Tuesday, 27 November 2012

J. S. Walker's Thirty-Seventh Letter

Camp Deas, near Youngs Mills,
9th Nov., 1861.

My dear Wife:

            It is Saturday night, it is raining and the wind getting around to the north admonishes us that it is going to be cold.  We began yesterday to cut logs to build huts for our winter quarters, and as we have no tools but axes and have to split out slabs to cover our huts, to make doors, etc., I cannot hope to be in a house before Christmas, at which time I should like to have the pleasure of yourself and the children at Christmas dinner, but the state of roads, the roughness of the country, and the proximity of the enemy would not justify the trip for such a dinner as a soldier would serve on his tinware.
            I am anticipating great comfort and luxury upon the receipt of the carpet and the stove and have no doubt I will get on first rate.  I am very thankful that military ambition nor worldly glory led me into this position.  Had it, I would have been cured, tho I confess the hardships of the campaign have not equalled my anticipation, for I had counted the cost and prepared myself for greater, and my chief complaint has always been the inefficiency of my superiors and the flagrant neglect on their part of the comforts and health of the troops under their charge.  In this connection, I have sorrowfully to record the death of one of my own men, Joiner, at Biglows Hospital, of Typhoid fever on the 4th inst., the first I have lost, and he a victim to the necessity of sleeping on damp ground without straw or plant to protect him.  I have some ten now in Hospital, none seriously ill and all but one in Williamsburg, where I think they will be attended to.  They are sent when at all seriously sick to Hospital 20 miles from our camp, and I have been trying for three weeks to get to see them, without success.  I shall try and get up next week.  Tom Minnow is a perfect lightwood knot, keeps well and fattens all the time.
            The continual changes of position of our camp and the bad arrangement of the camp with the cold weather, has broken in upon our prayer meetings for some time past, but as soon as we get our winter quarters completed I shall resume them, and want to adopt some plan to make the longer winter nights pass profitably to my men.  To that end, I want to have a select library of standard attractive reading for them, which will interest and at the same time improve them.  I will get them to build a house about 25 feet square for a chapel and sitting and reading room, in which I will have  a stove to make it comfortable, so that after supper and a smoke, at sunset we can meet and have prayer meetings and then reading, etc., and thus if not disturbed by the enemy or ordered somewhere else, spending the evening  more profitably than it is generally spent in camp, but we know not what a day may bring forth, so I plan with no disappointment if some order breaks in upon all my plans.
            The probability of my resigning having gotten to my men, they protest and I cannot think of leaving them to the mercies of others, and for the present give it up.  They with all honest patriotic persons who have enlisted have been so imposed upon by the officers put over them that I do not think they ought to reenlist at the expiration of their year, and I have made up my mind to let some of the “stay at homes” take my place unless circumstances at the time make it my duty, which I must discharge, but I still hope the year to 14th May, 1862, may find us at the end of the war and peace  restored, with our rights established and the glory of God shining brighter and brighter to the perfect day.
            I wish you would ask Bro. David to have me a military vest made at Wm. Ira Smith’s of Crenshaw grey cloth, and send it down by Lieut. Willis, who will come down Monday week, 18th November, with whatever else you have to send.  If you have time, have a daguerreotype taken of yourself and the children and send that also, that I may see you all without a leave of absence.  Kiss the dear children for father and tell them to be very good and obey mother.  Love to all friends, pray for me.

                                    Yours very affectionately,

                                                Jno. S. Walker

            Miss Sue Archer _______ is down here 6 miles below this and near Newport News.  She is a spy in our cause, romantic and heroic.  She has made the acquaintance of Yankee Officers down there and will probably be useful.  Keep dark.



At a guess, the woman referenced by J.S.W. in his post script is ‘Sue Archer Tally’, a writer and a friend of Edgar Allen Poe who was arrested during the war for being a Confederate spy, though later released.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Dr. Pierre Paul Noel D’alvigny

Of all my civil war ancestors, probably the most interesting and certainly the most enigmatic is my great (x4) grandfather, Dr. Pierre Paul Noel D’alvigny...

Pierre Paul Noel D’alvigny was born in Paris on April, 13 1800. The only information available on his early life comes from family lore, which says that he was the son of minor aristocrats who came very near to losing their heads during the revolution.  As a young man growing up during the Napoleonic Wars, Noel joined with the legions of Napoleon, serving  as a surgeon’s assistant, and at some point won the Legion of Honor (the highest gallantry award) for his quick thinking that saved the life of either a general or a surgeon. (1).

Until recently, this is all the information known about D’alvigny, before his immigration to America.  However, after a lot of research, I have discovered a few more pieces to the puzzle.  In 1826 a Parisian named Noel D’alvigny had a daughter named Louis Julie D’alvigny by a woman named Marie Louis Prou. (2) Then, in 1832, Noel was involved in the Paris riots made famous by Victor Hugo.  When later called as a witness to testify about his involvement, D’alvigny claimed he was only there helping the wounded. Also around this time, Noel’s house was raided by the police (although whether this occurred before or after the trial is unclear).

Sometime in the next three years, D’alvigny left France and immigrated to America.  In 1835, he was working as a dentist in New York.  In the same year, he received a patent on a new type of vapour bath (an early form of shower).

In 1836, D’alvigny married Emiline de la Foy, another descendant of French aristocracy, whose father had fought at Waterloo.  Later that year, the couple moved to Charleston, where their first son, Eugene Victorine D’alvigny was born.  Unfortunately, the child died in infancy.  Their next child, Louise Elizabeth D’alvigny, lived only two years, before dying in 1843.  Thankfully, on September 13, 1843, Emiline gave birth to Charles Frederick Stanislave D’alvigny, who would live to a ripe old age. (3)

1848 proved to be a huge year for the young family.  Another daughter, Pauline, was born; however, later that year, her mother, Emiline, died of consumption.  Noel picked up the family and moved to Atlanta, where he had been offered the job as curator of the museum at the Atlanta Medical College.  He also married Caroline M. Crovatte.  According to family lore, she had been the children’s nurse, and Emiline had requested the marriage before her death.

From this time, until the outbreak of the Civil War, Noel seems to have been a minor figure in the Atlanta Social Scene.  He was also heavily involved with the Free Masons, a connection which certainly stretched back to Charleston, and possibly further than that.  Despite owning a slave, Noel doesn’t seem to have taken issue with working with African Americas, and there are several stories of his working with the black community, both before and after the war.

Although Noel was sixty when the Civil War started, he volunteered his services to the Confederacy, serving a brief stint as the surgeon for the Ninth Battery of Georgia Artillery, before ill health forced him home.  However, although Noel couldn’t go to the war, the war eventually came to him. The aging doctor applied his medical skills throughout the siege of Atlanta, and when the Confederate forces eventually pulled out, he was apparently the only doctor left in the city.  It was at this time, that Pierre Paul Noel D’alivgny performed his most famous deed.

When D’alvigny learned that Sherman’s men were coming to burn the Atlanta Medical College, he got several of his helpers drunk on whisky, dressed them up as patients, and put them in bed.  When the soldiers showed up with their torches, Noel stood on the steps and shouted at them. He said that he’d lived through revolutions, but never seen anything so evil as soldiers who would burn a hospital filled with the sick.  The confused soldiers replied that they’d been told the hospital was empty, whereupon Noel showed them his “patients”.  The soldiers gave Noel one day to have the sick moved somewhere else, before they returned with their torches.  The next day, Sherman ordered his army out of Atlanta, and the torch wielders never returned to the Medical College.

After this incident, Noel continued his work as a surgeon, though as often treating Northern soldiers as Southern ones.  According to family lore, he was given a commission in the Union Army, as a Southern surgeon wouldn’t have been allowed to treat Northern soldiers. (4)

After the war, Noel once again went to work with the black community, taking a post in the Black Georgia Hospital which had been established by the Freedman’s Bureau.  In 1868, Noel became deathly ill after injuring himself during an autopsy. He pulled through, however, living nearly another ten years, before he finally died in Atlanta in 1877 from causes unknown.  He is buried in Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery.
Although Dr. D’alvigny is not a widely known figure, he has achieved a degree of immortality, having apparently been used as the basis for the character of Dr. Mead in Gone With the Wind.

(1) The medal won by D’alvigny was passed down my family until it was stolen from the house of my Great Grandfather while he was off fighting in World War I.

(2) It is perhaps worth noting that D’alvigny is an extremely unusual name, even in France.

(3) Charles would also fight for the Confederacy, more on him in the future.

(4) If this is true, it make Noel the only one of my ancestors that I know about who served in the Union Army.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

J. S. Walker's Thirty-Sixth Letter


Camp Deas, near Youngs Mill,
6th November, 1861

My dear Wife:

                I did not write to you by Lieut. Mills, who went up yesterday, as I did not have time and wrote to David.  I was a little unwell yesterday, but kept to my tent and fasted and am quite myself today.  There is nothing in the monotony of camp life that can interest you in a letter, and I will save all for the long winter nights of another winter, if we are all spared to meet around it.  I hope the Lord is going to give great success to our arms in other places, that he will make bare his might and let loose the muds of Heaven to put the armada under the waves, and thus cause the wicked to acknowledge his might.  I also hope he will give us quite on the Peninsular, since I have no confidence in those who in authority do not acknowledge Him.  If we live for Him it matters little to us whether we live or die, since he directs, controls, and at last receives.  Let us pray earnestly to the end.
                Lieut. Willis will be a favourable opportunity for you to send my gloves, socks, etc.  I want you also to send me my over-shoes, thick boots, cravat, clothes brush.  I should also like a good cap or hat for the winter, which Bro. David can select for you.  As regards eatables, some pickles, smoked sausage, tongue, beef, etc., butter, eggs, etc.  I can buy nothing in the world to eat here but sweet potatoes, fresh beef and bacon, and I am tired of them.  I also want a gallon of whiskey, a gallon of brandy, fine for medicinal purposes and the stomach’s sake.  Put all up in a box for Lieut. Willis to bring down to me.  He will come down in about ten days, sayd 16th of November, and if you leave the box at Geo. Bidgood’s with a letter he will get it and attend to it.  If you have sent nothing by express via Yorktown, do not do it now, but send to Grove Wharf by Steamer on James River on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and we will have a wagon to get all packages for our Regiment.  Willis will be the safest chance for you to send by.  Direct your letters via Grove Warf to Capt. J. S. W., 15th Regt. Va. Vols. and they will come more promptly.

                Kiss the children, love to all.

                                Yours very affectionately,

                                                Jno. S. Walker.

I have commenced numbering my letters.  I sent No. 1 a day or two ago.  You will find this No. 2.  If you will adopt the same plan we can tell whether our letters are all received, remember always to number them.

                We are now having a real thunder storm, lightening and the biggest hail I have seen for a long time, as big as partridge eggs. I hope the Lord’s hand is in it all and that he will scatter the fleet that would pour out our free blood on our own soil.  May the Lord have mercy upon them and then destroy them.

                                Yours very affectionately,

                                                Jno. S. Walker.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

J. S. Walker's Thirty-fifth Letter

Camp Deas,
near Youngs Mill,
2nd Nov., 1861.

My very dear Wife:

                I have no doubt that if you have such weather as we have had for the past twenty-four hours, that my little family have frequently thought of Papa, the wind blowing and the rain pouring, and tho some of the tents leak and some blow down, mine keeps up and is very dry and very comfortable.  I returned yesterday morning after being out twenty-four hours on picket duty with my Company, sleeping and waking all night in the woods, and tho we ushered in the first winter month without a covering to our head, we all got on very well and I keep in astonishing good health, for which I cannot be too thankful to a kind Heavenly Father, but for his protection I would not be able to stand this life, and I will trust Him to the end, knowing that his Grace will be sufficient if our trust is in Him.
                We have not yet commenced winter quarters, and our tents being made of cotton osenburgs in the first instance, are getting very rotten and a stormy season will make ribbons of them.  We have no idea whether we will be kept here or taken back to Williamsburg to winter, for I think it will be too great a sacrifice to expect men to stay in the tents which will not protect them from the falling weather much less the cold.
                Sunday morning: I started this yesterday, but as it was raining all day I could not continue it.  It is now a fair, beautiful day, a day of rest, and I hope it may be of spiritual profit to us all.  May we live for God and die to live with Him, and in living for God may we live for the world, that is, its conversion from sin, and live without selfishness, covetousness, etc., and above all, content with our situation, turning to God for direction.
                I wanted to write you a long letter this morning, but must close with an earnest prayer for the Lord’s protection to you and our dear children.  Kiss them for me.
                An ambulance is about to start with sick to Williamsburg, and must close.  Love to all. Will write you again soon more at length.

                                                                Yours very affectionately,

                                                                                Jno. S. Walker

* If anyone knows what 'osenburgs' are, I'd love to know!

Saturday, 5 May 2012

J. S. Walker's Thirty-Fourth Letter

Camp Deas,
near Youngs Mill
31st Oct., 1861.

My Dear Wife:

                I have not written for a day or two, having nothing to write about except that my health is excellent, and if it is at any time otherwise, I will be sure to let you know it.  I received your letter enclosing one from Johnny, which while it was interesting I lament to see that Kirk has taken to his cups again and have no doubt your way of accounting for it is the right one.  Pray for him and all others who may by their ill advised conduct force him to it.  Prayer alone can save, while council judiciously given may have its weight.
                We have not seen the enemy, nor as I have before written you, do I believe we shall in any force for some time.  In the meantime we are in tents and likely to so continue for some time. I have to go with my Company on Picket this morning and must consequently be brief.  I am waiting with some anxiety to know where we are to winter, in order that I may have you and the children near me for a time, since I cannot go to you for the present.
                I shall upon the first favourable opportunity send up all my summer clothing, which is fully well worn out. I am fully well provided with winter stock, and with the buffalo robe, which is the greatest comfort, can keep warm.  I want a tent stove, which David has promised to send me. When we get better fixed I will order anything I want.  In the meantime, if you want to send me something, send it by express which leaves here twice a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays for Yorktown to care Wm. H. Harris, Jr. directing to me, Co. B, 15th Regt. Va. Vols.
                Ask David if he got a check I enclosed to him and let me know. Kiss the dear children, and give my love to all friends.  Will write more at length when I have more time.

                                                                Yours very affectionately,
                                                                                Jno. S. Walker

Saturday, 28 April 2012

The Civil War Quiz Book by Me!

For a couple of years now, I have been leading a secret, double life.  By day, I am the Butternut Blogger, but by night, The Osprey Quizmaster.  A couple of years ago I wrote The Military History Quiz Book.  Well, the book proved a hit, and I was invited to return and write a similar book devoted to my favorite military history topic, the Civil War. Last week The Civil War Quiz Book was released to the public.

So if you fancy a bit of a challenge, check it out. It’s got over 1,000 questions, divided into 100 quizzes. It starts relatively easy, but becomes nearly impossible by the end.  It’s perfect for annoying your friends and stumping your enemies.

So, do me a favor; buy my book!  Write a nice review for Amazon.  Tell your friends. Give one to your father for father’s day.

If you do pick one up, let me know what you think.


The Osprey Quizmaster

Friday, 6 April 2012

J. S. Walker's Thirty-third Letter

Camp Deas, near Youngs Mills,
28th October, 1861

My very dear Wife:

                I have written you frequently during the past ten days, but fear you have not received my letters, as I understand the mail has been interrupted by the steamers getting out of order in James River. To the same cause I attribute the absence of letters from you. This is rather an out of the way place, being twelve miles from Yorktown, on a miserable road, and our mail arrangements are not the best. Ours is the advanced post, and are daily expecting an attack from the enemy, while I believe they watch with the same anxiety for an attack from us. Consequently, we do not and will not come together until one or the other advances. If accounts are to be credited, they have a large force at Old Point, but they do not come out. In the meantime, it is getting quite cold in our tents, with cold, damp earth floors, and it is doubtful whether we will build winter quarters at all, as being attacked by a superior force we would have to retire, but I think with a small outlay I can make myself very much more comfortable. To that end I must have a small stove, in which I can burn wood, and an old piece of carpet about ten feet square. I will lay plank floor to my tent and then put down the carpet and up the stove, and will be able to keep warm, however cold it may be. So tell Davis to send me the stove, and you send me a piece of old carpet or drugget – it can all be packed in a box and sent by express to Yorktown and I will get it. The express comes to Yorktown Tuesdays and Fridays.
                As soon as it gets cold enough, I want you to have me some good corn beef made, also some string sausages, smoked, some beef, tongue and butter. You can send as soon as you can get them. Let me know what they cost and I will make the officers’ mess pay their proportion. If David comes down, I would like if he would bring a valise for me, my trunk is too large for the transportation and I want to send it back with my summer clothes.
                There is nothing new. I have determined to give and endure to the end. My best lieutenant has been made Captain of another company, and Dr. Parker has sent his resignation. I will trust in the Lord and he will guide me alright.
                Kiss the dear children and give love to all friends.

                                                                Yours most affectionately,
                                                                                Jno. S. Walker

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

J.S. Walker's Thirty-Second Letter

Camp Near Youngs Mill,
15th Regiment Va. Vols.,
15th Oct. 1861.

My dear Wife:

                I have not written to you for several days, but wrote to David all my troubles and asked his advice, what my course should be. I have prayed over it and come to the conclusion to sink self and bear my ills to the end, trusting alone in the Lord and seeking his deliverance, aid and strength, and He can make man’s folly praise him. There has just been an order issued by Gen. Magruder that he will not allow leave of absence to officers or furlough to men until 1st January, so it may be that I will not get home before 1st February, if then, and tho I expect to have to live in my tent till at least 15th December, I am now with the buffalo robe proof against the cold and can keep warm with the clothing I have. Gen. Magruder seems to apprehend an attack of the enemy at any time in large force, tho I think he is mistaken, but it is our duty to be prepared and to expect them whether they come or not. I wish as a people we could recognize the chastisement of the Lord in this war, then might we hope for speedy termination, recognizing Him in all things. Christians should renew their strength and wrestle with the Lord, not only for victory over our enemies but as a nation over sin. I think if I do not get a leave of absence to come to see you all, I will make arrangements about the middle of November for you and the children to come to Williamsburg, where I can meet you and speed a week or ten days together. I do not know what my happen in the meantime, so do not count upon this arrangement with any certainty. If made, you can have a very pleasant trip by steamer down the River James to Grove Warf and then by stage or hack eight miles to Williamsburg, where I can get pleasant board in a private family or boarding house for you all.
                As there is no system about getting boxes from Yorktown yet, I will not expect you to send me anything till the weather gets cooler and I advise you. I wish you would ask David to see Snydor and see if he can get a tent stove for burning wood, with ten or twelve feet of pipe and one or two elbows and if it can be packed in a barrel so as to come securely. If so and I am likely as it now appears to remain in my tent for six or eight weeks, I shall get him to send me one, as it will contribute greatly to my comfort in cold wet weather. I told David to tell you by all means to have the gas put in the small room. It has occurred to me that as there is no saying how long this war may last and everything is now very high and will so continue during the war and I have now no business to contribute to pay the expenses particularly of a number of servants, that it might be a very favourable time to sell out my furniture at a very satisfactory price. Our Congress is to meet in Richmond in a short time and the city will be crowded, many wealthy Southern men attend, and many officers are there who desire to live in their own homes, and who would probably pay a good price for the furniture if it is in good order, in order to get the house, which no doubt would rent for $300 more than I pay for it. If I could get about cost for the furniture, it would relieve me of one of my youthful follies, give me $3,000 or $4,000 cash, which I could invest profitably, and the balance buy new good enough furniture for my means. I could also send David Butler and family south and put them on a plantation, while Nelly, Milly, Betsy and Francis, with George would be all that we could possibly need. Of course, I am looking to getting a good price for my furniture and home, such an opportunity may not present itself, and I do not wish you to speak of it to anyone but Davis, to who I wish you would refer it and ask his advice, and let me hear from you all. If the war continues, as the North seems absolutely determined it shall until they subjugate us, then my occupation is gone in tobacco and I must look to something else to support my family during its continuance.
                I have been merely thinking about these things, have not set my mind upon them. Tell Luly Father was so glad to get her nice letter and know from it that she is a good girl, and I hope she is a good example to her younger brother and sister, and that they are all good, say there lessons and think about and pray for their father.
                Give my love to all friends, and direct your letters to Capt. John S. Walker, Co. B, 15th Regt. Va. Vols., near Yorktown.
                                                                Yours most affectionately,

                                                                                Jno. S. Walker

Monday, 19 March 2012

The Help

Last week my wife and I watched The Help. Set in Jackson, Mississippi during the height of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, the movie tells the story of a young woman who sets out to write a book recounting the lives of the black women in Jackson who work as maids for wealthy white families. Obviously, most of the story is focused on Jim Crow and bigotry.

The movie got me thinking. There was a time when I was a little bit ashamed by movies like this, that portrayed so many southerners as either evil racists or blind followers. These were, after all, ‘my people’. But time and distance has a way of shifting perspective. There is no doubt there were a lot of evil racists in the south and a whole lot more blind followers. My ancestor John Stewart Walker seems to fit well into this second category. But there are many southerners I can be proud of –

Martin Luther King Jr. was a Georgia boy and Rosa Parks was from Alabama. In my hometown, four men had the courage to sit at the Woolworth’s counter where they weren’t allowed and started a movement that swept across the country. These are ‘my people’ too, and I’m damn proud of it.

And those are just a few of the most obvious examples. It took thousands of people, black and white, southerner and northerner, to beat down Jim Crow. It’s sad that they had to do it, but it is a glorious victory that was won by ‘my people’.
So, before anyone asks, no, I’m not ashamed of my Confederate ancestors. I’m sure they did the best they could with the world as they understood it. I know they were wrong on a major issue, but it is not for me to judge them, better to learn from their mistakes.

That said, I will always carry with a bit of pride the story that my great granddaddy James D. McCullough, (grandson of Col. McCullough and a minor politician from South Carolina) once received a threat from the KKK because they found him just a little too ‘liberal’ on certain racial issues...

Sunday, 11 March 2012

J. S. Walker's Thirty-First Letter

Camp Deas, Youngs Mills,
9th Oct., 1861

My dear Wife:

                I have just returned from 24 hours duty with my company on Picket at our infantry outpost. I had rather a bad day as regards weather, being rainy and cold, which is unpleasant without shelter. I am thankful to say that I am real well notwithstanding it all. I take the best care I can of myself and trust the Lord to shield me from disease as well as my enemies.
                Your last letter sympathizing with me in my cloudy experience comes very opportunely, for I am beset behind and before. My troubles are not only of an earthly character, but I feel that my earthly ills augment my spiritual – in other words that I am not content with my present position and cannot see that the Lord so orders or allows it, but that I am responsible for continuing it myself. Col. August is not fit to command and I am satisfied his Regiment suffers in consequence.  Col. Stuart has left, Peyton has left, and here I am without a field officer in whom I have confidence, and I am almost persuaded it is my duty to resign and go home to my family, for tho late in October, damp, cold weather, we have not yet prepared or commenced to prepare for winter quarters. Our situation is a very unseasonable one, for if we remain during this October season in our tents, our men on damp ground, they will either be in their graves or the hospital for the winter. If I could get my Company transferred to another Regiment, I would do so, but that cannot be done. I must either transfer myself or resign.
                I thank God that while these things trouble me, as they should on account of my own health and my family’s dependence on me, yet I have every confidence in His ability to perform His part and even to bring out of this apparent evil good to me both in this life and the next. I am rereading Headly Vicars*, which I hope will help me to be content under the difficulties by which I am surrounded.
                I will write you more fully tomorrow. I am in haste now and I have to give this to a man who goes up tomorrow.
                Kiss the dear children and give love to all friends.
                                                                Yours most affectionately,
                                                                                Jno. S. Walker

* This perhaps refers to the Memorials of Captain Hedley Vicars by Catherine March. Hedley Vicars was an Evangelical preacher and British Army officer who was killed during the Crimean War.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

The Woodcutter

As the letters of John Stewart Walker clearly demonstrate, for most soldiers, most of the Civil War was about marching around, setting up camp, marching some more, and being bored.  While camp-life doesn't make for a very interesting wargaming, I am glad that several figure manufacturers have looked past that and offered some non-combatant figures for sale. I recently painted one up to accompany the Army of Oxford. This guys is off to cut some wood took keep the camp-fires going. 

Friday, 3 February 2012

J. S. Walker's Thirtieth Letter

Camp Deas, near Youngs Mill,
Warick Co., Post Office
Yorktown, 4th Oct. 1861

My dear Wife:

                I must write you a hurried letter as I have the opportunity of sending it to Williamsburg to be mailed. Your last enclosed one from Charles’ wife. I have written you pretty regularly and I am surprised you have not received them. I had not the opportunity of paying postage and put my name on the back so the postage could be paid at Richmond. These letters may not have been sent. I continue remarkably well, notwithstanding the unfavorable cold weather, very heavy rains which flood our camp.
                From what I can learn, we will soon have to build log huts in which to winter near this place. We will be very close to James River and no doubt will have facilities of getting up and down the River by Steamer, as well as getting packages down. I hope you got my letter ordering my winter clothing down by Taylor and that you sent them. We are not advised as to what our future movements will be. We have to live each day and have to ourselves a military life not knowing what a day may bring forth. I only wish as a Christian I could so live trusting alone in the Lord, but sin, that marrer of all mankind, will creep in, but then the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin, thanks be to his atoning sacrifice.
                Kiss the dear children and give love to all.

                                                                Yours most affectionately,

                                                                                Jno. S. Walker

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Mississippi Naval Academy Brigade

As I'm nearly finished assembling the Confederate Army of Oxford, I wanted to added a couple of unique units to give the army a bit more color. Inspired by the Virginia Military Academy cadets who fought at the battle of New Market, I thought it would be fun to add a similar unit to my army.

Here's the story. With the outbreak of hostilities in 1860, Mississippi assembled its own naval academy, knowing that control of the river would prove crucial. However, by 1864, with the river completely under Union control, the cadets were re-equipped and retrained to fight as infantry, but kept their distinct uniforms.

The miniatures are by Empress Miniatures and are intended to be British soldiers during the Maori War. They are really top-notch miniatures, and it is definately worth finding an excuse to work them into your army. (Click on the images to get a larger view)

Saturday, 21 January 2012

J. S. Walker's Twenty-Ninth Letter

Camp near Youngs Mill
Warwick Co., 19th Sept., 1861

My dear Wife:

                I received yesterday yours dated 17th relative to Boggs, and asking if I would give to the Missionary Cause. Yes, give $20.
                Since writing from Camp DeSoto we have twice changed and are now the advance post towards the enemy, being only eight miles from Newport News. Those in command here are daily expecting an attack from Gen. Wool, but I think they are mistaken. I think the old man has too small a force and is only playing a little brag game with us. He may, however, come, and if so I hope we will give him a Bethel setting back. Our Regiment needs very much a head. Col. August is alone with us and I hope Col. Stuart will soon appear. We are at last receiving reinforcements down here and will soon be able to give old Wool a fight. I thank the Lord my trust is alone in Him and not in the weak arm of flesh. I hope he will continue with us and still more signally prove that he is Lord and host in battle, but our soldiers as a genera thing are very immoral and profane and I fear if his blessings don’t turn them to Christ and turn them from their evil way that in love for their souls he may chastise them.
                Pray for the convicting grace to descend upon our army. I have the opportunity of writing, and am thankful today I am still well. I read Thompson Brown got home.
                Kiss the dear children.  Love to all.

                                                                Yours very affectionately,

                                                                                Jno. S. Walker

Have you gotten your winter coal, if not, write to Mr. Wooldridge to have 250 bus. sent you and keep coal house locked.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Marching with Great, Great, Great Granddad

As it turns out, Santa Claus does read blogs, and this year, under my tree, was a prettily wrapped present containing For Cause and For Country by Eric Jacobson and Richard Rupp. I’ve only just started reading this account of 'the Affair at Spring Hill and the Battle of Franklin', but I’m already very much enjoying it.
Basically in late 1864, after the Confederates had abandoned Atlanta, General John Bell Hood led the butternuts on their last major offensive in the Western Theatre. After a chapter of introduction, the book gets down to business with the Confederate advance into Tennessee.  Leading that advance was Cheatham’s Corp, which contained Brown’s Division, which in turn contained Gist’s Brigade, which included the 16th South Carolina Volunteers, led by Col. James McCullough .   While individual regiments rarely get mentioned in large campaign histories, I can easily follow my ancestor's basic course as part of the larger organizations.
As the Confederates started off into Tennessee, they were caught up in a terrific snowstorm. I’ve read numerous accounts of marches through bad weather, but there was something different knowing that those snowflakes stung the face of my ancestor. I could imagine the scene like never before.
I can’t wait to see what the rest of the book will bring.

Monday, 16 January 2012

J. S. Walker's Twenty-Eighth Letter

Warwick C. H., 16th Sept., 1861

My dear Wife:

     I write to let you know that after a sojourn here of one day with all the trouble of pitching our tents, we have to pull up and pitch again five miles below here, near Young’s Mill, seven miles from Newport News. Our commanding officers anticipate an attack from Gen. Wood very soon, tho I do not.
     You must expect great irregularity in hearing from me, as I will be a long way from a post office.
     I am in excellent health, and tho the sickness of the Regiment increases daily, I am as well as usual, but if I get sick you may rest assured I will get home, as there are no facilities here for making a sick man comfortable.
     Kiss the dear children and remember me affectionately to all friends.

                                                Yours very affectionately,

                                                                Jno. S. Walker

In haste.

Friday, 13 January 2012

The Confederate

One of my best Christmas presents this year actually came a week or two prior to the holiday, when my co-worker P- presented me with this piece of artwork. P- has a lot of contacts among military artists and, knowing my love of the Civil War, and especially Confederate history, he convinced one of them to paint this for me.  The piece is by Fabien, a man best known for his work in French comic books. 

What I really like about the piece is how much the figure resembles a 28mm miniature like the ones I am fond of painting.  It is just waiting for a suitable frame.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

CSS Manassas

Over the weekend, I was reading an article in an old issue of America's Civil War Magazine about the very first Confederate Ironcload, CSS Manassas.  The little image above claims to illustrate the ship, however, if that is true, it is missing a smoke stack.  What interested me most in the article wasn't the short career of the ship, but rather the reason for its creation.

Apparently, when the war broke out, a New Orleans businessman constructed the ironclad over the frame of a tugboat to serve as a privateer.  It's the first time I've ever heard anyone mention the idea of a river privateer, and I'm still not exactly sure how it was expected to work. I guess the Confederates never foresaw how quickly most of the river would be blockaded.  However, the concept gets stranger the more one examines the ship.  As was true of most ironclads, the CSS Manassas was slow, ponderous, and unreliable. Considering the most important trait of any privateer is speed, using an ironclad is certainly curious.  But there is more. The Manassas sported only one gun that was fixed forward. The gun was to be fired at point-blank range, right before the ship rammed its opponent.  This actually proved an effective tactic in Mississippi river warfare, but how does it work for a privateer? What good is ramming your prey and putting a big hole in the hull if you are trying to capture the ship intact?

In the end, it didn't really matter. Rather predictably, the ship was seized by the Confederate Navy to use as a warship, a task for which it was much better suited.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

J. S. Walker's Twenty-Seventh Letter

Camp DeSoto,
12th Sept., 1861

My very dear Wife:

                I have an opportunity of writing today and avail myself of it. We are at such an out of the way place that I write when I have a chance.
                I have not heard from you since I left, but feel no uneasiness on that account, since I know that the Lord reigneth, ruleth, and protecteth my family better than I could. Should you fail to hear from me for some time together, attribute it to the want of opportunity to write and not as you most likely would do, to sickness, etc. I am thankful to a good Father above for health of body and mind, and I hope an increasing spiritual experience. I am thrown entirely on my own dependence now upon the Lord, for everything in our Regiment is going to the dogs, and I understand Col. August is to return to us from Richmond, but the Lord can provide a way of escape from my surrounding troubles, and I will trust him to the end.
                I am pained to hear that Frank Boggs has turned out a perfect sot and had to resign his post as Captain. The temptations of camp to dissipation are very strong, and tho I think occasionally a drink is good for the health, yet I have determined to forego it altogether even should I be sick for it, lest my example should lead others astray, and yet the abuse is the sin and not the needful use.
                                                Kiss the dear children for father. In great haste,

                                                                Your ever affectionate husband,

                                                                                Jno S. Walker