Friday, April 29, 2011

The Youngest Son Runs Away

David Barrett Walker

David Barrett was the youngest son of Isaac and Winifred Walker.  In 1856, at age ten, he traveled with his family down the Ohio River and up the Mississippi and Missouri  rivers to St. Joseph, Missouri and then overland by ox drawn wagon, settling on the west fork of Vermillion creek in Marshall county, Kansas.  Other family members from their Quaker community in Cadiz, Ohio also settled nearby.  In Kansas the family hoped to find a home free of the evils of slavery, but, there was no peace. The Kansas Territory was an early battleground with a violent tug-of-war between pro-slavery southerners and the free-state abolitionists.  How often did Davy, as his mother called him, hear his strong willed father and uncles rage about the future of Kansas and the immorality of slavery. And when his father and older brother enlisted in the Eighth Kansas Infantry did he beg to join them?  At fifteen it must have chafed to be left behind with his mother and three sisters.  Did his father tell him that his job was to be the man of the house and look after the farm and family? It was the end of September when they left and enlisted in the Eighth Kansas Infantry, Company G.  There was still plenty of work to be done on their sixty-five acre farm.

Yet, only a little over three months after they left their home to fight for their beliefs, the family received word that Isaac had broken down while returning home with the body of Thomas. David took an ox team and went to the aid of his father.  Together they brought Thomas home to Barrett.  We don't know how long his father Isaac stayed after the burial of Thomas, but the indication was that it wasn't long before he returned to his unit . . .  leaving David behind a second time.  I imagine his mother holding her remaining son tightly to her.  I would have.

But the misfortunes of war were not finished with the Walker family.  In the Spring of 1862 a caisson ran over Isaac's ankle, crushing it, and he was discharged for disability on March 20,1862 at Leavenworth, Kansas.  Isaac remained in the hospital for two months before he could travel back to his farm and family. Information traveled a slow road in 1862.  When did they learn that  he had been injured . . . but was still alive?

It was during this time that Davy ran away from home, enlisting in the Thirteentieth Kansas Infantry at Leavenworth.  Was it planned or a spur of the moment decision made as he walked behind the oxen plowing the fields?  A biography of his son Carroll, tells us, " He went from Frankfort in company with Dick Fairchild, of Barrett, Kansas. David B. Walker was without shoes, and as a prospective soldier he utilized the law of necessity and took a pair of boots belonging to a traveling man and which had been set outside the bedroom to be shined."  Don't you love how my family can explain thievery as a noble and necessary act?  Is it any wonder Carroll became a lawyer.

Below is the enlistment paper of David Barrett Walker.  It was part of a newly available database from  You will notice that sixteen year old David avoids the thorny problem of "Consent in Case of Minor" by simply lying about his age.  David traveled with his regiment until the battle of Pea Ridge and then was discharged in Van Buren, Arkansas November 23, 1863 "per S.O. no. 302"  According to one story, he was wounded and honorably discharged for disability, and since he drew a pension this rings true, but. . .   I just want to know what  "S.O. no. 302" was. Other soldiers on the Adjutant General's report are listed as discharged for disability, why not David?
Side one


Signature from enlistment paper
Late in 1863, David returned to his Kansas home and found it neglected, and dilapidated due to his father's condition.  While he had been away, his mother had been left with the care of her invalid husband, three daughters and the responsibility of making a living.  She plowed the land and raised what crops she could.  Later in her life she told a writer, "Davy was always a good boy to his mother.  When he was at the front, he always sent me his wages.  It was not a great sum, but it seemed a great deal in those days, when money was so scarce and hardship so plenty."  Beginning again, David helped his family rebuild the farm. When David married his cousin, Annette Barrett, he took a homestead near his parents and also worked at a saw and grist mill in Barrett operated by his uncle, A.G. Barrett, his mother's brother.

David went on to become a well respected member of his community, but I wonder if he ever replaced the shoes he "borrowed".

As you can see, I come from hardy stock . . .  even if we are opinionated on occasion.

Notes:  I had to choose which of two enlistment papers I would include.  Both had the same number and information so it is the same person, but one of them did not have his signature.  Instead it had "his mark" between the David and Walker. When I checked the 1860 census, he was listed as attending school at age 14 so I assumed that he knew how to write his name.  Subsequent census records identified him  being able to read and write also.  Seems unusual.

Listed in his regiment was an Elias R. Fairchild who survived and mustered out at the end of the war.

My resources for this post are:  Family obituaries, database "Kansas, Civil War Enlistment Papers, 1862, 1863, 1868", family photos, History of Marshall County Kansas, Kansas and Kansans, Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Kansas, 1861-1865. Vol. 1. , and  Portrait and Biographical Album of Marshall County Kansas


  1. Now I want to know what S O No 32 is, also.

    Has to be some Order, don't you think?

  2. I assume it meant Standing Order number 302, but what does that mean exactly? I had the same issue about S.O. no.20 in my post about John O'Connor in the Spanish American War. There should be a place to look it up. On Isaac's record, it has an asterisk at the, end but I could not find the matching asterisk at the end to explain it.

  3. Interesting problem. I wonder if the National Archives would have information - or if the DoD has historical archives.

    As to the post - this illustrates the enormous costs paid by all who were involved. Costs that lasted far beyond the years of the War. I suspect many of today's military families are and will continue to pay similar costs.

  4. Margel,
    what a great post! You have such fantastic supporting documentation. What a legacy.

  5. Another wonderful article, Margel. Your great-grandfather and his family certainly went through some trials during those years and you have shared their stories beautifully.

    I'm interested to know the name of the Ancestry database where you found the Volunteer Enlistment document for David Walker. Can you share the name of and link to the database?


    Smallest Leaf

  6. Lisa-
    The Ancestry database was "Kansas, Civil War Enlistment Papers, 1862, 1863, 1868". I had to put the link above since I could not figure out how to do it in the comment. I believe that it is a new database since I did not find this before, and it was featured for their free Civil War week. Because it is only for the years listed, I have not been able to see the enlistment papers for Isaac or Thomas who enlisted in 1861. . . but they will come.

    I do feel fortunate to find information this detailed about my father's side of the family. I am also grateful to my cousins for sharing their memories, stories and photos. I never saw that side of my family again after my parent's divorce. The photo comes from them.