Sunday, 28 November 2010

Maj. John Stewart Walker

When I was just a little boy, spending the summer holidays on my grandfather’s farm, I remember seeing a frame that held the remains of a confederate uniform. The uniform belonged to my great-great-great grandfather, Major John Stewart Walker who was killed at the battle of Malvern Hill.
I’m not sure where that original uniform is now, but I at least have a photographic copy of it, and if I ever managed to find a scanner big enough, I’ll be sure to share it. It only contains the sleeves and the major’s stars from the collar, but there is something more than a little haunting about it.
Despite all of this, I only know a little about the man and his short military career. I believe he came from Lynchburg, VA. He joined up early in the war as part of the 15th Virginia Infantry, a unit constructed from numerous independent groups, mostly from in and around Richmond. Walker served during the battle of Big Bethel, arguably the first land battle of the war.
The unit next fought during the Seven Days battles, and in the last of those, the battle of Malvern Hill, John Stewart Walker was killed by an artillery shell. His death is recorded in the official records:
“My own coat, while I was in front of the Fifteenth Virginia was cut by a fragment of a shell. Major [John Stewart] Walker was soon after killed while advancing with his regiment.”

Paul J. Semmes
I have in my possession type-written copies of letters that John Stewart Walker wrote to his wife during the war. They are old and faded.  It is my goal over the coming months to retype these old letters to produce a fresh copy, and to have them bound into book form for easier preservation. For the most part, these letters are about missing his family and his deep religious devotion. They do include a few interesting notes about the war however, and I will endeavour to share these as I come across them.

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