A Last Letter From Nashville
On December 15th, 1864, Robert Walker, a young man from Perry County, Ohio, wrote a letter to his sister Harriet while Robert was in Nashville, Tennessee. On August 26th, 1862 at age twenty Walker had joined Company H of the 90th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment*, and had served with the 90th through two years of war, participating in the battles of Stones River and Chickamauga, and throughout the campaign for Atlanta. Assigned to the First Brigade (under Nathan Kimball), First Division, IV Corps, the 90th Ohio found itself back in middle Tennessee in November and December of 1864. Facing off against Hood's Army of Tennessee, the IV Corps had fallen back to the capital after the bloody affair at Franklin. Now, in mid-December, Walker would find time to write Harriet the following letter.
Dear Sister, —
With pleasure I acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 6th, which found me well. I hope these few lines will find you enjoying good health.
For the last few days we have had some old-fashioned winter, down here in the Sunny South, but it is getting considerably warmer than what it was.
This December finds us on the same camping ground we occupied two years ago, but the Rebs are some closer to us now than they were then. There has not been a December since we have been in the service, but what we have been at Nashville. Last winter we were here with prisoners.
Harriet, I had almost come to the concluson that you were either all dead, or else had no paper on which to write, for I could not hear anything of you at all for several weeks. But at last I got a few lines from mother, written on a sheet which I had written on while at Chattanooga. Then I knew it was for the want of paper, that I did not get any letters from home. When I got that one from her, I thought as it had been over the road twice and had only two letters on it, I would write another and send it back again. So I wrote two lines and sealed it up ,but before the mail went out, I came to the conclusion that sense had better rule passion instead of passion rule sense, so I burnt the letter and wrote another one.
Billy McClurg has got back to the regiment. He left us in August. When he left I told him to bring me a hat, but he stayed at home so long that I gave up his coming back, and I sent home for one. I did not need it, so I let Thomas Turner have it.
I expect to stay in the army as long as the war lasts, but not as a soldier. I have a sight for getting a detail in the commissary department as a clerk. I have been examined and have got my recommendation. If I get that I shall stick to it after my time is out. I would not get any extra wages while I am a soldier, but after my time would be out I could get seventy-five dollars per month. Do not say anything about it to any one, for fear I slip up on my calculations. I shall know about it in a couple of weeks.
I shall close for the present. Write soon.
I remain, your brother,
P. S. — Now forget not my request, and do not show this to anyone outside of the family, except James.
Robert never had the opportunity to mail the letter to Harriet. On December 15th and 16th the Battle of Nashville took place and the 90th Ohio was engaged on both days. The next letter that would arrive at the Walker homestead in Perry County was not from Robert, but instead a notice written on December 20th from the United States Christian Commission:
Patience Walker: —
Your son, Robert Walker, Co. H, 90th, O. was wounded at Nashville the 1st day of the fight. The wound is in the right thigh — a flesh wound. It was at the Field Hospital that I saw him. Would have written sooner but have been waiting on the wounded and dying ever since, DAY and NIGHT. He was in good spirits when I saw him.
NORMAN JONES, Delegate U. S. C. C.
I would imagine that Robert's mother Patience would have felt a mix of emotions, from concern to have received an official notice about her son, to perhaps relief in knowing that while wounded in battle that the wound was not serious, and that Robert's spirits were high. But in January another letter was sent to Patience Walker:
Hd. Qrs. Co. H, 90th O. V. I.
Huntsville, Ala., Jany. 15th, 1865.
I suppose you have heard ere this of the death of your son Robert, who was wounded on the 15th of Dec, while gallantly advancing in a charge on the enemies' works. Robert was a good brave soldier, and his death is deeply felt by all his comrades, and none more than myself.
But as it was the will of our heavenly Father that he should give up his life while in the bloom and vigor of youth, it is ours to submit unmurmuringly to the decree of Him who careth even for the sparrows that fall to the ground. My prayers and fondest hopes are that he may now be enjoying the fullest happiness in that better land, where sickness, sorrow, pain, or death are felt no more forever.
I did not get to see Robert after he was wounded. I suppose all of his personal effects were left on the battle field. One of the musicians of our regiment brought me his portfolio which I will send to you the earliest opportunity that presents itself. In it was the letter addressed to Harriet, which I forwarded on the 16th of December. With this I will send a letter which came to the Co. for Robert, which I supposed to be from you.
I must now close. I tender you my heartfelt sympathies, and assure you that while you lose a beloved son, I lose an esteemed friend and fellow soldier.
I am, Madam, your obedient servant,
THOMAS TURNER, 1st Sergt. Co. H.
P. S. — I will do my utmost to have you furnished with a final statement, so that you may attend to drawing his back pay and bounty to which he is entitled.
Very respectfully, T. TURNER.
Robert Walker lies buried in the Nashville National Cemetery, in Section G. He did not join because of a bounty, he was not conscripted into the service. At the age of nine his father passed away and Robert became the "man of the house" as his older brothers had already left home. Leaving home to serve his county, state, and country must have been a difficult decision for him. Our Civil War is filled with such examples of young men going off to war, leaving the comfort of a life at home, and in many cases, never seeing that home again.
*The 90th Ohio Infantry was organized at Camp Circleville near Lancaster, Ohio and mustered in for three years service on August 29, 1862, under the command of Colonel Isaac N. Ross. The regiment was recruited in Fairfield, Fayette, Hocking, Perry, Pickaway, and Vinton counties. The 90th Ohio Infantry mustered out of service on June 13, 1865, at Camp Dennison near Cincinnati, Ohio and was discharged on June 21, 1865.