Thursday, 30 December 2010

A Butternut Christmas!

2010 has been a tremendous year for me, and now it has been capped by a terrific Christmas. Lots of family, fun, food, and a bulging stocking filled will cool and wonderful gifts. One of those gifts even came in butternut. The slender volume above was sent to me from overseas and is notable for a number of reasons. It is The Private Journal of Georgiana Gholson Walker 1862-1865. It was orginally published in 1963 as the 25th volume of the 'Confederate Centennial Studies'. My copy is part of a 750 copy reprint published in 2000. I'm not sure how many copies were in the original print run, but it seems safe to say that it is a comparitively rare volume.

However, in this case, it isn't really the rarity that makes it special; it's the author. Georgiana Gholson Walker was the wife of Norman Walker, brother of my great-grandfather John Stewart Walker. While the volume only touches briefly upon John Stewart, I still believe it is an important addition to my studies of my Civil War ancestry. I believe Norman served in the same unit as John Stewart up until his death, but at some point thereafter was named as the Confederate agent to Bermuda, where he became an important part of the story of the blockade runners.

It will be a little while before I really get into this book. I want to finish Shelby Foote first (page 740 of volume III!). You can be assurred that once I get to it, I will share anything interesting that I find.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

John Stewart Walker's Fourth Letter

Headquarters Va. Life Guard
Yorktown, 4th June, 1861

My very dear Wife:

                The multiplicity of my engagements precludes my writing as often as inclination would lead me. I have everything to do in order to provide for the necessities of my company and attention to my military duties. I am glad I did not leave home in a frolic, expecting pleasure, as I would have been sorely disappointed, for camp life is one of hardship, not only to the men but to the officers here, as there is nothing to eat but bread and flour which we have to cook in frying pans, so it is not equal to Louisa’s loaf bread. We have coffee, sugar and rice for those who eat it, no vegetables, salt, molasses or vinegar, all of which should be supplied. The people in the neighbourhood bring in little or nothing to sell and charge outrageous prices for everything they sell. Fish and oysters are scarce and very high. I haven’t tasted fish, but expect to have some for dinner today.
                My regiment are quartered about a mile from me, and I have charge of a redoubt to defend when attacked, and also to prevent the passage of the enemy over a causeway through a marsh, the same over which Washington passed and surprised Cornwallis and resulted in Cornwallis’s defeat and surrender. I have to keep twenty men on guard day and night and the company ready at a moment to enter and defend my fort of earth, so they have to sleep with their arms about them, my pocket guard and redoubt guard at all times on the lookout to prevent surprise. If the enemy enter Yorktown at all, it will have to be by some other route, or I will with my command have fallen in the defence of our position, and will not be responsible longer for it, but I am convinced they will not attempt it. If they do, they will be repulsed. The people from here to Hampton are fightened to death and bring in all sorts of rumors of the enemy’s approach, but we have not yet seen them. We will give a good account of ourselves when they do come. We have 4,000 troops here and can resist successfully we think 10,000.
                I see in the papers from Richmond urgent calls for more soldiers, which I hope will be responded to promptly, and that we will be able to throw into the field a force which can successfully compete with the invading enemy. Though this is regarded as an unhealthy place, my own health is unusually good, and I hope my so continue. Young Denny, who owing to cold we left in Williamsburg and came over here three days ago is quite unwell, threatened with pneumonia. He has no great constitution and will probably have to get a release. The others are generally well. The mosquitoes are the only enemies we have had to encounter in any numbers. Of course, I do not take note of fleas and chinches, which lay claim to everything in this town.
                I lay down to sleep every night not knowing when we shall be called to the defence or march, but sleep sweetly and I fear almost too soundly for one expecting an attack, but I fear no evil and trust not a man but the Lord, certainly do not take trouble in advance, and hope grace from on high will be given to bear it when it comes. I arise at four o’clock and have a fine appetite by breakfast, and do a man’s full duty at breakfast on our plain but acceptable fare. I am feel truly thankful that I do not partake of the nervous excitement of the camp and can cooly act. I go to the Lord for council and direction and am by Him sustained. I pray He may bear me through and at last bring me off conqueror over sin, if not the enemy. Men are at their wit’s ends and give credence to so many foolish rumors and assist in circulating them, that I am not surprised the papers publish and people at a distance believe them, but don’t you believe anything of the kind unless it is brought to you direct from headquarters.
                The absence of a clean shirt and a shaved face gives me more discomfort than all the Yankees at present. There are no washwomen here, except one or two, and I have seen the face of only one white woman in the town and she at the tavern, which is closed now and I suppose gone too.
                Jim Crow cooks, acts chambermaid, dining-room servant and washwoman and has no time to spare, I assure you. If I had some starch and a flat iron I could get along pretty well, but as the ladies are not here, we have no regard for appearances.
                Kiss the children and tell them when I get home I will have a great many stories to tell them of war life and the hardships of the campaigns, of battles fought and victories won, their liberties secured and their enemies defeated.
                Best love to Mrs. Hays, and all friends, and my brothers, who I expect owing to the urgent call for more troops are getting ready to take up arms. Warn them they have a hard road to travel but a glorious cause to defend and if possible come as officers, for that is hard enough, while privates is much worse. We require a very much larger force here to hold the place at the same time drive the invaders back.
                Remember me kindly to the servants, who I hope are doing well. They Yankees are taking them all down about Hampton and making them work on fortifications, etc.
                Remember constantly at the Throne of Grace.

                                                                Your affectionate husband

                                                                Jno. S. Walker

Saturday, 18 December 2010

A Humble Log Cabin

Taking a short break from work on the Army of Oxford, I spent a night painting up a little log cabin, which I'm sure will appear on many a future miniature battlefield. The cabin is another of my Historicon purchases. I picked it up for a mere $12 from a company called Acheson Creations who do a large range of resin terrain. I am especially pleased with the simple, but appealing paint job on the roof.  As you can see below, the roof comes off, leaving enough room for five or six soldiers, firing out of windows and the door.

Monday, 13 December 2010

John Stewart Walker's Third Letter

Wren Building of William & Mary University c. 1859
This picture really should have accompanied the last letter, as now John Stewart Walker has left William & Mary College and moved out into the trenches. I once again present the entire letter as it is filled with interesting tid-bits.

In the woods at the trenches
3½ miles from Williamsburg
29th May, 1861

My dear Wife:

                I wrote you a hasty note at 4 o’clock this morning in a great hurry to get our men to work in the ditches, with spade, pick and axe. Our boys work cheerfully, live on ship biscuit and middling, with a cup of coffee (sea tick), very brown sugar, and no milk. They sleep as honest men should and wake at day cheerful and ready for work. They are hardening, fattening and becoming accustomed to the water and all well and ready for any good work, and anxious for a fight, which anxiety is increased by the distressing sight which presents itself every five minutes in families of men, women and children fleeing from the enemy, there being a perfect panic among all the people in this section of the country. They come in every kind of vehicle, leaving their homes, furniture and slaves subject to the tender mercies of the minions of Lucius and Gen. Butler, commander of Fortress Monroe. We are throwing up a very fine earth work fort here, which will protect any approaches inland on this peninsula which lies between James and York Rivers, and will with a sufficient force behind it, with good skirmishers and outscouts, keep ten times our number back. The topography of this country is very favourable for the defence on our side.
                I think my health as good as it ever was in my life, and am only disturbed with the apprehension that you will be frequently unnecessarily anxious and kept in suspense by absurd rumors and reports; such as the one recently published about Col. Augut’s Regiment, and if you will only be willing to trust in the Lord and not anticipate evil but rely upon the superintending care of Providence, which has shielded me from the dangers of youth and dissipations of manhood, which are far more dangerous than the fire of an earthly enemy, trusting in the Lord when the time of fight comes. I hope to rely upon Him then and my own strong arm, and to come off conqueror in any event.
                With the exception of one family, Mr. Jones, who was known to Lucius Baldwin (Dr. Bland having married their daughter and Baldwin was groomsman) – they have been particularly kind and hospitable to my company – the rest of the people seem selfish or too lazy to contribute to the comfort of the soldiers. There is no market here, and everybody seems scared to death.
                Kiss the dear children and tell them if they could see Father sleeping one night on the ground and the next on the floor, with all the ups and downs of camp life, they would be very sorry for him, but he is having a very good time and has no cause of complaint.
                Remember me affectionately to Sister Hayes, Bro. Bennett and all the Centenary people, and tell them to continue their prayers for me and my company, also to all friends that may feel enough interested in me to inquire after me, also my Brother. I shall write Amandas soon and warn him of the danger of intemperance.

                                                                Yours very affectionately,

                                                                Jno. S. Walker, Capt.
                                                                Va. Life Guard

Young Minno is fattening, sends his respect to you and says he is very well.



As I read John Stewart Walker's first three letters, I wondered about his rank. I've always heard him called 'Major', but the way he kept referring to 'my company' suggested that he was a captain at this point. His signature proves it, and what is more, it even names the company. I have been unable to find any information on the Virginia Life Guard, but considering the name and the early formation of the regiment, I'm thinking it might have been a pre-war militia. I will continue to investigate.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Parker's Battery of the Army of Oxford

The poor winter light here in Britain is making figure photography difficult, but I wanted to share my latest effort. I've just finished up the first artillery support for the Confederate Army of Oxford. I'm not sure which of these guys is Maj. Samuel Parker, but this is his battery. The gun is a 12lb. Napoleon, probably the most ubiquitous artillery piece of the war. The figures are from Sash and Saber. I painted the figures to match with the infantry division, but gave them red trim to identify them as artillerists. I don't know if any Confederate artillerymen wore red trimmed butternut, but mine do!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

A Civil War Christmas Carol

Here's a very interesting little piece about the Civil War, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and a famous Christmas Carol.

Beloved Christmas Carol Stemmed from Civil War Incident

Monday, 6 December 2010

John Stewart Walker's Second Letter

John Stewart Walker's second letter was written neary three months after his first. It is filled with interesting stuff, and so I thought I would share all of it.

Williamsburg, Sunday, 28th May, 1861.

My very dear Wife:

                I have congratulated myself since I learned that you were at the corner at the time our regiment passed, that I did not see you, as it might have unnerved me for the time, though I have never had a doubt as to my line of duty, I am now, with the experience of the past 10 days, more impressed with the fact that I am fully in the performance of it, both as regards my duty to my God and my country, and I honestly believe the safety of my family required my rendering this service. I command a noble set of men, who are quietly exercising a salutary influence upon all with who they are thrown.  They are recognized as the most Christian company in the regiment and respected accordingly, and the rowdism, of which there is plenty in the camp, would sneer, my men are pleased to do their duty without minding their sneers. By our superiors we are placed in positions of importance because they have confidence, and are assigned the best quarters because we have their respect without for a moment courting their favor.
                We left Richmond on a steamer about 12 o’clock – 750 men – and got off about 7 a Mill Creek. Unfortunately, whiskey was brought on board by a great many and used too freely. The Colonel, hearing that a great many were providing themselves with whisky, brandy, etc., advised the captains to examine the canteens of the men. I told him I would obey if he required it, but that I did not believe it necessary and that he was at liberty to have any man of my command shot that was found drunk, and then told the Company what I had done, and they all approved of it.  I allowed a great many, at the request of their parents, to take brandy, and it was very well as we have seen nothing by limestone water since we landed, and that produces diarhea and dysentery on those not accustomed to it. It is only taken medicinally.
                To return to our landing, by the order of the Colonel my company was detailed to guard and forward the baggage of the regiment while the rest of the companies marched on to this place.  There were no accommodations at the landing, so we had to camp out without tents, sleep on the ground, etc. We built a good big fire, cooked supper, kept the fire up all night, detailed guards, etc, and got on finely. In the morning we bought 25 chickens, 8 dozen eggs and had a good breakfast, attended to sending off the baggage, and then had to march 6 miles about 12 o’clock, hot, dusty, which we performed without any detriment to us, tired more form heat than the march.
                We arrived here and are quartered in the Hall of one of the literary societies of the College, all the regiment being quartered in William & Mary. It is pretty close work and very inconvenient, and there was no preparation here for us, so we have pretty soldierly fare, pork and ship biscuit, but are getting on very well. There are one or two with slight diarhea, but nothing serious.
                Dr. Parker is invaluable to us, as all the men go to him as soon as there is anything the matter, and he treats them promptly and they get well.
                My men are very respectful, and I have never heard an oath, and they are attentive to their devotional exercises, and attended church this morning.
                I find my time so occupied in doing justice to my company that I cannot keep a diary tho it would be a very readable thing to make a memorandum of the incidents and impressions, with the thoughts and hopes, etc., which will follow, but I must save these to tell my grandchildren when old age prevents my active usefulness and time may be more at my disposal.
                You must not expect to hear from me often or regularly, nor do I know where to tell you to direct. You may write me to this place, care of Dr. Bidgood, and if I am not here he will send it to me. We may be ordered from here at any time to Yorktown or down the river, and consequently the uncertainty of my writing and the mails are by no means regular. If I am sick you will be sure to hear of it, for I will have nothing to do but write, and if I should be at any time seriously affected I will get a furlough and go home.
                I hope my absence will not be to you a cause of uneasiness, either on my own account or yours, but that you will draw all your support and comfort from a rich fountain of Grace, Providence, lean upon Him knowing that all things will work together for good, and that the same strong arm which has afforded me protection through many years is still upheld to shield from all danger.
                Give no credence to every idle floating rumor which many come from this section, for there will no doubt be many idle news makers. I do not believe there will be any engagement for some time, if at all, and my own convictions still hold that there will yet be peace between the contending parties without bloodshed.
                Kiss all the children for me and tell them I want whenever Mother writes me to hear that they are all good and obedient to Mother and don’t quarrel among themselves. I wish you would send for Mr. Chambers and ask him to write at once to Lynchburg for another boy to come down and wait on me and my company. The servants are doing nothing there and will be very useful to me. I will let you know in my next where I want him sent. Let him be provided with clothes and shoes, flannel shirts he can get of Mr. Peter Franklin at Ellet & Drewrys.
                I also want you to have me made at once two pair of dark stout linen gaiters, to fit well over the foot and run up about half way the calf, to be worn outside of the pantaloons, to button up on a line with the outside seem of the pants. You can get them cut out at Pages if you will describe how I want them, and them by mail to the care of Dr. Bidgood, Williamsburg, and I will get them. Attend to this as soon as you can, as I am very much in need of them to keep out the sand, etc. on the march.
                You can tell Mrs. Minno that her son keeps not only very well but is improving on soldier’s life. So of most of the others.
                Commending you to the care of a good and kind Heavenly Father,

                                                                Yours very affectionately,

                                                                                Jno. Stewart Walker.