Thursday, 31 March 2011

Me and Cousin Bobby Lee

Once or twice when I was a child, I heard family members say that we were related to Robert E. Lee.  I suppose, when I thought about it, I just took it as a given. Surely, all us southerners were related to Robert E. Lee?

Well, now that I’m a good bit older and a lot more interested in genealogy (especially where it concerns the Civil War) I decided to do a little research and see if it was true.   I began my search by asking my father. He said he believed we were connected to Lee through Col. William Randolph & Mary Isham. This early colonial couple are sometimes known as the ‘Adam and Eve of Virginia’ due to the number of their offspring, and it is through them that many of the old lines of the south are connected. Thanks to the work of those that came before me, I could easily chart my descent from them.
As it turned out, thanks to the power of the internet, it only took about an hour to connect Robert E. Lee to this family as well. When the dust finally cleared and I had charted all the lines, I was able to say that Robert E. Lee is my 3rd Cousin, 7 times removed.
For those that don’t know the system, that means that Robert E. Lee and I are connected through Lee’s Great-Great-Grandfather and my Great (x9)-Grandfather. Or put another way, we are third cousins who are 7 generations removed from one another in time. Okay, it’s not a close relationship, but it is still pretty cool.

As an added bonus, this all means that I am also 2nd Cousin, 8 times removed with Henry Lee III, better known as ‘Light Horse Harry’ Lee. This Revolutionary War hero fought at the battle of Guilford Courthouse in the town where I grew up!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

J. S. Walker's Thirteenth Letter

Kings Mill Warf Camp,
James City Country,
20th June, 1861.

My dear Wife:

                I intended to have gone up this morning on a short leave of absence and taken you all by surprise (agreeable, I flatter myself) and made all of my preparations accordingly, but last evening a messenger arrived post haste, announcing that 8,000 Federalists were advancing toward Williamsburg and were 10 miles distant. Of course all my plans were knocked in the head, and we immediately prepared to defend our position and dispute the way with them. We find this morning that it was not so that they had advanced. What they may do we cannot tell. At any rate, my proposed trip is for the present knocked in the head, but I have learned how to live and be disappointed without taking it to heart, and to be content under all circumstances. If there is any possibility of the enemy advancing, my post is with my company and before the enemy.
                I am amused at the Northern accounts of the Bethel battle, particularly the correspondent of a New York Zouave published in yesterday’s Dispatch, who took the fire of my Enfield rifles for grape and (canister?). They lie with impunity and put the best face they can on a bad defeat. I hope the Lord will continue to smile upon our efforts and give success to our cause, and that peace acceptable to us may soon come, without more bloodshed, but if our rights must be sealed with our blood, better be it so than that the chains of the enemy be invited by submission and entailed upon our children. In the hands of the Lord we leave our cause, and pray that He may direct and if he will miraculously save us from our enemy.
                We have now in our regiment a Chaplain, Rev. Mr. Willis, of Richmond, of the Baptist Church. He brought a letter to me from Bro. Dabney, and he was very acceptably received by the soldiers.
                Kiss the dear children for Father, and give love to all friends. We have received our tents. Bennett, Duncan, Brown and Shell, and when we know who else was instrumental in getting and giving us the tents we will thank the rest of them.
                I may soon have a chance to run up for a few days to see you all, but you must not expect me for I am here today and may be ordered away tomorrow and be actively engaged, for we know not what a day may bring forth.

                                                                Yours very affectionately,

                                                                                Jno. S. Walker.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Those Crazy College Kids What Started the War!

For most people, the Civil War officially began when the Confederates opened fire on Fort Sumter in April 1861. However, several months prior to that, in January, a Confederate battery on Morris Island fired upon the ship Star of the West which had been hired by the US Government to resupply Fort Sumter. After several rounds struck the ship, it turned about and fled back out to sea.
To me, this was all trivia that I had picked up somewhere in my Civil War reading.  However, it wasn’t until yesterday, as I was playing around on the Civil War Preservation Trust website, that I learned a bit more. It turns out that the men who fired at the Star of the West were students from the South Carolina Military Academy (today known as the Citadel), and over their battery they flew an unusual red flag.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

John Stewart Walker's Twelth Letter

Camp Adams,
Kings Mill Landing,
19th June, 1861

My dear Wife:

                I have not written you for a day or two as I have nothing to communicate. We are all quiet here, but expect to have stirring news from Manassas today and hope that the Lord will be on our side and give victory and that it may be His will soon to bring peace and prosperity to our land when our rights are acknowledged and respected by our Northern friends or rather enemies. We do not know what a day may bring forth down here. The enemy may come up the river at any time. We are getting ready for them and shall look to the Lord for our defence.
                I am quite well again, and no doubt my little bilious attacks will keep off some serious sickness.
                I wrote David to let me know what he proposed to do. I fear my business* will suffer very much if he has to go into service, but all that must be if our rights are endangered. I also told him to place in bank to your credit an amount of money that you could check out as you wanted it.
                I try to keep near the Cross, and find in the quite of camp life much time for meditation, and I hope that I improve it to my spiritual good. The present life could be to me insufferable did not I lean upon the strong arm of the Lord.
                Capt. Thompson Brown is down here in charge of the artillery round about here. He expects his wife today, to stay in Williamsburg. It would be a pleasant trip to you and the children, but I fear the effect of the rotten lime stone water on them producing diarrhea, etc. Give love to friends, and remember in your prayers yours and our cause.

                                                                Yours very affectionately,

                                                                Jno. S. Walker

* John Stewart Walker ran a successful and award winning tobacco business.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Brazilian Steam Frigate

For those that don't know - the Library of Congress has a library of over 1,000 Civil War related images that are free for anyone to use and peruse. From time to time, I thought I might share some of my favorites.

This is a shot of a Brazilian steamer in the Navy Yard of Washington D.C in 1863. The sailors have manned the yards in expectation of a presidential visit.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

J. S. Walker's Eleventh Letter

Kings Mill Wharf
17th June, 1861

My very dear Wife:

                I have another opportunity of writing you, of which I avail myself. We are now stationed on James River 4 miles from Williamsburg, put here they say to keep the enemy from landing at this point and marching on Williamsburg. I do not think there is at present much likelihood of our having any fighting to do here, and I hope we may not have as I have no confidence in the staff that commands us. There are four companies here, four at Grove Warf and two others of our Regiment in the immediate neighbourhood. I would rather be in the presence of immediate hostilities with a reliable commander than anywhere under those whom I cannot regard competent. Col. Stuart is the only one that I would choose to fight under and they have detached me from his command. If I didn't believe with my whole heart that the Lord reigneth, I should feel very much discouraged, but as it is I am content to leave it all in His hands.
                I received the package containing the book for my diary which Luly sent down, and if I can find the time will try and write in it. I also received the package with bread, brandy, etc., which was very acceptable, and we enjoyed it amazingly, and with the aid of Jim Crow and Charles, who is an excellent servant, I get along first rate in the eating line, and two or three hard boiled eggs and two cups of coffee, brandie proportion and a large allowance of bread for supper don’t “sile” me, but I sleep like a top, now in a corn field under my tent, so you see while I am deprived of a great many earthly blessings, the Lord vouchsaves others which I did not before enjoy.
                Speaking of Jim and Charles, the day of the battle they could not stand the firing, though they were half a mile in the rear of us, but ran like quota horses about two miles up the road entirely out of range of cannon balls and everything else, but came into camp when they found the firing was all over.
                I find that the hard usage to which my valise has been subjected has broken off hinges and lock and that it is no longer safe to rely upon it, and I want you to get me a good strong trunk, larger than the valise but smaller than my trunk, have it marked ‘Capt. J. S. Walker, Va. Life Guard” and send it by the James River Steamer to Grove Warf, care of Col. Stuart, and I will get it. You may put in it three pair more sock and three silk handerchiefs, with a towel, and anything else you may like not in the clothes line, as I have enough. Put a bottle or two of sweet oil in.
                Yesterday was Sabbath, but not so to us. We marched down to this point and had to pitch tents and work generally. In my humble judgement no necessity for it and could have been as well done the day before or today, but inefficient officers do all things wrong and badly.
                Two of my men who had professed religion since we came into camp were baptized yesterday early, before we left Williamsburg.
                Let Cambers attend to sending the trunk down. Where is Bro. Moorman? I hope you keep Bro. David and Amandus posted as to my whereabouts and what I am doing. I have so little time and opportunity for writing that I have to devote it to you, tho I must try and write Luly about the battle.
                Give my best love to all friends and Centenary generally.
                Let prayer and intercession be continually made in my behalf that while I am striving to preserve my country from ruin the Lord may be his Grace keep me in the straight and narrow way which leads to Heaven and that when my race is run I may at last gain the haven.

                                                Yours very affectionately,

                                                                Jno. S. Walker