Monday, May 10, 2010

Parole, Maryland

Our next stop is on the way out of Annapolis, in the little town/area of Parole. When I was a child, its main claim to fame was that it was the posh area to shop near Annapolis. In 1961, ground was broken for the Parole Plaza, an open air mall anchored by a Sears store. It's hard to believe from the pictures above, taken after the shopping center was abandoned and before it was torn down to be redeveloped as yet another mall, but it was a shopping destination. Before it was built, people had to go to Baltimore or Washington DC for large department stores. This was just before enclosed shopping malls were developed, so Parole Plaza was built around a grassy center courtyard, and you walked from store to store outside. Parole Plaza was blamed for killing the shopping district in downtown Annapolis, and in a bit of poetic justice, the Annapolis Mall that was built in later years did the same thing to Parole Plaza. By the 1990s it had fallen on hard times, and now it's gone.

The area is named for Camp Parole, where prisoners of war were held during the Civil War. Union soldiers who had been captured in the South were held there while corresponding Confederate prisoners were exchanged for them. Once the exchanging was done, they were sent back to their homes or their former regiments. Below is a letter which one of the prisoners sent to his hometown newspaper in Indianapolis:

Parole Camp, Annapolis, MD.,
February 8, 1863.

Editor Journal: After wandering over the bounds of this camp to the Bay Shore and back again this beautiful Sabbath day, to retire to my tent with my fellow comrades, I feel a degree of languor that almost subsides into a stupidity and carelessness which is not common but wrong for a soldier. How can we be composed , how can we divest ourselves of the great melancholy that pervades us.—The last day of the year 1862 hundreds of us were compelled to surrender as prisoners of war before Murfreesboro, Tenn. As fast as possible we were paroled, placed in cars upon the railroad for Chattanooga and informed by the Confederate officers having us in charge that our final destination was Vicksburg, Miss. The railroad communication was so damaged that our transportation was not only very expensive, but quite circuitous. Some of the points we made were Atlanta, Georgia, through North Carolina, Montgomery Alabama, to the State of Florida, to a city wearing the name of Pollard. Here an officer in charge received a dispatch from the authorities to return to Richmond, Va., which was done, and in an almost starving and naked condition we were introduced to our lodgings in Richmond, to-wit: Castle Thunder, on the 18th of January. After two weeks of a stay and short rations of bread and soup we were stripped of the remnant of our little extras, placed on cars, taken to City Point on board the steamers New York and Express and, by way of Fortress Monroe, we arrived at this old city.

The weather has been very unfavorable for remaining without shelter. But so many of us have been thrown here at one time that we have been compelled to remain out of doors, exposed to snow storms, pelting rains, and piercing winds, without clothes to keep us warm; but it was a military necessity and was complied with. But fortune and the government have at last favored us. It is not only amusing but interesting to see the boys this warm, pleasant day passing about completely enveloped in new suits who, three days since, were passing around or shivering about the poor camp fires in tatters and rags dodging snow and rain.

Various are the private letters and petitions that have been directed to Governor Morton for his aid, assistance and influence for our removal to Camp Morton. We are all soldiers in the Army of the Cumberland. We have long undergone the privations incident to the army almost without a murmur. Unfortunately for a while we are compelled to lay down our arms, and why not let us be in our own State during the interval. We are ready and willing at any time for an exchange that will return us again to our regiments, but as with the voice of one man we cry for home (several hundred of us); if we fail in this, as we all now fully contemplate we will not, I fear it may result in a dissatisfaction among and with us. None doubt but that we will all soon seen Indianapolis; all are loud in the praise of our noble Governor, who has already won our favor by his kindness manifested towards Indiana soldiers, and for his patriotism in the cause in which we are engaged and have left our homes and risked our lives to sustain.

There are thousands of troops here from every loyal or half loyal State in the Union; some very hard boys and some very good.—There is plenty of everything to sell to satisfy the cravings of appetite and clothing to decorate the bodies of us soldiers, and very cheap; but very unfortunately the boys are out of money, and we are enjoying ourselves entirely at Uncle Sam’s expense. It is quite cheap living. We have some sickness among us, and rumors of smallpox among us brought from Richmond.
Yours truly,
Masten Dashiel

miles walked to date: 101