Monday, 30 December 2013

Battle of Big Bethel

Sometime last year, I received an email from a Mr. Edward B. Hicks. He was co-authoring a book on the Battle of Big Bethel and had come across this site during his researches. He kindly asked if he could use a copy of my picture of John Stewart Walker in the book.

Well, late last year, I received a package containing a copy of the book, Battle of Big Bethel: Crucial Clash in Early Civil War Virginia by J. Michael Cobb, Edward B. Hicks, and Wythe Holt. On page 111 is a little black and white image of my ancestor, John Stewart Walker.

I haven’t had a chance to read the book, but it is now near the top of my reading pile. It appears the authors have assembled all of the available data to create the definitive account of this small battle.

I’ll give a full review once I’ve read it.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

J.S. Walker's Letter (14 Jan 1862)

Camp Deas, near Young’s Mill,
14th January, 1862.

My very dear Wife:

            I fear that my letter a day or two ago made you sick. I hope not. It was not so intended. Since writing, the fleet has sailed, and we are soon to have comparative quiet, with cold, bad weather.
            I want you to send me down anything good you can in the eating line which will keep, such as sausage, corned beef, tongue, etc. Capt. Mayo has just gone up and will be in Richmond by the time this reaches you, and he will bring down anything you have to send say hams of bacon, etc. I have had nothing fit to eat for several days.
            The officers of this Regiment gave a supper Monday night to the Field Officers of the neighboring Regiments. Gen. Magruder &c were all there. I had to go, tho I had no disposition. With the exception of a cracker and a small piece of tongue I ate nothing, and came off very soon, having no taste for anything of that kind. Thompson Brown stayed with me, having been one of our guests.
            Capt. Mayo says if you will send anything to him for me down to the dock to Lieutenant Kensey Johns that it will come all safe. David Walker will attend to it for you.
            I am writing in great hurry to send off  immediately, so excuse haste. Give love to all and kiss my dear children.

                                                Yours very affectionately,

                                                            Jno. S. Walker

Sunday, 29 September 2013

J. S. Walker's Letter (8 Jan 1862)

Camp Deas, near Youngs Mills,
8th January, 1862

My very dear Wife:

            I wrote you a few days ago that I was a little unwell. I am thankful to say that I am now well, and as these are stirring times down here, and I have no doubt a thousand rumors reach Richmond of what is doing, I again remind you not to give credence to them. It is time there is a very large fleet in Hampton Roads, and the belief of our General is that an attack is intended on this peninsular. It may be so, and if it is it may result in our defeat, for our forces, small at best, reduced by the number absent, sick, is still smaller and is so scattered that it would require hard forced marches to concentrate them at one point and repulse an attack. The enemy if they come will come in large forces and make an attack by land and water. We would have to lose all our baggage, likely burn up our winter quarters, march over very bad roads and be exposed to the inclement weather of winter. I am looking at the dark side and it is our duty to do so, while we are determined in our purpose and confident of the final issue. Should we engage the enemy, it may be that I may be killed. You have no doubt considered these things and found grace to sustain you in view of them, and I have no doubt Grace would be given you to receive the Lord’s affliction. My duty in view of such a result is to live prepared for it, and it is hard to divest oneself of the selfish feeling that death would bring relief from the trials and troubles of war. Should it be so, my hope is in Christ, and with my expiring breath, with the honest petition “Lord have mercy on me a sinner, for Jesus sake”, would be the exultant hope of a sinner saved by Grace, and my last words to my friends would be these of Job: “Behold, my witness is in heaven, and my record is on high”, and I could confidently confide my family to that good kind  Heavenly Father who knows what is best for them better than I do, and while their earthly prop would be taken away, their Heavenly support would be increased.
            Should it so happen that I should be wounded and taken prisoner, I have no doubt Grace would be given me to bear all, and that He who watcheth over me now, would not leave me comfortless, but the Saviour who now stands by me would whisper “I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you.” As a prisoner deprived of a great many privileges I now enjoy, I would still have the glorious privilege of communion with my Heavenly Father, and with that any privation might be borne. I may be wrong in casting a gloom over your path with any such probabilities, but since they are possible, if you are sustained by the Almighty Arm, you can with Christian resignation not only contemplate them, but, thanks be to God, endure the, properly exercised thereby, it is under any circumstances preferable to us to be fortified by grace, for any and every change.
            Should I pay the forfeit of my devotion to my country with my life, I would leave my family with a meagre pittance, in the wreck of fortune, for their support, while they would have strong friends in my brother. You would have to live very economically to live at all, and I am thankful that these things would not afflict you, while the blessings of Heaven, the very absence of fortune might be and no doubt would be the best legacy, with a good name, that I could leave my children, so that my misfortunes would prove their gain. For but few who inherit fortune know the use of it, and its abuse is their eternal loss. My children would then have the opportunity of being reared, not in the lap of luxury, but the school of poverty, which tho a hard master is a very thorough teacher, and would learn them bible charity, if they properly improved it, which would be their eternal gain. But why should I pursue a strain alike painful both to you and myself. Not have talked or written you upon the subject, it is my duty to do it, and I have so little confidence in the way things are conducted in this department, that even a good cause may suffer for their mismanagement. I would not have my remarks to make you unnecessarily anxious on my account, even should we have an engagement, for after all our lives are in the hands of the Lord and He directs the battle, so let rumor go to the wind, and should the worst come, let the Lord be your shield and protection.
            Our mails are so very irregular that I have not heard from you for several days. I trust in God you are all well and do not feel anxious, since I know his Fatherly protection is yours.
            In my letter on New Years day to the dear children, I told them to thank Mrs. Hays for her acceptable present, and I repeat the same request to you. I will when we are more settled try and write to her, for every hours we are startled by false rumors of the enemy advancing, and at night are not allowed to have light.
            We hold our Company prayer meetings in our quarters every night and they are well attended and very profitable to us all, and I hope by the blessing of God may be the means of bringing some of our unpenitant members into the fold of Christ. Col. August attended the one last night and seemed pleased and profited by it. Thank God, he is living a holy life so far as the world sees, and I pray in the sight of God.
            Remember me affectionately to all our family. Let me hear of Man whenever you write, and the kind friends who inquire after me.
            And now, my dear wife, commending you to the protection of our kind Heavenly Father and renewing my request for your continued prayers for me and our cause, and with kisses for the dear children, I am

                                                Ever your husband,

                                                            Jno. S. Walker.

Should you not hear from me again for several days, attribute it to my duties and surroundings. I have to go on picket tomorrow.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

J. S. Walker's Letter (30 Dec 1861)

Camp Deas, near Youngs Mills,
30th Dec. 1861.

My dear Wife:

            Through Mr. Morris I received a letter from you, David and Amandus. I have just written Man one of four pages, David one of three and a half pages, and lest you may be jealous of the promptness with which I replied to theirs, will drop you a few lines. Duty prompted the others, and affection this. I was gratified at the tone of resolve and dependence on God of Man’s letter, and do earnestly pray that the Lord with turn his heart to himself. I advised him to seek “the one thing needful” and recommended him to get some good books and read them if his heart was inclined to flee sin, and that you had a great many and that he ought to get Fannie to borrow them from you for him, so that if she asks you for any, put in his hands books that will lead him to Christ. If you have any of Edward’s tracts, give them to him, and by prayer for him and as opportunity presents itself, try and help him to be a Christian, encourage Fannie and tell her it is God’s time not only to save him from intemperance but also his soul, and she may be made yet to rejoice that the Lord allowed him to be tempted of the devil since it may turn him to God.
            I am expecting the boxes, barrels, etc. tomorrow, and will when received be better prepared to return thanks to Mrs. Hayes, etc. I fear from your frequent allusion to your eyes that they must be very weak and that writing tries them too much. I hope you will not write if it is the case. Get Mrs. Hayes to write for you, and do no work of any kind, and consult some physician about them. Dr. Bolton has the reputation of being a very fine occulist, having given it a great deal of study. You had better advise with him.
            I gave your friend Roach a good talk the other day, and he promised not to drink any more liquor while in service. I hope the Lord may enable him to resist. It is the devil’s best agent for populating his dominion, and I believe if the Christians could see the evil it does they would as soon think of putting the knife to their neighbor’s throat as the cup to their lips. It rejoices my heart to see the great reformation in the whole life of Col. August, and I believe he is trying to live a Christian in all things. May the Lord sustain him.
            My picket duty was performed last Saturday, and it was so cold the water would freeze in the canteens, but I am not soiled by it, it is truly wonderful how I stand and am prepared to endure this cold season. I am now in my log cabin, by a good fire, writing on a table and in first rate health, with a truly thankful heart for God’s blessings and mercies, with a desire to be more useful in my master’s vineyard, and while I would avoid the enthusiast, by my life example and admonition help others to come to Christ.
            Yes, send down my books, with a good mixture of good books. They may be bread cast upon the water and may gather in some to Jesus. If David will see Capt. Fitzhue Mayo he will bring them down in his boat to our camp.
            The old year flickers in the socket. It is a year long to be remembered on earth, and the judgement day will show it a year when many have been called to their final account. To us it has been a year of great blessings and mercies whereof we cannot be too thankful to our Heavenly Father, and we should be encouraged to give up ourselves anew, and run with greater diligence the short race before us. This is our year of chastisement, may the next be our year of rejoicing. The widow’s weeds and friends mourning will tell of many a dear one killed in battle, dead from disease contracted in the army, besides the usual death. These individual afflictions in the aggregate make up a nation’s chastisement, and my if individually improved by turning the moments to their God be the prelude to a nation’s rejoicing in God’s love. What a privilege it is to be allowed as it were sometimes to see in advance God’s purpose to his creatures, his love through his anger. But I must stop for I have forgotten your eyes. I shall try and write the dear children on New Year’s day, if my duties do not interfere.
            Tell Norman I would be very much gratified by a letter from him, and since he rubs occasionally against the big bugs may be able to give me some more definite idea of what is thought will be the issue of the Mason and Slidell affair than I can gather from the newspapers. My own idea has always been that while they would bully they would at last cringe before England’s wrath, while they would let their cowardice keep them intent on subjugating us, but thank the Lord the very moral effect of their yielding to England’s demands nerves us for the contest and by His Almighty Arm for our defence we will at last come off conquerors.
            Kiss the dear children and give love to all friends. I congratulate you upon your class leader and hope the leaven of his spirit my disperse itself in the church till the whole is leavened.
                                                Your affectionate husband,

                                                            Jno. S. Walker

Saturday, 13 July 2013

J. S. Walker's Letter (Dec. 27, 1861)

Camp near Youngs Mills,
27th Dec., 1861

My very dear Wife:

            I wrote you Christmas day before my dinner party, which came off according to program, including oysters.
            I am now satisfied we will remain here, and I wish you to send down by Mr. Morris anything you have to contribute to my comfort. If he will see Capt. Fitzhugh Mayo he will let him send them down by steamer he has charge of, which will land them at Youngs Mills very near our camp.
            My health is excellent. Tomorrow I am on picket duty with my Company in the woods. There is nothing new. You see by the papers the probability of the U.S. acceding to England’s demands. Pray earnestly that the Lord will turn our wicked hearts as a nation to himself that he may then bless us, otherwise chastisement is necessary to bring us to him. This is a dull place, but I have my moments of peace and quiet to myself and time for my devotion.
            I must close, with a kiss for the children, as this letter must be off by Capt. Atkinson.

                                                Yours very affectionately,

                                                            Jno. S. Walker

Saturday, 15 June 2013

J. S. Walker's Letter (25 Dec.1861)

Camp Deas, Christmas Day,

My very dear Wife:

            I duly received your letter written on the house top at the prospect of immediate peace. It may be so and may not. To us it would be a great aid to have England, but we would not be worthy of our liberty if we depended upon foreign aid to obtain it. That the hand of the Lord is in it, none can doubt. That He will work it out as we would have it, may not be, having so long favored us by his protection, unless we implore it more than we have done, by honouring him in all our ways as a nation. He may chasten us in love, and turn his face from us and his frown upon us, just as we think we are free of our enemies. I pray Him to hasten the day of honourable peace, when a national thanksgiving will proceed from the hearts of the people
            Well, it is a season of family reunion and festivity, and our camp is frolicking, and whiskey is making brutes of men. I have no head for the enjoyment of it as a gala day, for it is as out of place as a jester at a funeral, while I do feel thankful for the strong arm of the Lord and the love of that dear Saviour, which enables me to withstand the temptations of the occasion. Our Colonel, I am happy to say, has for the past three or four months abstained entirely from drink and I believe truly repentant, is trying to live trusting in God above Temptation. As a shield to him I have invited him to dine with me today, also Dr. Scott, Lt. Col. Crenshaw, Capts. Tucker, Atkinson and Warren, all of our Regiment. They will have nothing to drink but coffee at my table. I reckon you would like to know what I am going to have for dinner. Well, I will give you my bill of fare: a roast turkey, boiled ham, beefsteak and oysters if they can be had, sweet and Irish potatoes, and for desert, sweet potato pie made by Parson Hardie, and cake. Won’t that do, considering I received no box from home?
            I should like to look in upon the little ones today, and how thankful I am that Providence does not cast a cloud upon their young spirits by reason of the war. I hope their little hearts were made glad by finding their socks full of knick-knacks, and that the old will give the day to their enjoyment, for I think the children are peculiarly entitled to the day and its enjoyment, and that it may be my blessed privilege to be with my family happily reunited at its next anniversary.
            Today is as mild and balmy as spring and not like Christmas weather, and it does not seem strange to me that in midwinter sleeping as I still am in a tent, that I enjoy such remarkably good health. It is the Lord’s protection. I sleep as sound as a top and wake next morning to break the ice to wash my face. I will be in my house in a few days, as it is now ready and I only await to let it dry a little, being made of green pine logs and green timber throughout and mud in the cracks. With the first unfavorable change in the weather I shall go in. I have to go on picket duty with my company next Saturday, and as I have twenty-four hours of out doors duty, I think it best not to go into the house before then, as I might take cold. My boys are all preparing their Christmas dinner, cooking turkies, making pies, puddings, etc. It would amuse you to see them. It is quite a frolic for them.
            Two or three of our Regiments went down yesterday within two miles of Newport News and saw the enemy, and they saw us but they would not come out and give us a fight, so our men had to return.
            I have no news, and must close with a happy Christmas to all friends and an earnest prayer to my Father for his protection over them.

                                                Yours very affectionately,

                                                            Jno. S. Walker

Monday, 10 June 2013

J. S. Walker's Letter (22 Dec. 1861)

Camp near Youngs Mills,
22d Dec., 1861.

My very dear Wife:

            Your last announced the sickness of little Norman and I felt for Georgie with Norman away. I regret that they do not improve the experience of Norman when a child and see the origin in the disordered state of his stomach from something he has eaten which disagreed with him.
            I was thankful that the same letter brought the tidings that our little ones were well, and that you were all getting on well, tho I fear you have had some anxiety about me growing out of the thousand and one rumors which reach the itching ears of Richmond. I heard that you had sent Col. Geo. W. Randolph through Mrs. Jones to enquire after me, my whereabouts, my health, etc., and I fear you have not received my several letters in which I advised you not to give heed to rumors.
            We have been kept in a continual state of suspense for the past ten days, our General expecting an attack, our heavy baggage sent to the rear, and every activity to prevent the enemy overpowering our comparatively small force, but up to the present time there has been no advance movement of the enemy, and so far as we can judge, none in contemplation. These annoyances have of course stopped our preparations of winter quarters, and while my men are comfortable in their log huts, I am equally comfortable in my tent. We have been blessed with remarkably mild weather, and winter cannot be said to have visited us yet. With the little stove and the buffalo robe I keep very comfortable and in perfect health, for which I hope I am grateful to a kind Heavenly Father, who has done so much for me and is willing to do still more.
            There are a great many of our officers and men who are very anxious and pressing to be allowed to visit their homes during the Christmas, and with the absent, sick, and those sent on duty to other places, our Regiment is not half its accustomed strength, and our camp wears rather a quiet, melancholy aspect. My military duties are light, so I have a good deal of quiet to myself for meditation and self examination, and as I have no reading but the Bible and “Rise and Progress’, I have improved the time for my good, I trust. I have no one that I esteem as a sympathizing, close Christian friend, though there are very many pious good men in the Regiment. While I cannot say that I enjoy the blessings of Christian joy and happiness at present, nor do I think I ought under the pressure and dampening influence of war without. I am truly thankful to say that I have peace in believing, and that with all the anxieties surrounding me that I am able to pursue my Christian course smoothly and hopefully. I am satisfied that this is not the hour for Christian joy, but that the Lord as it were veils his face for the tie even to those whom he owns as his children, that in love he would try their faith individually and thus perfect them in holiness, while collectively as a church he would humble them and show them that worms of the dust they stand in danger of the judgment by reasons of the very blessings by which He in His bounty has placed at their disposal in a time of peace, and that neither riches nor worldly goods can purchase peace of mind and soul either in this world or that that is to come.
            I believe the day has come when the Lord proposes to draw a line between His and the worlds, that the barriers which his religion would place between the lives of His children and those of Satan having been broken down by profession and the world, and those that profess to be His followers wear no longer the sign of the cross in their foreheads, that He will separate between the sheep and the goats and again either one prove vital godliness in His Sanctuary, that self deceived professors having in their hearts still the gown of sin but for want of a congenial air and favouring circumstances have remained dormant, not being tempted have consequently not give place to sin openly; now surrounded by evil and temptation, under favourable circumstances for its development, it brings forth fruit to the surprise of its possessor, and seeing and feeling its presence with true penitence, he turns a confessed sinner to his merciful Heavenly Father and it received with open arms, ransomed from his own blinded self and sin.
            There is more hope for the perpetrator of open sin than the possessor of secret sin, for the one is seen while it is felt, while the other indulgence is neither seen nor felt, the conscience being too often blunted by its continual presence. I know there is nothing in this life comparable to the inward sense of right, of God’s approval, and that while it cannot be purchased by silver or gold, maybe enjoyed by all who with honest hearts turn their face to God and at the same time their backs to the world, for it is impossible to serve God and Mammon.
            It is a hard thing to be a compromise Christian, while it is an easy thing “for the wayfaring man tho a fool cannot in” to be a whole souled Christian, provided we give our hearts wholly to God. The difficulty is we seek to enter the holy of holies with defiled hands, we would withhold part of the purchase money and not consecrate the whole to God, we would seek to secure a place in Heaven while we hold with a firm grasp this world. We express strong faith in God’s promises, while we show strong faith in the things which perish with the using, we dream of Heaven while our conversation is of the earth, earthy, the secrets of our hearts, are sin, while our outspoken virtues, which the world commends, are deceits. These characteristics make up the present day Christians, but not the Bible Christian, as I pray the great national calamity of war may prove to many self-deceived ones and be to them the greatest blessing of their lives.
            The Lord worketh and none can hinder, and in a wonderful way for to the many evidences of His Providential interference in our behalf if the signs of the times are an index, He has given our enemies over to their lusts and blindness and is raising up in our behalf a strong alley in England, which will be to us, I hope, a speedy deliverance from war, while it will humble our proud oppressors. The prayers of God’s people are more powerful than a ____________ arm, and we should be encouraged to pray more earnestly and continuously for his favor, and that in granting that favor our people may see and realize that not by their might and strength but the power of God we are delivered, and seeing it may acknowledge him in all their ways. Then will war have brought a great good to us as a people.
            It is Sunday, the Lord’s day. It has been to me a day of rest and peace, and though I have not heard a sermon I think when you get through this you will say I have written one. I have put my thoughts and feelings on paper. I fear it will impair your eyes to read them, for I have still to write on one knee.
            I was officer of the day yesterday and last night about midnight had to put your friend, Roach, in the Guard House for drunkenness, riot and disorder, fighting and cursing and straining at the Guard. Poor fellow, like too many others liquor will prove his ruin, and while he may aid to gain liberty for his country, in the chains of intemperance he will be dragged down to eternal slavery unless rescued by the blood of Jesus. I must talk to him when sober. It may be that the Lord will open his heart and divine truth take the place of hellish lust.
            Kiss the dear children for father and tell them to be good. I pray God that with the approaching spring peace may be vouchsafed to us and the sword turned into the pruning hook and we return to our own better prepared to be truly thankful to God for our daily blessings.
            May the Lord give us strength for every hour of trial and we be at all times able to say: “Thanks be to God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ”. Love to all, especially Amandus, and try to help him. Let me know how he gets on. So soon as we have quiet I will write him.

                                    Yours very affectionately,

                                                Jno. S. Walker

Saturday, 30 March 2013

J. S. Walker's Letter (21 Dec. 1861)

Camp near Youngs Mills,
21st Dec . 1861

My dear Wife:

            I have not written for a day or two for want of something to write about. We are kept in a state of constant excitement, expecting the enemy up, but they have not yet made their appearance, and I doubt whether they will, as it is now threatening falling weather. We are all very much elated at the idea of having England with us to attend to the sea while we put them through by land. I will have stronger hopes that the Lord will show his almighty power to save and direct, and that all people will have to confess it.
            Mr. Morris goes up to take charge of a boat and will probably remain several days, and can bring anything down you may wish to send. I think by the time he comes you may safely send mattress, meats, etc., as we will be quiet by that time.
            Dr. Parker will go up on Monday and will call and see you and give you all the news. I am thankful to say that I have stronger confidence in God and have been living nearer to him, with consequently more comfort to myself, than for some time past. My desire is for holiness of heart and consistency of life, that I may be useful in my day. My prayer is to live contented with the Lord’s will, while I feel that he allows me to pray for everything. Write me often and let me know how the children get on. I have received a letter from you advising that they are all better. Kiss them for father, and give love to all friends. I am in fine health and spirits.

                                    Affectionately yours,

                                                Jno. S. Walker

Thursday, 28 February 2013

The Sword of John Stewart Walker

Because John Stewart Walker was killed early in the war, in Virginia, and in the same unit as his brother, his body was carried home. Hence everything that he had carried with him in the war was returned to his family. One of those items was the sword he was holding when he died. This is a photograph of the sword, taken by my aunt some years ago. At the time, it was hanging on the wall of my great uncle, David Walker Jr.

I am told that I met Uncle David Walker when I was a boy, though I don't remember the event. About a year ago, another member of the family suggested that I write to him, since I was so interested in the family's Civil War history. In reply, Uncle David sent me a package with a very nice letter and a portrait of John Stewart Walker, that had obviously once been framed. It is the same image that I've used at the top of the John Stewart Walker page. In fact, the one on the blog might be a photograph of the portrait he sent.

I believe the sword has now passed on to one of David's children, and I am hopeful that I might be able to get some more pictures of it in the future.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

J. S. Walker's Letter (23 Nov 1861)

Camp Deas, near Youngs Mills,
23d Nov., 1861.

My very dear Wife:

            I am in receipt of yours of the 20th covering Kirk’s affair. Let him have the furniture in your third story room and invite him to make my house his home. Tell him why you do not take the furniture from Lynchburg, that your mother will not understand it, and that her age, affliction and peculiar disposition and prejudices, should make her children cover with the mantel of charity and forgiveness any and everything which detracts from their happiness. You ought to advise her that since Kirk and Lucy have to determined to marry that since she cannot prevent it, and tho opposed to the union probably on the ground of consanguinity, that she should sink all these prejudices and in the hour of trial as it is to them to act without her approval, yet to remember that they have souls to save, and that if she would exert a good influence over them it must be not by estrangement but by conciliation, and that what she may regard as an evil may by the kind interference of our Heavenly Father be to them not only a seal of maternal love but of eternal happiness. God grant it may. Let your position be not that of a partisan, nor a judge of others’ motives, but the more heavenly one of a peacemaker, go to your closet and let God direct you that you may be able to lead to a happy result these family feuds. In this distracted world, convulsed by wars and rumors of wars, we can alone find peace in the discharge of the higher duties of our Christian faith and in the living to do good to others, we get good to ourselves, our own souls is refreshed by the comfort we world afford others.
            As Dr. Parker says, I am now very comfortable and will be more so when I get my hut built. I thought last night at 12 o’clock when awakened by a terrific bombardment that we were today to battle for our rights, but beyond a Federal vessel or two in the river nearby shelling our picket, when nobody was hurt, all is quiet. They may come at any moment.
            I went day before yesterday to see Mr. Wheelwright and found him the same warmhearted Christian friend, comfortably fixed, and having the entire confidence of his officers and men. I regretted that I could not have him alone to myself to talk over our trails and temptations, but it was a pleasant and profitable visit. I then went to Williamsburg to see my sick and found them all improving. The sickest man I had was kindly taken by Mrs. Dr. Williamson to her house. Mrs. W. is a sister of Mrs. _________, and I am very grateful to her for her kindness to young Briggs.
            I shall be glad to see Willie Hays, but he is too young for the temptations of camp and his constitution not sufficiently matured, I fear. It makes my heart bleed to see how the youth of the land are losing their souls eternally while they would patriotically save their country. The price of a soul, the death of Jesus, is too great to thus be squandered. May the Lord throw around the youth of our land his strong arm of protection and save them from the temptations of the evil one. You have no idea how homesick the old nursery carpet, the likenesses of my family, etc. make me. But thank the Lord I am content and will hope and pray to be speedily returned to them to be in the future a better husband, father, master and friend than in the past. But should the Lord see best to take me hence either by disease or violence of the enemy, I hope his mercy may cover my sins and my Saviour’s blood cleanse my foul spirit, and that in his hands as their protector my wife, children and servants may be so kept and directed as to insure that eternal, peaceful union which is beyond the grave. We are too apt to become so familiar with danger and death as not to fear the one or live prepared for the other, and it is well to bring ourselves face to face with both frequently, that we may see ourselves as we are. We know not what a day may bring forth and why should I believe all others mortal but myself, and see death without realizing that I have to grapple with, and submit to it, even if in its grasp, by grace divine, I come off conqueror.
            Kiss the dear children, and feel the solemn responsibility which rest on you to train them now in their youth as they should live hereafter, and your reward will be in a peaceful happy life with them.
            Love to all friends who I am vain enough to believe are too many to mention. Pray for our army and our cause.

                                    Yours most affectionately,
                                                Jno. S. Walker.

            I fear you cannot make out my scribble. I have to write on my knee. I find I am getting too careless and must do better.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

J.S. Walker's Letter (16 Nov 1861)

No. 3
Camp Dea, near Youngs Mill
Saturday 16th Nov., 1861.

My dear Wife:

            After waiting for an opportunity to send for the box containing the stove, etc. I received it at last yesterday, and I am now seated in my tent, with a plank floor, carpet and stove with a fire in it, and tho the wind outside blows cold, I am quite as comfortable as I would be in a house. Please return thanks to David for the cassimere shirts, which were the very things I wanted, also to Coz. Amanda and her little girl, with Luly, for the socks, all of which will contribute largely to my comfort this winter. You have no idea how the old carpet reminded me of home and the nursery, and it would require but little encouragement to become homesick, but orders are that leaves of absence are not to be granted till 1st January and it may be that I will not see you all before that time. I will come home in the event I am taken sick, but shall not otherwise unless Gen. Magruder relents.
            I have a great deal to do in having log huts built for my men as well as myself, for tents will not stand snow storms. Then I will have a great tax on me to attend to my sick when I lose Dr. Parker, who has resigned and expects to go up on Monday. He will be a great loss to the whole Regiment and from intimate acquaintance with him and seeing his success as a physician, I have great respect for his ability, and while I dislike to lose him I cannot blame him and think it would be selfish to wish others to be forced to share with me the troubles of our disorganized Regiment, while they have not the same responsibility to look after as the Captain of a Company. I am very uneasy about the health of my Company, as the winter is now coming on and they have not a house to go into on account of no tools to build them with, and the exposure to cold I fear will give them pneumonia, rheumatism, etc. I wrote to Col. August an official letter upon this subject the other day, calling his attention to the necessity of at once attending to the health and comfort of this Regiment, and requesting him if he could not remedy matters to send my letter to Gen. Magruder, and if necessary to the Secretary of War.  I have heard nothing more of it, but there is evidently a disposition to provide tools at once and hasten the building of winter quarters, and we may yet get in them by Christmas, tho I doubt it very much.
            I have more sick now than at any time since I have been in service, 10 at Hospital in Williamsburg and 16 unfit for duty in camp. I hope the Lord will temper the storms of winter and not let its severity carry them to an early grave.  Oh, that through the dark clouds of war peace could shine upon us, that God, our God, should become the God of our Nation and be acknowledged in all their ways. Then will war have proven and blessing rather than a curse. (I am writing it being so dark I cannot see the lines).
            Yesterday was a fast day, and in fasting I hope I found it profitable to my soul. We had no military duty to perform, and it was the best day of rest and prayer and private mediation that I have enjoyed during the last six months, and while I find sin in my heart and feel self condemned that I have not improved the time allowed me to entirely root it out, I behold at the same time the boundless mercy of the Lord, the great love of the Saviour, and I determine to keep on relying alone upon them for salvation. I hope that the great national chastisement of war may make us individually better Christians, and a united Christian effort will tell upon the world around for the Glory of the Redeemer, and that the close of the war may be followed by a more vigorous onslaught upon the kingdom of darkness. But the end of the war is far distant, it may be, and since all things are possible with the Lord, let us improve the present and do good while we would get good.  How unfortunate that at a time when an unusual number of human beings are being ushered into eternity, both in battle and the disease incident to camp life, Christians, yes good people, allow themselves to be so entirely absorbed in war and rumors of war, who have itching ears for the result of the latest victory, whether we conquer or they conquer, and forget for the time the great warfare, which is to tell in eternity in which they engaged as soldiers of the cross, they allow themselves to sleep at post, and the great final Court Martial will consign them to an ignominious eternal death unless the executive clemency of a kind Saviour interfere in their behalf.  If the occasion does not present itself to do good, let the quiet  example of Christian consistency like leaven make for God’s glory.
            I am expecting orders daily for our Regiment to march towards Hampton to be absent twelve or fifteen days, sleeping out without tents, to gather corn, etc., from all the farms between this place and Hampton, all the farmers having deserted their farms early in the summer.  After that expedition the weather will be so cold and the roads so bad that the campaign will be closed for the winter, and we will then build winter quarters and remain in them till spring opens. In this expedition my buffalo robe will be invaluable and will keep me warm in spite of the weather.
            My dear, if I have not before told you, I have been guilty of neglect in not advising you that this is a land of sweet potatoes, but not Irish. I know you send them because you know I am fond of them, but just put something in the place of them.
            Kiss all the dear children and let them know that I want to see them just as much as they do me and that six months or more and I hope our little home circle will again be made pleasant by a happy continuous reunion.
            Give my love to the Stewarts, Uncle ______, and all friends when you see them, and remember to pray continually for God’s favour on our arms and his direction of our affairs and a speedy peace.

                                                            Yours most affectionately,

                                                                        Jno. S. Walker.