This letter was written by John Crockett Wallis (1829-1872), the son of Major Joseph Edmund Wallis, Sr. (1801-1865), and Elizabeth Crockett (1795-1866). He wrote the letter to his brother Joseph Edmund (“Ed”) Wallis, Jr. (1835-1907) — a planter in Washington county, Texas. After the war, the two brothers sold their Washington county plantations and became partners with Henry A. Landis in the whole grocery business in Galveston. The 1860 Slave Schedule reveals that John C. Wallis owned more than 75 slaves on his plantation at Chappell Hill.
John Wallis was captain of Co. B, 20th Texas Infantry commanded by Col. Henry Marshall Elmore. The company was organized in Washington county, Texas, in March 1862. This regiment served on the Texas coast and participated in the recapture of Galveston on 15 January 1863 under General Magruder. Capt. Wallis was not with his men at the time, however. His military records indicate that he was absent in Houston attending a court martial as a witness during January and February 1863.
At the time of this letter, Capt. Wallis was in command of South Battery in the coastal defenses at Fort Magruder on Galveston Island where they expected an attack. He remained at that post — and at Battery Scurry — until the end of the war. In February, 1865, Capt. Wallis wrote to Capt. William Tyler, A. A. Genl., asking for his company to be relieved from duty at Fort Magruder where they suffered from “poor rations, lack of pay, threat of disease, and concern for families left at home” ¹ over the winter months on the island. [See letter dated 17 February 1865 in Military Record].
A record in Capt. Wallis’ military file indicates that he stood six foot tall, had grey eyes, black hair, and had a dark complexion.
Joseph Edward Wallis served as a sergeant in his brother’s company, enlisting in in April 1862 but there is no record for him in his military file after May 1863.
Sunday eve, January 22nd 1865
Your letter of Thursday night received yesterday per Lt. Thompson and contents noticed. As I came through Houston I went to the Labor Bureau. Col. Roberts ² informed me that no negroes would be discharged at that time — that they wanted more negroes — but that so soon as the returns from all parts of the country were in, they those who had not their proper amount in service would be made send them in, and that that who ought to be discharged would be discharged.
Katie will see about the price of Palmetto hats next & I will write you. Lt. Crockett & Jim Crump will go up on tomorrow. I will send this letter by Crockett. I am still in command of the regiment. A Battalion of 5th Co has been put together under my command near South Battery. We are on the lookout for an attack. It is said there will be an attack but I do not believe it.
I received on yesterday also a letter from Johnny ³ dated Tuesday night. He says Mr. McIlhany’s school will be put out in a week or two & wants to know if I wish him to go to Dr. Follomshee. I think it would be best for him to continue at school, at least if he is not of any use at Father’s or to go to the plantation occasionally. You, Father & Mother do as you think best about sending him to school. The can of lard and bag of potatoes arrived safe yesterday for which we are much obliged.
I have no other news to write. Give Johnny this letter for a reply to his as I have not hardly time to write him. I now have hopes of Father’s recovery of Dr. Meredith will give him good attention. We have a desperate spell of weather at this time. Write.
Your brother, — J. C. Wallis
¹ Galveston: A History by David G. McComb, page 79.
² Possibly Col. Oran Milo Roberts (1815-1898).
³ John (“Johnny”) Wallis was born in 1853 and was Capt. Wallis’ oldest son by his first wife Anna E. Goodson (1837-1860). The letter suggests Johnny was most likely being raised by Capt. Wallis’ brother and their parents.