Monday, 3 February 2014

J. S. Walker's Letter (13 Feb 1862)

Camp Deas, 13th Feby. 1862.

My dear Wife:

            I drop you a line as I have the opportunity to let you know that I am very well. The enclosed note from Col. Cumming is an acknowledgement of some of the good things you sent me. He has his wife with him and this is a hard country to get anything fit for a lady to eat. The news of reverses in North Carolina, Tennessee, etc., almost determine me to book myself for the war. My company is very anxious to have me take them. I pray God to direct me. This is our dark hour as a nation, our liberty hangs in the balance, our enemy are strong and determined, ourselves have been too confident. Let saints pray the God of battles to avert the storm that hangs over us, and bring the blessing of peace and liberty.
            Give my love to all. Kiss the dear children. Nothing new down here.

                                   
                                                Yours ever affectly., in haste,

                                                            Jno. S. Walker

Dear Captain:

            Your messenger has just delivered to me your very acceptable present of  “creature comforts”, for which accept my thanks and those of Mrs. Cumming.
            I would be pleased to see you over, Captain, as also any of our friends from the 15th Virginia.

                                                Very truly yours,

A. Cumming.
Captain Jno. S. Walker,

15th Va. Rgt.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

J. S. Walker's Letter (11 Feb 1862)

Camp Deas, 11th Feby. 1862

My dear Wife:

            I am in receipt of yours covering tracts and Advocate. The tract I read attentively and my experience justifies my endorsing every proposition of the author. Prayer is the leaven known to move heaven, the two edged sword that separates between sin and holiness, the life preserver of the Christian when the troubled waves of this worlds afflictions and troubles would over flow him. I trust I realize, it may be weakly yet truly, its mighty agency and necessity and employ it to my own good. Like the sinner in the last expiring struggle of Satan with his soul, throws himself meek and overcome into the hands and arms of a Saviour waiting to receive him, I now in the trials, troubles, anxieties and defeats which surround us, have no other help but prayer and turn to God for support and direction, and yet I feel that there is a veil between my God I would have removed. I am perplexed but not cast down.
            I believe the Lord allows it to draw me into still closer communion with Him and to enable me to more fully realize His Glory when he deigns to remove the veil. I believe my outward conflicts have something to do with it too. My heart is oppressed for my country, both for its national and spiritual condition, and then I am beset by troubles as to my individual duty. I want to do, nay I mean to do, what is right. God being my guide and director, I recognize in our recent defeats His providence and wisdom. I believe it will eventuate to our good and His glory. It will arouse the lethargic. It will make us flee again to the rock that is higher than us, poor mortals, we would be made much of by the gapping mob, Hero Worshippers, because He made us the instruments to defend a just cause, but He alone must have the glory, and when as a nation we render it He will then give us the final victory.
            At the mention of Bro. Wheelwright in yours, I have just written him a long letter and shall when I get through this write to David relative to his and the other boys’ plans for military service. The defeat of Gen. Wise’s forces at Roanoke Island has put new spirit in our soldiers and they are now seriously re-enlisting for the war. My Company only await my advice, and if I would agree to be their Captain they would all come forward for the war, but I do not see my way clearly yet. I am waiting for the Lord to mark out my duty. I lay it before Him in prayer, and believe that in His own time he will direct.
            I duly received the sundry packages by Lt. Lyon, and through you return my thanks to all the kind friends. I pitched into Luly’s cakes and candy and enjoyed them amazingly, and for breakfast this morning had eggs and hominy.
            I think it probably that the news from Roanoke Island will interfere with my proposed visit to Richmond. If so, we must be content tho disappointed.
            Kiss the dear children. I am sorry the roads are so bad and the uncertainty of military movements render it inadvisable for little David to come down now. Remember me affectionately to all.
           
                                                Yours ever affectionately,
                                               
                                                            Jno. S. Walker

            I am very, very well, thanks to my good Heavenly Father.

                                                

Thursday, 23 January 2014

J. S. Walker's Letter (3 Feb 1862)

Camp Deas, near Springs Mill
3d Feby., 1862

My very dear Wife:

            In the absence of anything of interest, I have not written you for several days. Your last advising that Kirk was in Richmond and on a frolic gave me pain on his account, and I do earnestly hope that he will find after his said experience that even an iron will cannot sustain him and that throwing aside a dependence upon his own strength and placing it alone upon God and His help can only give him the victory over the accursed appetite.
            The only incident in my camp life worthy of record is that being Field Officer of the day on Friday last I had to ride during the day about twenty miles visiting the several outpost pickets, and after ten o’clock at night, with the rain pouring and as dark as darkness, I had to visit the lowest post alone to instruct the picket.
            By telegraph it was announced that another fleet had made its appearance in Hampton Roads, and our Generals concluded it was to attack us that night by land and water. My duty was to advise the outposts and instruct them what to do in the event of an attack. It was so dark I could not see the horse’s head, and as I had to go by circuitous routes and bridle paths through dense forests, I, of course, lost my way a little, but by the aid of a lantern which I had taken with me to light in such an emergency, I soon got on the right track, performed my duty and got back to camp at 2½ o’clock. Being well protected by water-proof wrappings, I experienced no ill effects from the ride, and tho there was apparent danger of being fired upon by our own picket mistaking me for the enemy, and some little probability of scouts of the enemy being in my way. I have never felt more secure by the fire in my library than I did, for I had the assurance that the Lord was my shield; and that His providence protected me.
            I expect Allen Lyon today and that much coveted box, which I shall enjoy, thinking of dear ones at home. You must not be disappointed if I don’t get up by the 22nd, for the enemy hovering around our coast makes it the duty of every man to be at his post. My boys looking forward to the probability of re-enlisting from necessity, are sounding me as to my intentions as to the future. They feel dependent upon me and would willingly re-enlist under me. I read them your sensible views on the subject, as I have also done to several of our Officers, and tell them that that shall be my guide and that what Providence directs I will do. I feel my responsibility to them will cease with the year for which I enlisted them, and that then I shall be guided by such light as I have and my own convictions of the necessity of the case as to what I shall do.
            If Norman, David, Amandus should all go into the service, it will be almost absolutely necessary for one of us to be at home to look after and provide for the families of the others. If they do not go, then I must, unless a price can be raised to defend my country against ruthless invasion. I still cling to the hope that the Lord will yet deliver us in so manifest a way that we all will have to own and give Him along the glory. As a nation owned by Him in a thousand ways since these hostilities began he will not allow us to be tried beyond our capacity to endure, but will in his own good time most likely when the cloud is darkest and the fury of the tempest is at its height, speak peace and there will be a great calm.
            Kiss the dear little ones and remember me affectionately to all relations and friends.

                                    Yours ever affectionately,
                                                           
Jno. S. Walker

5th Feby. 1862.

            Have not had an opportunity of sending this till now, and only open it to say I am very well. Nothing new. Kiss the dear children.

                                    Yours,


                                                Jno. S. Walker

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

J.S. Walker's Letter (29 Jan 1862)

Camp Deas, near Youngs Mill,
29th Jany., 1862.

My very dear Wife:

            I have not written you for several days for the simple reason that I have had nothing to write about, tho I have written several members of the family. I received yours giving me your views about my continuing in the service, and they are very sensible and accord with my own. It is yet three months before my present engagement ends and “sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof”, I am willing to let it all remain in the hands of the Lord and to be directed by him. I feel that there are great issues hanging on the result of the spring months, and yet the Lord may show his power to save us from more warfare before that time. Now that the prop upon which even Christians depend, even with more hope, I fear, than they have had faith in the Almighty Power, has failed them, viz., the prospect of war between England and the United States, they may be thrown upon naked faith and the Lord may magnify his power in a way that we cannot anticipate, and bring peace out of chaos.
            But does the Christian portion of our people recognize his chastisement and bend the stiff neck in humility to his yoke, or are they, while they sue for deliverance from this scourge, like Pharaoh, holding on to their idle sins and compromising with their God? If so, they need greater affliction to be saved, now and hereafter. The Lord will help only those who help themselves, and while the bulk of the army now in the field are irreligious persons, and most of the Christians are still at home, can they hope for his blessing and deliverance while their hands hang idle at their side? Like the Israelites of old, too many are willing to be let alone to serve the present taskmaster, while if they would put forth the effort there is deliverance for them from what will prove to them worse than Egyptian bondage, if they submit now to be conquered and overcome by their enemies.
            It is a remarkable fact that the Lord has performed well his part not only in the Providential protection of our army in the day of battle, but the scourges of Pharaoh were not more marked than his interference in our behalf. He who holds the winds has loosened them, and there has not been an expedition since the fall of Sumter to this time, fitted out by our enemies, that he has not called into play his mighty agents, the winds and waves, to confound them and destroy greatly their hellish purposes against us, and yet we are unbelieving. Oh, that as a nation we could in the spirit take up the song of Moses by the side of the Red Sea and acknowledge that He and He alone hath overturned the horse and his rider, then might we hope to see the fullness of his salvation.
            My dear wife, I fear that your overestimate the amount of my good and influence for good. I have great cause of thankfulness to God for what He has done for me, while to Him I have with shamefacedness to confess what an unprofitable and sinful servant I am to Him. There is but one measure for a Christian and that is the full statue of a man in Christ Jesus. How far short of that I come, the Lord knows and in mercy spares me that I may attain unto it if I will. I follow my Saviour at too great a distance, while it is my privilege to be very near Him, aye, have Him take up his abode within my heart. Were it not that he can be touched with a feeling of our infirmities and the intercede for me, I could not hope to gain a place with him in Heaven.              I received a day or two ago the barrel with potatoes, beef, etc, which was very acceptable. The beef unfortunately had been so long on the way without brine that I had to throw it away. The time of receiving packages sent from home is so very uncertain that I would advise you not to send anything of a perishable character, some pickle and something for my sweet tooth, which does not often have its taste gratified, in the shape of preserves, if you have any would be very acceptable. Kiss the dear children for father, and remember me kindly to all, and with a prayer for his continuing protection to you all, I am.

                                                Yours ever affectionately,


                                                            Jno. S. Walker

Friday, 3 January 2014

J.S. Walker's Letter (16 Jan 1862)

Camp Deas, near Young’s Mill,
16th Jany., 1862.

My dear Wife:

            Mr. Hardie has just come in to let me know that he starts to Richmond in the morning, and I cannot let the opportunity escape without dropping you a line, though I have just finished a communication of six pages on the reorganization of the army, which I have enclosed to Brother David to be handed to Mr. Steger, one of our representatives in the Legislature.
            There is nothing new to communicate since my last. If you see Mrs. Thompson Brown, tell her I was disappointed in getting over to see her, not being able to get a horse, and to walk was impossible. If she is not now in Richmond she will be in a few days.
            We are in statue quo [sic] and likely so to remain I think for the rest of the winter. My books will help me to pass away the long nights. I enjoy excellent health and sleep like a top in my log palace, and would be willing to live in one the rest of my life with my family around me, if I could purchase peace honourably thereby, but we must trust in the Lord, who orders all things rightly, and he will bear us through.
            Could you not send me some hominy and peas? I think Charles could cook them very well, and we have enough butter for the present. Capt. Mayo, I find, has not gone up, but will go tomorrow.
            Kiss the dear children and give love to all.

                                    Yours ever affectionately,


                                                Jno. S. Walker

Thursday, 2 January 2014

J.S. Walker's Letter (15 Jan 1862)

15th Jan., 1862.

            Since hurriedly writing the above, I find I was too late to send it, the person having gone, but another opportunity presents itself, of which I will avail myself. You had better send at the same time the books. Mayo’s steamer comes up nearly to our camp, the other by Grove Warf, which is fifteen miles off, over a very bad road, and we seldom have a chance to get things over.
            The recent snow, hail, sleet, etc., entirely blocked us up and precluded the probability of any movement until the weather and roads get better. Upon the horizon of war is the speck of peace. All things, judging from the extracts from the European and northern papers, seem to tend to an end of the war to the confusion of our enemy. It may come soon. God grant it may, for His alone will be the glory if it does. Upon the contrary the prospects may pass away, and the spirit of the evil one taking possession of the hearts of our enemies, we may have a long and bloody war. The issue as the sale moves may hang upon the prayer of a saint. Should we not then renew our strength and seek more earnestly his guidance and aid, that we will finally triumph. I have no doubt we may be saved as by fire, God’s chastisement upon the nation may be for its sin, while his purpose may be to finally give us liberty.
            The question of enlisting for another year of the war is now agitating the army in the field. I do not see my duty clearly, nor does the hand of Providence point out the course I should pursue as clearly as it did a year ago. I should ask His guidance and be governed by His direction. What do you think I should do, remain in service or give my place to others? I want your own opinion and counsel, and let me have it soon as it will have great weight with me.
            Notwithstanding the bad weather, I am very comfortable in my house, with a good fire, and my health is excellent.

                                    Your devoted husband,

                                                Jno. S. Walkter

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.