13th Mass. Infantry – Letter from Oliver Walker – Harpers Ferry, October 1st, 1861 – Great Description of the Sacking of this Historic Town!
One of our favorite historic sites to visit is the town of little Harpers Ferry. Our writer Oliver Walker enlisted on July 16th, 1861 into company C of the 13th Mass. Infantry. In December of 1861 Walker transferred into company D of the 24th Massachusetts Infantry. He would eventually be mortally wounded in Saint Augustine, Florida!

The letter is written in easy to read pencil and is 4 full pages long. Here is some of the great content:

• “You see by the date of my letter that I am at that famous place where old John Brown set all Virginia by the ears, and where so many changes have been since this war began.”

• “We left Monocacy (from which place I wrote you last) yesterday, arriving here by way of the Baltimore and Ohio R.R.; two of our Companies I & K have been encamped here for about five weeks and have had a pretty sharp and active time of it.”

• “Major Gould is in command and said he was right glad to see us for he fancied that the Rebels might come down on us in force and three Companies are better able to resist an attack than two.”

• “We are quartered very comfortably in an old warehouse on the edge of the canal and immediately under the precipice that forms the riverside of Maryland Heights, for we are not in the village at the Ferry in Virginia, but on the Maryland side keeping a vigilant watch and guard.”

• “Our pickets are posted along the river at a distance of about 400 yards apart, extending for 5 miles so you can readily conceive that we have quite a work to do.”

• “The Rebels are in the habit of coming within about a mile of the river into the village of Bolivar, and getting intelligence of our movements, but they have to be lively about it for we have two men posted as lookouts on the top of the Heights, who let us know when anything occurs on the other side, and if needed a detachment is sent over the river “to clean them out”.

• “Since I & K came here, they have captured two cannon, two fine mortars, a brass Howitzer, and several horses and mules, besides cleaning out several Secession Stores, and bringing off any amount of plunder.”

• “You must know that the town of Harpers Ferry is almost deserted. The stores are closed and it is a most desolate place, as most of the stores are owned by men who are in the Rebel Army.”

• “The boys sometimes get into them and carry off all that they can lay their hands on. Our Co. with a number of the boys from I & K had to leave to cross this morning, so I started with the rest, but there was such a crowd that I was among the last and did not get over until they had completed the sack of a fine apothecary store, owned by a surgeon in the Rebel Army named Claggett.”

• “I went in as they were finishing their work and such a scene of ruin and riot I never saw, and hope to see but seldom here. They took a vast amount of plunder of all sorts. Some of it of very queer character for soldiers’ use; one had a galvanic battery and a pair of saddle bags; another a lot of ground ginger, another several syringes, and another a lot of empty bottles. So you see there was variety if not utility. I got nothing.”

• “I must close as I wish to put in a note for Julia as I send this with my last postage stamp. If you can, send me a stamp in a while. You will be sure to have a letter in return. As ever with love, Oliver. Direct to Washington, D.C.”

The best description of Harpers Ferry that we have seen.

#L698MA - Price $375


Aerial View of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia: