These two letters were written by Thomas M. Walker (1843-18xx), the son of Oliver Hazard Perry Walker (1814-1877) and Tabitha Burgess (1821-1906). In 1860, Thomas resided with his parents in Carrolton, Harrison County, Ohio, where his father made a living as a saddler. From that census record, we learn that Thomas’s mother was a native of Wales and that the rest of the family were all born in Pennsylvania.
Thomas enlisted at the age of 18 in September 1861 to serve three years in Co. B, 15th Ohio Infantry. He was a private for most of the war but received a promotion to corporal just before he was discharged in October 1865. Though he reassured his parents in both of these letters that he would not re-enlist and extend his three years service, he apparently changed his mind.
The first letter was written just two weeks before the Battle of Chickamauga. The second letter was written just days before the Battle of Lookout Mountain which was fought on 24 November 1863 as part of the Chattanooga Campaign. Thomas provides a first-hand observation of the Rebel artillery firing on Union camp and work parties from atop Lookout Mountain where Confederate Maj. Gen. Carter L. Stevenson had placed them to control the river crossings.
A letter by Walker to his mother and sister on 4 December 1863 is housed in the special collections of the University of Tennessee. In that letter, Walker described his camp in Chattanooga in relation to a similar geographic location where his family lives. Walker discusses a battle where they were beaten badly, yet held onto Chattanooga. Walker notes that they have been living on half rations and are shelled randomly. The Confederate shells do little harm, so he does not worry much about them. Walker quells his mother’s fears that he will re-enlist, saying if he does it will not be for a long time. Walker’s discussion of Chattanooga includes talk of Confederate attempts to take Lookout Mountain, which he describes as unsuccessful.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
On the Great Mountain
September 1st 1863
I now sit down for to drop you a few lines to let you know where I am. We are now on the latter end of the Allegheny Mountains. Our mail boy told us that we could send letters and I thought that I would write you a few lines.
We have made a hard march today. I am well at present and hope that you are the same. We are on our way to Chattanooga where the Rebels is fortified. I think that we will [have a] hard fight. You need not be afraid of me enlisting again for I won’t. I would like to see some fleshed out that is in our town.
I got a letter from Lucy Wright the other day, She said that there was a great many of my friends wounded that I knew. They was in the battle up in Pennsylvania.
I will fetch my scribbling to a close. Write soon. From your son. [unsigned]
Direct your letters to the 15th Ohio, Co. B. Give my love to my sisters and all inquiring friends.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Camp at Chattanooga [Tennessee]
November 15, 1863
I now sit down for to answer your kind letter which I received last night and was surprised when I seen O. P. Walker’s hand right on the envelope for it had been so long since I got a letter from you. I was glad to hear that you was well. I am well at the present time. We are still at Chattanooga and have but very little fighting to do. Now and then we get to shelling them. The Rebels get to shelling our camp [off] of Lookout Mountain — that is a large mountain two miles from our camp.
You spoke of soldiers re-enlisting. Father, you need not be afraid of Mom’s son re-enlisting. This three years will do me for awhile.
There was heavy cannonading up the river this morning. Our men is trying to throw a pontoon [bridge] across the river five miles up and the Rebels opened out with their pieces of artillery but our men fetched up the same amount of cannon and drove them away. That shows that they won’t stand fire. We have whipped them every place we have met — only here they gave us a smart flogging. This is the only time. But we held onto Chattanooga. Now we are heavy fortified with heavy guns. The rebels’ camp is in sight. Our men shells them now and then but they don’t retaliate back — only on Lookout Mountain [where] they keep shelling every day but can’t do much damage.
I would like to [have] been at home on the Election day. That day we had quite a fight. Most of the soldiers got to vote.
You spoke about a receipt for that box. I sent the box and put it in my knapsack and when we left Murfreesboro, our knapsacks were put into the wagons and followed us up till we came to Manchester and there the wagons were ordered back to Murfreesboro and they burnt everything and that receipt was burnt with them. The box was not worth much but still I hate the idea of losing it. There was in it two large government blankets and overcoat, a pair of flannels, and a lot of other things such as letters.
They say here that we are a going to get three months furlough. If that is so, we will have seven months to stay. I got a letter from home the other day. They were all well then. Ben Evans sends his love to you. I will fetch my scribbling to a close. Write soon. From your son, — Thomas Walker
To my father, O. P. Walker
Direct your letters as before. Write soon.