|Charles Walker of the 8th Connecticut Infantry posed for this image|
in a photographic studio on Main Street in Norwich, Conn., his hometown.
Walker survived Antietam physically unharmed.
(Photo: Matthew R. Isenburg collection)
As the 8th Connecticut Infantry came under intense artillery and musket fire from its front and both flanks during the latter stages of the Battle of Antietam, one of its color-bearers was shot.
Another man picked up the flag and he, too, was wounded.
And then another man grabbed the flag with the same result.
And then another.
|Charles Walker's signature appears on the reverse|
of his CDV image.
(Matthew R. Isenburg collection)
Finally, Charles H. Walker, a 20-year-old private from Norwich, courageously grabbed the fallen national colors and "seized them in a storm of death." In a singular act of defiance, he planted the flag and shook it out before the rebels as the enemy advanced. (1) Flag-bearers were prime targets for soldiers on both sides of the war.
"Twenty men are falling every minute," a history of Connecticut's service in the war published in 1869 noted about that part of the battle. "Col. (Hiram) Appelman is borne to the rear. John McCall falls bleeding. (Jacob) Eaton totters, wounded, down the hill. (Marvin) Wait, bullet-riddled, staggers a few rods, and sinks. (Eleazur) Ripley stands with a shattered arm. (James) Russell lies white and still. (Henry) Morgan and (Edwin) Maine have fallen. Whitney Wilcox is dead.
"Men grow frantic. The wounded prop themselves behind the rude stone fence, and hurl leaden vengeance at the foe. Even the chaplain snatches the rifle and cartridge-box of a dead man, and fights for life." (2)
Ordered to fall back, Walker, clutching the flag, and the hundred or so remaining members of the 8th Connecticut retreated from the field. Although whipped by the rebels, no regiment of the Ninth Corps advanced farther on the left flank, a fact trumpeted in post-war accounts. "By their stubborn fight they have saved many others from death or capture," the post-war history noted, "and by their orderly retreat they save themselves."
|A C.H. Walker from Norwich, aged 18, is recorded in the 1860 census. (CLICK TO ENLARGE.)|
Incredibly, Walker survived physically unharmed but no doubt shocked by the carnage. The 8th Connecticut suffered 34 killed, 139 wounded and 21 missing that Wednesday afternoon just outside Sharpsburg, Md.
For his courage on Sept. 17, 1862, Walker earned a prominent mention in an after-action report written by Major John Ward two days later. "I will notice particularly the conduct of Private Charles Walker, of Company D," Ward wrote, "who brought the national colors off the field after the sergeant and every corporal of the color-guard were either killed or wounded." Walker's action probably was the reason for his promotion to ordnance sergeant of Company C one month after the great battle.
|As an anonymous reader of this blog |
pointed out, the star denotes Charles Walker
was promoted to an ordnance sergeant.
Walker, who had originally enlisted in the Union army in September 1861, re-enlisted on Christmas Eve 1863. He apparently fell out of favor with superiors early the next year, as he was demoted to private on Feb. 22, 1864. Walker was mustered out of the Union army on Dec. 12, 1865, eight months after Lee surrendered to Grant in Appomatox, Va.
(1) The Military and Civil History of Connecticut During the War of 1861-65, William Augustus Croffut, John Moses Morris 1869, Page 272-73
(3) 1860 U.S. Census