The Civil War — Capt. Walker and His Company
In war there is always a personal risk, dangerous and thrilling. Principles may be at the bottom of bloody battles and populated war cemeteries, but the delight, "after the war," to repeat the individual adventures and perilous situations of the narrator entirely submerges the causes that led up to the awful carnage.
The pioneer struggles of the first settlers with the wily redskins of the forest have already been faithfully chronicled in this history, and it is now the purpose to consider the martial doings of our patriotic people in the wars of the nation in after times.
The settlers did yeoman service in the war of 1812 with Great Britian. The articles of peace did not mention the chief cause of the war, which was impressment of American seamen into British service on the high seas, and this, too, was before Vanderburgh county had been organized as a civil division. Some of these early, hearty pioneers, putting aside their business of hunting and trapping, joined the army of General Harrison, and on the celebrated battleground of Tippecanoe rendered distinguished service. Others went with the Kentucky riflemen to New Orleans, and were at the unparalleled victory of " Old Hickory " Jackson over the flower of the British army under General Pakenham. After the war they walked all the way back home, sleeping in the woods during the long, dangerous journey, and subsisting principally on game. Their report of the great battle at the Crescent City was the first news the settlers at home had of it.
Under the laws of the state regulating militia companies, these military organizations did some active service in the Indian wars.
On "training days," when men were exempt from arrest, they had a general jollification. Musters were held at regular periods throughout the year, and usually at the county seat. Many, I am sure, have heard of the cane-gun. It was cut from the cane brakes, plugged up at both ends, loaded with whiskey, and every time the company brought their guns to a fire, these men, armed with the cane-guns, fired down their throats.
The brigade in this section of the state was commanded at different times by Gen. Robert M. Evans, Gen. W. A. Twigg, of New Harmony, and Gen. James P. Drake, at that time a resident of Posey county.
The Creek war of 1836 and the Seminole war of the same time had no particular effect on the citizens of Evansville and Vauderburgh county, as none of our citizens engaged in these struggles.
With the admission of Texas into the union there came into this neighborhood rumblings of war — as early as August, 1845. The first company, consisting of 100 men, for the Mexican war left for New Albany, the place of rendezvous, June 7, 1846. This was Captain William Walker's company, a full roster of which is given elsewhere herein, as well as an authentic biography of Captain Walker himself.
Joseph Lane left his seat in the state senate and drilled under Captain Walker, and subsequently was appointed brigadier general by the president. After leaving New Albany the three Indiana regiments — the quota required — pitched their tents at New Orleans, then crossed the gulf, and tented on the scene of war. More than half of company K, commanded by Captain Tucker, was made up of men from Evansville.
The second Indiana regiment, led by General Lane, entered the fight at Buena Vista, and met with a loss of 135 men. It was there that Captain Walker fell. The regiment was mustered out of service at New Orleans, July 1, 1847. The Mexican veterans formed an association in this city September 20, 1887, with a list of fifteen persons.
It is not the intention to write here the military history of Evansville and Vanderburgh county, for that has already been written by others, but this history would not be complete without some statements in passing, regarding the part my fellow citizens took in the terrible, bloody carnage of 1861-65 — the great civil war. The twenty-fourth Indiana, the fourteenth, the eleventh, first-battery light artillery, twenty- fifth, first cavalry or twenty-eighth, thirty-second, thirty-fifth, sixth battery light artillery, forty-second, sixtieth, eighth battery light artillery, sixty-fifth, fourth cavalry or seventy-seventh, ninety-first, one hundred and twentieth, tenth cavalry or one hundred and twenty- fifth, one hundred and thirty-sixth, one hundred and forty-third regiments all contained Vanderburgh county men. Some men and officers who could not get into these military organizations enlisted in other regiments, so that they were distributed through twenty-six different regiments. The Indiana legion did good service for its country. Many colored men enlisted from this city, and their soldiery qualities were not excelled even by the white troops.
The first man to offer his services for his country from this city was Capt. Chas. H. Myerhoff. His enlistment was in the Fourteenth Indiana, in Captain Willard's company. Captain Myerhoff is now a successful business man of our city. Many men from here rose to ranks of distinction, and some even to national reputation. And we honor such names as Gen. James M. Shackleford, Gen. John W. Foster, Gen. Conrad Baker, Colonel Rheiulander, Colonel Denby, Colonel Shanklin, Colonel Hornbrook.
The author was trustee of Pigeon township in 1864-5, and at the same time quartermaster of the Second Indiana Legion. These two positions necessarily put into his charge the refugees and fugitives from the farther south, who were escaping from the country so completely overrun by the forces of the two contending armies. They arrived at the wharf by boat loads, and a camp had to be established for their protection and accommodation. The camp was pitched in Blackford's Grove. It was very wet and sloppy there, but no better place could be secured at that season of the year. There were as many as two hundred and fifty men, women and children on an average encamped there at one time, but the citizens took an active part in furnishing provisions and clothes, and every effort was made to see that none suffered for the necessaries of life. But living in tents in the midst ot winter was not a pleasant way of living, and the exposure brought on sickness and caused several deaths. They were at length taken to much better quarters at the fair grounds in Knight township. There they were cared for till the smile of springtime afforded them pleasant weather for journeying farther on.
The personal hardships induced by the civil conflict can never be told by mortal pen.
As an instance of the liberal-hearted citizens of the county, on agreement the farmers brought into the city in one long procession two hundred loads of wood for the needy wives and mothers of the soldiers who were at the front. The wood and coal thus donated was stored at Seventh street park. The ladies, appreciating the patriotic sentiment that actuated these generous farmers, banquetted them that night at Mozart hall.
At the conclusion of the civil war, when the skeleton regiments were passing through this city on their way to Indianapolis, to be discharged from service, the citizens very fittingly erected an arch at Main and Third streets, and a civic escort conducted the gallant veterans under it with the spirit of the old Roman triumph in the march. The warm word "Welcome" was upon the arch. There was a mighty sense of soft- winged peace in the bosom of every one as the battle-scarred, service- stained old heroes proudly rode under the arch. The war was ended.
Evansville during the civil strife was on the border of the scene, in a measure, and troops rendezvoused here for a time. Others passed through on their way to the front. War-boats, armed with cannon and mortars, steamed by in the Ohio river. During a part of the time temporary hospitals were established here, and after the battle of Shiloh the wounded of both sides were brought here and cared for.
Many persons in the city quietly left and went into the enemy's country.
The people of this city learned well their lesson of moderation and charity from the mighty clash of arms, and they have always held out a friendly hand to a magnanimous but conquered enemy. Many will remember the reunion of the "blue and gray," held in this city in 1883, and the friendly greetings that were exchanged by those who had been deadly enemies.
CAPTAIN WALKER AND HIS COMPANY
This narrative has special reference to Capt. Wm. Walker, who figured extensively, as history shows, in the war of 1812, and there was, until a recent date, a tree which was known as the "Walker Tree" in Salem, New Jersey. At this place, tradition says, there was some desperate fighting done. But the first I knew of Capt. Wm. Walker was on my arrival in Evansville in February, 1837. He was then a citizen of Evansville, having been one of the early settlers of 1835. His family consisted of his wife, Catharine Walker, and children, James T. Walker, Dr. George B., William H., Oscar and Dr. John T.; his daughters were Mary, afterwards Mrs. Barter ; Hannah, afterwards Mrs. Welborn, who died recently in this city. This was an active, stirring family. They engaged in all the enterprises in a business way, and helped to lay the foundation of this city.
Captain Walker had 110 regular business[es]. He contracted for earthwork and improvement of streets, and would sometimes undertake to build houses. He was never idle, and was an active, useful man.
At the time of the Mexican War in 1846, he was an efficient court official.
He was an ardent Democrat, and fully approved of waging war against Mexico, and as he had been an active participant in the war of 1812, he suddenly made up his mind that he would raise a company to help prosecute the war in Mexico, although he was at that time sixty-five years old. His appearance showed that he was at least that old, although he was as active and vigorous as a man of forty.
So Gen. Joseph Lane, Dr. Daniel Lane, John T. Walker and many
of the leading citizens here took an active part in assisting to raise
a company which was accomplished in one week, and within another week
or two they were ordered to rendezvous at New Albany. General Lane, Dr.
Lane, Dr. John T. Walker, with the following made up the company,
William Walker, Captain; Martin Stinson, First Lieutenant; James A. Epperson, Second Lieutenant; George W. Peck, First Sergeant; Wm. Gavitt, Wm. Grigsby, George W. Gorman, Sergeants ; Jae. S. Chambers, First Corporal; Robt. McCutchan, Joseph Hervey and Wm. A. Easton, Corporals; Benjamin Anthony, David Allen, Isaac Anderson, Samuel Adkins, Henry Blauchard, Joseph Bilderback, Geo. Wr. Bee, Wm A. Beall, David W. Barr, John Bowerman, Giles Chapman, Harrison Cox, Oliver Crook, Jas H. Curts, Geo. W. Conner, Wm Conley, Henry Davis, Alauson C. Ferres, Francis Finch, Wedur Foster, James Fisher, John W. Gahan, James A. Goodgame, George Hamilton, Samuel Holsey, John W. Hawkins, Adam Haag, Stephen Harrison, William Harris, Alias Holler, Joseph C. Higgenbotham, Leroy Jenkins, Thomas Knight, George W. Knight, John Littlejohn, Obediah Stansberry, Richard H. Lee, Alexander Linxwiler, Levi Lawrence, Thomas Murphy, Littlebranson Madden, Thomas Nolan, George Peachey, Benjamin Plummer, Dewilton Price, Isaac Privette, Acheleas J. Ruple, Christian Russler, John Robinson, Andrew J. Ross, Lewis Rightmire, Benoni Stinson, Thomas S. Smith, John W. Stephens, John Stoner, Enoch J. Sutton, James Sublet, William F. Sublet, James Sanders, John Skirns, Richard Smith, John Stillman, Vicissimees Teasley, Jacob Taylor, Teel Trevalion, Floyd Williams, Edmond Wyatt, Gorder Wilhite, Alfred William.
As it is seen from the above roll, the company lacked twenty men of being complete, but the remainder were added at New Orleans or on the way to that city, and were mustered in, making one hundred strong. They were then ordered up the Rio Grande, and joining Gen. Taylor they marched through the country, fighting several small battles and skirmishes, and finally reached Buena Vista. This company was a part of the Second Regiment Indiana Volunteers, which was commanded by Colonel Bowles, who showed the white '• .-. -' V feather at the battle of Buena Vista, thus causing the death of a great number of the regiment, at which time and place a large number of Captain Walker's company was killed.
Captain Walker was killed while supporting a battery that was being planted by Gen. Joseph Lane, who was severely wounded and carried from the field. As is known the Mexicans were finally repulsed, and the next morning after the battle, the dead body of Captain Walker and those brave men who fell around him, numbering fourteen, were brought into camp. Captain Walker's remains were shipped home and placed in their long-resting place at Oak Hill Cemetery; and upon his monument are inscribed the names of those who fell around him. The captain was found with several pistols belted around him, every cartridge discharged. He had evidently done deadly work in the Mexican ranks.
Dr. John T. Walker, his son, was assistant surgeon of the regiment, and remained with the regiment until the war was over, when he returned home to his family. In the late war of the Rebellion in 1860, he enlisted as assistant surgeon in the 25th regiment Indiana Volunteer Infantry. His son, William Walker, also went with the same regiment, and participated in the battles of Ft. Donaldson and Shiloh as lieutnenant colonel, but he broke down in health and came home, where he died suddenly from the effects of camp-life exposure.
Another son, Jesse W. Walker, became major in the same regiment.
This ends the record of William Walker and that portion of his family who served in the war of the Rebellion in 1860.
Mrs. Charlotte Burtis Walker, widow of James T. Walker, is still living.
Dr. Edwin Walker, a son of James T., is a practicing physician in our city, and one of the founders of the Sanitarium.
James T. Walker, also a son of James T., is an attorney practicing in the city.
Two of the descendants of Dr. John T. Walker are still living, Mrs. Cave J. Morris, who resides in Evansville, and Capt. George B. Walker, who is in the U.S. service, stationed at Ft. Thomas.
William H. Walker, third son of William Walker, was mayor of Evansville from 1868 to 1870.