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