Tuesday, 25 January 2011

John Stewart Walker's Eighth Letter

Yorktown, 11th June, 1861

My dear Wife:

I wrote you on Sunday from Bethel Church. Since then I have seen stirring times, as we had a hot battle on Monday, commencing at 9½ o’clock and continuing very hot for 2½ hours. I will not give you a detailed account of it as Brother Bennett, who will take this up, will give you all the incidents as we have given them to him.  Suffice it to say that we were in the hottest of the fight and bullets whistled and fell like hail, but a good and merciful Heavenly Father extended His broad arm of protection around us and not a hair of the head of one of us was hurt. I think yesterday’s day closed with more perfect happiness and gratitude to my Heavenly Father than any I have ever passed, first gratitude for His protection and the grace He vouchsafed to me to keep me cool and self-possessed during the engagement. I don’t think I ever entered the Sunday School with more perfect self-possession, or retained it, than I did during the whole engagement. In addition to this, in two or three hours after the engagement three of my men professed a saving faith in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, making four who had professed religion since we have left home.
After the battle, my company were sent two miles off to prevent the advance of the enemy on the flank of our men, and we had then to march three miles to join our regiment upon our return to this place. We reached there at dark and waited one hour for the Regiment to join us, and then alone in the line, with musket in hand, offered up a fervent prayer as a company for the continuance of God’s blessings to us and acknowledge our indebtedness for his superintending care during the fight. It was a solemn time, great feeling and earnest prayer.  I felt more like shouting than I ever did in my life. Bro. Bennett will tell you all about the fight.
My health is as good as it ever was in my life.  I sleep out doors, eat anything I can get, and am bitten to death by ticks, chiggers and chinches, and get up 3½ o’clock in the morning, work or fight hard all day, and sleep or march fifteen or twenty miles at night, as may be. When I sleep, I sleep, and so of all other duties and privileges. 
Of course, I could have no higher earthly gratification than to be allowed to see my dear family, if but for a day, but I don’t encourage the desire, but put it under subjection to duty and as I have assumed the duty of a protector of my rights and State, I intend, by the Grace of God assisting me, to make everything else subordinate to that duty. If Providence should open a way for a furlough I will be thankful. If not, I hope I can be content.
I understand Col. Magruder has made honourable mention in the dispatches to Gen. Lee of the Va. Life Guard, of which you may hear, but it matters little with me whether he has done so or not, as I have no military ambition to gratify and have the conscience assurance that I did my whole duty yesterday in battle.
The steamer is coming and my letter must close to let Bro. Bennett have it to take up with him.
Kiss all the children. Return thanks to all who contributed to provide us tents. Give love to all and continue constant prayer that I may have Heavenly direction and support in every hour of duty. I could write volumes of the battle, for I watched it closely and coolly and observed the action of all the men, but I must forego it.
You can continue to write me to this place, but you had better not send anything for I am here today and tomorrow may be 20 or 30 miles away. I have now no abiding place.
My men are all well except small complaints of no consequence, every one being in the battle. Minno very well.
Remember me to Sister Hayes always, and B Bro. Shell and the Sunday School generally.

                                                Yours very affectionately,

                                                                Jno. S. Walker

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