April 2, 1892
Mr. D. B. Bird, Jr.
My Dear Sir:
Your esteemed favor asking the facts concerning your father's death received. It affords me a mournful pleasure to comply with your request, and I will be most happy if in anyway I can contribute to your mother's desire.
As to your father's death and the manner of it there can be no doubt or uncertainty. He fell in the performance of duty at the post of danger, I may say leading a "forlorn hope" and acquitted himself most nobly as became a brave Confederate soldier. These facts are known to a crowd (?) of witnesses - his comrades, who watched his daring charge and saw his untimely fall.
Well do I remember the day, one of the most eventful of my life. It was on the 3rd day of June, 1864, at the Second Battle of Cold Harbor where the genius of Lee again baffled and defeated the persistence of Grant. The circumstances were about at follows.
Under cover of the early dawn of day, the enemy assaulted and captured a part of our line - held by General Breckenridge's Division - to which we were acting as a Reserve. Our brigade had bivouacked upon the ground, and the charging troops of the enemy were almost upon us before General Finegan could get his men into line and ready to repulse them. But our men responded promptly and moved with such alacrity as to "sweep the enemy before them like a whirlwind", as was described by Georgia's great war correspondent, P. W. A. We had recaptured and reoccupied our entrenchments, but the enemy's sharpshooters still occupied a line of rifle pits covering our front, from which they kept up an annoying and deadly fire. About 10 o'clock in the morning it was determined to make an effort to recover them. A detail from the Brigade was made and Major Bird ordered to command it. At the word, they all leaped over the breastworks and started at a run. As they did so, the enemy received them with a destructive fire, both from the rifle pits and their main line, resulting in the killing and wounding of nearly every man who composed the detail, among them your gallant and heroic father.
My eyes were upon him from the moment he started up that desperate charge until he fell, pieced by two bullets.
In less time than I take to write it, in response to a mute appeal which I can never forget, I jumped over the breastworks and ran to his assistance. I had just reached his side and was in the act of lifting him up when I too was shot down. About the same time, Lieutenant Lane of our battalion (the 6th Florida) came out on the same mission and met the same fate, the poor fellow dying from his wounds some days afterward. Still another ventured a rescue, and he was also shot down.
Later on, when the murderous fire had slackened a little, Sgt. Bryan of my Co. "D" came to my assistance and two others whose names I cannot now recall to your father's and by hugging the ground fairly dragged us inside our works, a little way at a time, as the lull in the enemy's fire would allow them to move.
After getting inside the breastworks we were compelled to lie there all day and far into the night, before the furious fire would admit our removal, and even then after we had started, the litter bearers were once or twice compelled to drop their burdens and lie prone upon the ground to protect themselves from the deadly missles (sp) that filled the air. After halting a while at the field hospital, where we received the first surgical attention since being wounded twelve hours before, we were carried to the corps hospital where we were kept until ambulances could be had to convey us to Richmond. We were placed in the Howard Grove Hospital, which was under the charge of Dr. T. M. Palmer, with Dr. Babcock, late of Jacksonville, as his assistant. Mrs. M. M. Reid, was there as a ministering angel doing all that woman could and what only woman can do - to soothe, comfort and console the wounded, whose name was legion.
Mrs. D. Palmer was there also, thus your father fell into the hands of skillful surgeons and kind and sympathetic friends; but alas, his wounds were mortal. The surgeons' art, nor the tears and prayers of woman, availed him naught.
We were placed in the same ward and upon cots only a short distance from each other, I could see and hear all that took place. He was deeply concerned for his fate but realized his awful condition, and when informed there was no hope set himself about making preparations for the end, which could no long be deferred. There were religious devotions and sending of word of love and a sad farewell to his wife and children far away, and who would never again see him in this mortal life, and finally calling all to witness that he died an honorable and manly death as a Confederate soldier in the performance of his duty in defense of his country; still in his sore extremely thinking of home and family and making such arrangements as his weak and exhausted condition would admit of. With a prayer up his lips, he died a soldier's death and passed to a soldier's reward, on the 5th day of June, 1864.
Such was the fall and death of your honored father, Major Pickens B. Bird – as generous a soul, as brave a man, and as gallant a soldier as wore the Confederate uniform, and more than that could not be said of any many.
In his patriotic endeavor, a faithful service and noble death his wife and children possess a legacy sealed by the heart's blood of one of nature's nobleman.
I trust you will pardon the intrusion of myself into this true story of a . . .
[The letter ends here... some is missing. Major Pickens B. Bird is buried in the Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia.]
Other Letters from Olustee
Battle of Olustee home page