Thursday, 25 January 2018

Confederate Flags

Last year, my cousin (twice-removed) David Walker passed away. As far as I can remember, I never actually met the man – maybe when I was very young – but we did trade correspondence on a couple of occasions. Both David and I were interested in the American Civil War, and specifically, our shared ancestor Maj. John Stewart Walker who fought for the Confederacy and was killed at the battle of Malvern Hill.

A few months after his death, I saw my cousin (once-removed) Lucy, and shave gave me the little painting seen here. She said she took it from the wall of David Walker’s house after everything else had been removed. Likely, no one in the family wanted the responsibility of what to do with this obviously old, but slightly…(actually, I’m not sure of the word I’m looking for here) piece of history. Lucy said she felt bad that it had been abandoned, and knowing my interested in the Civil War she took it for me.

For those who aren’t in the know about such things, the centre flag was the first official flag of the Confederacy. However, because of its similarities to the US Flag, it was soon replaced by the Confederate Battle Flag (the flag on the right) for military operations. The flag on the left is the third and final ‘official flag of the Confederacy’, and was only used for a few months before the Confederacy’s collapse.

While it’s nicely painted in most places, it has been somewhat crudely ‘cleaned’ with white paint in some spots.

When Lucy gave it to me, it was in a frame, and on the back was a little sticker that read:

Ernest Young
Art Store
3 N. Sevent St.
Phone 2656
Richmond, VA

I feel safe in assuming this is the company that framed it. I suppose, if I was really interested, I could get a sense of when it was framed by figuring out when Richmond would have used 4 digit phone numbers, but I’m not sure what this would really tell me about the piece.

Hoping to learn more, I took the painting out of its frame. Unfortunately, the frame was so old, it crumbled away during the process, and the endeavour proved mostly for naught. On the back of the painting, in pencil, are the numbers ‘9 x 11’ which is just the size of the piece, probably written by the framers, and one little line of illegible script in pencil, which may also be from the framers.

I fear it will remain a mystery. At a guess, I would say the painting was done by one of the wives or children of one of the Stewart brothers (At least 3 of whom fought for the Confederacy). I think it is old enough to date back to the war. More to the point, the further one gets in time from the war, the less likely it seems that anyone would paint such a piece.

So, now I am left with the question of what to do with it. I admit it, while I would feel no particular shame in hanging this on my wall (especially in a country where it would have little recognition or meaning) I feel no compulsion to do so. In fact, I’ve already got a photo of another of my Confederate ancestors on the wall – that’s probably enough for one war.

For now, I think I shall just put it away in my filing cabinet. Perhaps to save for another generation to ponder over.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

J. S. Walker Letter (3rd April 1862)

Camp August, near Lees Mill,
Postoffice Yorktown,
3d April, 1862.

My dear Wife:

                I have written to you twice since I returned to camp, but have not received a letter from you. I hope to hear soon, and that the Lord keeps you all in good health. I understand there are all sorts of startling rumors in Richmond about fighting on the Peninsular, all of which have not a bit of foundation in truth, and I doubt very much whether there will be any for some time if we wait for the enemy to attack us. I think it probable that Magruder will go down and attack the enemy as soon as he gets a force sufficient. In the meantime, I am more concerned about the reorganization of our Virginia forces.
                It requires a great deal of grace for me to see my men, who respect and are attached to me, leaving me for the artillery and Cavalry service only because it promises them some little relief from the arduous duties to which they have been subjected, and they may have the opportunity to get by home in order to report to the Company they propose to join. I have held myself above all influence with them and sympathize with them in their desire to get home and into easier service. I am determined to leave the whole matter in the hands of the Lord, only asking him to keep out of my heart any ambition, of which I see a great deal around me, and to direct my steps so that I may be useful to my country. I am willing to stay in the army for the war and am satisfied I would be most useful in the Infantry service. I could have easily raises several companies of Artillery, but do not and did not believe I would be promoting the cause by doing so, and consequently would not do it. I shall await Providential guidance and will try and submit patiently and humbly to whatever He may direct.   In the meantime, you had better get your furniture put in good order and let Coz Crenshaw have an idea that we propose selling out, that you may have a good customer.
                Kiss the dear children for father, and remember me kindly to all friends.

Friday, 4 March 2016

J.S. Walker Letter (23 March 1862)

[The date on my type-written copy of this letter is 3d March, 1862, which would put it before the previous one posted. However, the content implies not only that it comes after, but that it comes after John Stewart Walker had made a trip back home to Richmond. In the letter he says it is the Sabbath. For that reason, I suspect the actual date is the 23 March 1862 which was a Sunday.]

Camp Near Lees Mill,
3rd [Sic] March, 1862.

My dear Wife:

                I reached our camp after a walk of five miles on Friday evening and found my company out on picket. The next morning I was up by day and had orders to march by eight o’clock, as the enemy were said to be advancing. We marched over the point we had to defend and have been here ever since in the mud, and no enemy have yet made their appearance. I thought when I left, from the news I heard, that they would be fighting when I got here, but so far there is none. Every day’s delay but enables us to strengthen the points of our defence and renders more improbable that they will be allowed a quiet march to Richmond. The enemy have been very much emboldened and have come up higher than usual, but I think their movements are more strategic and for the purpose of reconnoitring than with any intent of coming up at present.
                It is a most excellent state for developing Christian grace, and tho this is the Sabbath, the necessary routine of camp activity would not indicate it. Yet amid it all there are moments and hours for self-examination and pious reflection, which I hope I may improve to my good both here and hereafter.
                It was most refreshing upon my return from that Sodom in which you reside to find my boys  and in fact all the soldiers amid the privations and trials to which they have been and still are subjected, in fine spirits and health and very glad to see me back. The atmosphere of such association is much more agreeable than that of the “Change” of Richmond, where the almighty dollar not only eclipses the spirit of patriotism, but I fear in too many instances the Almighty Himself.
                I was more than usual depressed on leaving home this time, owning to the fact that David will be absent and the doubt which hangs over you and my future as to my position and your disposition. I will trust it to the Lord and ask Him to direct, and He does all things well. I want to keep myself unspotted from the world and not be found in the reorganization of the army among the time servers, and even should it result in my being left out of Commission, tho it will be humiliating to me, I will regard it as by the Lord’s direction.
                Again I say give no credit to idle rumors, for they will be legion. Kiss the dear children and give love to all friends. Say to Mrs. Marston that her husband is well and will make a good soldier.

                                Yours very affectly.,

                                                Jno. S. Walker.

4 o’clock Sunday evening. Heavy firing toward Newport News.

Friday, 26 February 2016

J. S. Walker Letter (6 March 1862)

Camp near Leeds Mill,
Postoffice Yourktown,
6th March, 1862.

My dear Wife:

                I wrote that we would go Newport News. Instead of that we have broken up our winter quarters and moved back seven miles to this place and are now living in tents or marched in the rain up to our knees in mud, sometimes over the top of my boots, laid out all night in the rain and now on the damp ground. I am very, very well and hope I may so continue. I have not received your box of goodies and fear I will never see it.
                I do not know whether my Company will re-enlist or not and whether I will be Captain of it. I wait on Providential direction. I do not think, after the duty I have performed in the cause, that I should be bound to go into the ranks provided I do not get up a Company, and shall not do it unless it becomes a case of greater necessity than now is. The recent hard march of our Regiment has dispirited the men for the Infantry service.
                I am writing on my knee, so you must overlook the bad writing, and I hasten to send it to the Post, as I have opportunity and wish to relieve you of any anxiety on the subject of my movements. I do not now know when I shall be able to get home, but try and be contented.
                Kiss the dear children, and give love to all friends.

                                                                Yours ever affectionately,

                                                                                Jno. S. Walker

Sunday, 14 February 2016

J. S. Walker Letter (2 March 1862)

Camp Deas, near Youngs Mill, 2d March, 1862

My very dear Wife:

            I wrote you a few days ago in anticipation of a march and an attack upon Newport News. We are still here, and I think that expedition given out for the present. We have been ordered and have sent all our heavy baggage to the rear, with an order to have our tents pitched about ten miles from here towards Williamsburg, so we may be marched back instead of forward in a few days. It seems to be the general policy to draw our lines in, and not undertake to defend so much country with our small forces compared with the enemies.
I expect it will be right rough going into tents this season of the year, after being two months in comfortable log huts, but that good Heavenly Father which has kept me in health so far still reigns and will temper the weather (wind) to the shorn lamb. I will trust Him to the last. I do not know when I shall be able to get home and will have to be content.
I wanted to go up to recruit my Company for the war, but Providence seems to be against it, and I submit willingly, knowing that He knows what is best and the end will prove it. Say to Bro. David if he can get any recruits for my Company to do so.
I think if you will direct your letters to Capt. Jno. S. Walker, 15th Regt., Virga. Vols., Yorktown, I think  I will get them. I cannot now say where I will be a few days hence.
I do earnestly hope that the uprising of a nation to prayer on fast day is to tell for our present and eternal good as a people, and that Christians everywhere will continue constant prayer for our speedy deliverance from our enemies. Prayer with its attendant blessings of Heavenly recognition and Divine interposition alone can save us, and not our strong arm alone in which we have boasted and trusted.
Give my love to all and kiss the dear little ones for father, and may the Lord continues His comfort and protection to you all.

                                    Your affectionate husband,

                                                Jno. S. Walker

P. S. Sunday evening. We have orders to have two days’ rations cooked and I think it more than probable that we will march tomorrow for Newport News to attack it. I shall go trusting in God and entrusting you and the children to His care. Remember us in your prayers, and come what may, life or death, prison or liberty, let your faith in the promise that all things work together for good sustain you. Say nothing about the movement and give no credit to idle rumors you may hear.

                        Ever yours affectionately,

                                    Jno. S. Walker

Saturday, 6 February 2016

J.S. Walker Letter (26 Feb 1862)

Camp Deas, near Youngs Mill, 26th Feby., 1862

My very dear Wife:

            Your very welcome letter of the 24th inst. covering the last Advocate was received last evening by Mr. Williams, the more welcomed because it breathed the true spirit of patriotism, with a constant dependence upon our God. Your heroic consecration of your husband to the service of our Country, even at the cost of widowhood to yourself, orphanage to our little ones, and poverty to all, demanded even my admiration of your sacrifice, though I thought I had been able before to appreciate the blessing of so noble a wife as I have. It was indeed oil to my wounded spirit, not that I despaired of God’s protection to my country by that my faith in the spirit of our people was shaken. For the past ten days I have been able to do nothing but pray for my country and our cause, to bear to the altar my bleeding country and ask the God of battles to defend and keep us. I have found comfort in the exercise and have been able to lay all on the altar, and willing to sacrifice life, property, and all. The last and hardest struggle was to give up my dear family to the mercies of a ruthless foe, if it need be. That I now do, with the assurance in yours, of your willingness to be left to the care of our good Heavenly Father.
            The question of re-enlisting is one that no longer occupies my mind, the development of the recent reverses decide that for me. My place is now in the army till the end of the war, or death takes me hence. It is my place as a Christian, husband, father, master, and patriot, and tho I may be called upon to pass through deep waters and great afflictions, I will fear no evil for my trust is firmly fixed on God. Now that I have gotten the victory over Satan and all worldly considerations, I find the evil one tempting me with military ambition, and by appealing to my pride, to determine to hand down to my family a name for some daring heroic deed. Oh that the Lord will keep me humble and direct me by his Spirit. Oh, that I may always realize my own unworthiness and lean alone upon his strong arm for protection. I know that our recent disasters have already proven a great blessing to me individually, and I heard in conversation last night among some of our officers, unconsecrated men, the expression of great confidence in the power of prayer for a nation’s welfare. In reading the inaugural of our President, it seemed true his closing prayer for our country was accompanied by the Spirit, and answered in Heaven. In the conversation above alluded to, in defence of the Christian’s confidence in Heaven’s protection to our cause, I read to them apportion of your letter to show that even a dependent woman in the hour of sore trial can by God’s spirit be nerved as the most courageous on the battlefield, and can even laugh at damage and trial, tho they stare them in the face. I know that the Lord will protect and keep you and yours, and when you see your neighbours running about panic struck, and seeking a place of refuge from their fears, then go to your closet and alone with God, ask His council and protection, and amid the storm without you will enjoy the perfect calm. In your denunciation of the lukewarm and indifferent, be charitable, and let prayer for them take the place of contempt, above all keep yourself humble and pride under your feet. I wish I could have a short time of sweet Christian communion with you in our little room at home, I long for Christian sympathy and encouragement, and still hope that I will be privileged soon to enjoy it.
            I wrote you a hurried letter on Sunday, announcing that we should soon be ordered to march to Newport News to attack it, and asking your prayers for our success. We still await marching orders, and they may come at any moment, or they may not come at all. If not, I shall try and get up for a day or two soon, tho in this life everything is particularly uncertain, and continually reminds me more of the necessity of securing that only certainty, eternal life.
            At our prayer meeting last night, I felt more than usual freedom in prayer, and while I prayed with confidence for our cause, I found myself with strong faith realizing in this revolution, not only the restoration of civil liberty, but the rekindling of pure religion in the land, which in its moral effect will bring greater consequences to the world than the reformation, aye, even the dawning of millennial glory. God grant it may be so, that as we suffer in the flesh, we may gain in the spirit.
            I doubt very much the propriety or necessity of Amandus going into the army. His deafness is a very serious obstacle, and might prove a very dangerous one. He would be disqualified for guard and picket duty, and to me it seems providential, for without Grace he would be ruined by the temptations of camp. I think it my duty to write to him upon the subject and suggest to him the propriety of not going in. I believe it will be a great trial of his pride to stay at home while others are going.
            What will you say when I tell you that for the past few days I have found my recreation in reading the History of Scandinavia, and found it very interesting. The good books you sent me have been my soul’s comfort, the little library a great comfort and privilege to my men during the long season of rain and wet.
            The daguerotype of my family keeps their faces before my eye, while they ever live in my heart. God bless them and keep them. Kiss the dear children for father and teach their little lips and hearts to pray for our country. Remember me kindly to all friends, and continue constant in prayers for our deliverance from our enemy and sin.

                        Every your affectionate husband,

                                    Jno. S. Walker.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

J. S. Walker Letter (23 Feb 1862)

Camp Deas, 23d Febry, 1862

My dear Wife:

            I have not written because I have not had opportunity or anything to write about. I thank God that I continue in good health and try to be thankful for all my blessings, [missing word] while I humble myself before God on account of my country and cause. I feel like praying God at all times for his intercession in our behalf, and that He will bring us deliverance from our enemies and war. You may expect to hear of our going down to Newport News this week. If so, we will be very apt to encounter the enemy. Then let us pray with stronger faith than ever, not only for protection against sudden death and danger but for the Lord to manifest himself in our behalf and give us victory over our enemies.
            Oh, pray God to give me a spirit to meet any issue and to keep me in his holy keeping. I believe He will give me grace for every hour of need. Covenant with your praying friends for God’s blessing, and let the National feast day be kept in the spirit as well as the letter. God will bless us. I shall go taking my life in my hands with my trust in God. Do not speak of this except to David, to who I have written the same. Give no heed to idle rumors, for they will be legion, but await the official returns if we move down to meet the enemy. May the Lord have you all in his holy keeping and be your rock and defence. Then you need fear no enemy, for He is with you. Kiss the dear children for me. I write in great haste to send by Mr. Mayo. This is Sunday, the Lord’s day.

                        Yours affectionately,

                                    Jno. S. Walker