Wednesday, 11 May 2011

J. S. Walker's Seventeenth Letter

Camp Adams,
King’s Mill Warf,
12th July, 1861.

My very dear Wife:

                Had I known that Crow intended to report me sick in bed, I should have kept him here, but I suppose he is excusable, as the whites set the blacks the example of exaggerating everything, and sensation is the order of the day. I had a bilious headache and diarrhea caused by the necessity of standing several hours in the sun in moving our camp. I concluded it prudent to keep still for several days and not do military duty fast and take a little physic, to have my system the better prepared to stand the hot sun of the summer. When I think I am seriously sick and my health is likely to require it, you may rest assured I will go home, for while I willingly lay down my life for my State’s honor and my own rights, I do not regard it at all patriotic to lose it through neglect, inattention, etc., if care can prevent it.
                You ask me if I received any of your letters. I have very little doubt but that I received them all, but in camp so uncertain are my movements that I have adopted the plan of reading them carefully and then destroying them, so as to prevent their accumulation and by accident falling into the hands of the enemy, so when I write a return I cannot reply acknowledging dates. The last received is dated July and has three slips of newspaper in it and quite long for you. I fear from its tone that while you are willing to submit the issues of this war to the Lord that at the same time you allow speculations of your cowardly male neighbours, retailed through the sensational females of the city, to shake your faith, and that you find yourself drifting into all the horrors of a seven years away. If the North raise 400,000 men and $400,000 and the chivalry of the South sit at home and speculate upon the issue and seek money making investments, and rejoice at our victories with great odds against us, and swear by the eternal that we (that is, they) can whip all creation, and good Lord forsakes us, the war will be short, and thank the Lord I will have fallen before my country’s disgrace is consummated, but if the Lord continues to smile, and those who enjoy the rights of free men and show themselves by their services worthy of the name, then, be it long or short, the right secured to our children and the principle established, we can go down to our graves honoured. Trust in the Lord and listen not to the flippant speculations of home knights. My own prophecy is that the war will be at an end in three months and that the Lord will direct the strength of the enemy to their own destruction. I will trust him to the end.
                I must close that this may go to the Post Office.
                You need not send me papers. I get them every day.
                Direct your letters to the 15th Regt: VA. Vols., Grove Warf, James River.
                Kiss the children. Love to all.
                                                Yours very affectionately,

                                                                Jno. S. Walker.


  1. Two things stuck out to me from this letter-

    1. He mentions destroying the letters from his wife. I cringe reading that, as I'm sure they would be cherished by you and your family, and provide great insight to a woman's point of view from the home front as her husband is away at war.

    2. His prophecy that the war would be over in 3 months time. If only that were true. We sometimes forget that we are looking at it in hindsight and know that it would continue for almost 4 more years. I'm sure at the time there was still some optimism for a quick resolution.

    Again, thanks for sharing!

  2. (Take 2- thanks Blogger!)

    There were two things that really stuck out to me from this letter:

    1. I literally cringed when I read that he wrote of his practice to burn the letters received from his wife. I'm sure they would be cherished by you and your family and it's a shame that they didn't survive, as I'm sure most letters from the conflict didn't.

    2. His prediction that the war would be over in three months time. I guess it's easy to just think "well they had another 3-4 years until the war ended" with the benefit of hindsight. But we lose sight of the fact that during the war the men and their families no doubt had hope that it would end quickly.

    Another great letter, thanks for sharing.

  3. 1. You and me both. I had been wondering if perhaps those letters had survived, but I guess I know. It's curious to know what information he thought those letters would give the enemy. Perhaps just the location of his unit?

    2. How often has history heard "The war will be over before Christmas?". We'll as we'll see in the next letter, his wife might have been a bit more perceptive than he was...