Civil War journal preserved

August 31, 2007

by Tina Marie Alvarenga

Tech President Emeritus F. Jay Taylor has donated a journal documenting Civil War combat through the eyes of Robert Patrick, who served as a clerk in the commissary and Quartermaster department of the Fourth Louisiana Infantry, to the department of archives.

Peggy Carter, university archivist, said the journal was given to Taylor by Patrick’s great aunt, Adele Nash Etheridge, of Colfax.
With the journals, Taylor edited “The Reluctant Rebel: The Secret Diary of Robert Patrick, 1861-1865,” which was first published in 1959.

“There are many manuscripts out there,” Carter said. “This one is different because of his [level of] education and area he served.”

Patrick’s original journal was composed in a notebook, which consisted of 233 pages, in Benn Pitman Shorthand, a system of handwriting.

In his journal Patrick said he wanted to express, in his opinion, the reason behind the Civil War.

Patrick claims the war was between the fire eaters of the North and the fire eaters of the South.

The term “fire eaters” referred to a group of extremist pro-slavery politicians who urged the separation of Southern states into a new nation.

Brandi Seavy, library specialist, said Patrick’s journals give people a unique perspective on the war.

“It provides a good insight that history books cannot provide. There were ships burned that he saw,” Seavy said. “The devastations to homes and families, like crops and cattle. And deprivation of the soldiers and everyone in the South.”

Carter said she believes if Taylor had not realized the importance of the journals, Patrick’s memory would have faded away.

“If they’re not in the archives, they’re not grouped together and passed on to other generations,” Carter said.

Also donated to the university May 22, were Patrick’s Shakespeare book from which he quoted while keeping his journal, his original obituary and the briefcase in which Taylor held all these items since the ’50s.

Carter said an exhibit of all the artifacts donated will open in late June or early July in the Tech department of archives.