a prominent forehead, dark hair, a large gray eye, and rather prominent nose. He is as docile as a child, obeying mechanically every command – and with such an expression as would move a heart of stone.

1 comment:

Terry Sirmans said...

What an interesting story! Wonder what the casualty lists from Natural Bridge show that might be a clue? Would be fun to research it.