1863: Walter Lackey to Thomas Walter

I could not find an image of Walter but here is a 6th Plate Ambrotype of Thomas W. Ward of Co. D, 95th Pennsylvania, or “Gosline’s Zouaves” (David Basco Collection)

This letter was written by Walter Lackey (1841-1898) of Philadelphia, who enlisted as a private in Co. K, 95th Pennsylvania Infantry (“Gosline’s Zouaves”) in October 1861. At the time of his enlistment he was described as a 20 year-old, 5’9″ tall, blue-eyed, light-haired printer. He was discharged with disability in June 1864.

The men of the 95th Pennsylvania had a long and glorious record of achievement on the battlefield. They wore an “Americanized” zouave uniform. Later in the war, they turned in their scarlet pants, scarlet trimed kepis, and tan gaiters, but the jacket, and vest still remained, and they wore the zouave jacket, and vest up until their regiment was mustered out at the end of the war. The regiment lost six field officers during the war: two colonels, two lieutenant-colonels, a major and an adjutant; this is the second highest total of officer casualties for any Union regiment during the war.

According to a notice posted in the Bridgeton Pioneer (New Jersey) on 21 April 1898, Walter “dropped dead at his home” in Philadelphia. He was only 55.

Other letters and diaries by members of the 95th Pennsylvania transcribed & published on Spared & Shared include:
Joshua Thompson, Co. A/H, 95th Pennsylvania (Union/1 Letter)
Samuel Clayton, Co. D, 95th Pennsylvania (2 Diaries)
Edward Riggs, Co. K, 95th Pennsylvania (Union/1 Letter)

Transcription

Camp of the 95th Regt. Penn. Vols.
Near Warrenton, Va.
October 24, 1863

Cousin Tom,

I received your letter and owe thee an apology for not writing to thee before. But the truth is, I have not written to anyone but the folks at home. It is not necessary to tell thee all about our summer campaign to prove that it has been a severe one.

“It is rumored that Gen. Meade is about to be superseded by Gen. Dan Sickles. I have surmised for some time that such would be the case. The fact is, Gen. Meade is getting much too popular for that consummate villain H. W. Halleck.”

—Walter Lackey, Co. K, 95th Pennsylvania, 24 October 1863

The last ten days has also been an eventful period to our army and may be the cause of a change in command of this army. It is rumored that Gen. Meade is about to be superseded by Gen. Dan Sickles. I have surmised for some time that such would be the case. The fact is, Gen. Meade is getting much too popular for that consummate villain H. W. Halleck. I can’t see what the President means by the course he is pursuing in regard to the army. My eyes have been opened lately by many facts in regards to officers which I had been led to believe were “loyal to the core,” but who are sympathizers with the rebels. It is a sad reality that our lives are at the mercy of such men. They are fully competent to command and as brave as the bravest, but their hearts are not in the cause.

I believe Gen. Meade to be brave and patriotic, and that our Corps General Sedgwick is also loyal, but there are division and brigade generals in our Corps who are wanting in patriotic motives. Our regiment is in the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, 6th Corps, commanded respectively by Generals Bartlett, Wright, and Sedgwick.

Last week we evacuated the line of the Rapidan and fell back to Centreville without any loss to our Corps. On Monday we again moved forward and are now lying at Warrenton—a very pretty little place, but shows signs of decay which are the fruits of the rebellion. The inhabitants are of course “Secesh” in feeling, but they have a great liking for Uncle Sam’s “greenbacks.” They sell very high. For instance, yesterday I wished to buy a few cakes (having got tired of hard tack) and I went into town and bought a dozen for 50 cents. The cakes were about two inches in diameter. Cabbage sells for 30 cents a head, butter $1.25 cents a pound and everything else in proportion.

The rebels in falling back from Manassas destroyed all the small culverts and tore up the track of the railroad. Consequently our supplies have to be brought in wagons from Gainesville.

Tracks of the Orange & Alexandria Railroad torn up by the retreating Confederates in the fall of 1863.

I feel very well satisfied with the result of the election in Ohio and Pennsylvania and hope that New York will not go astray.

There is no signs of the army going into winter quarters although there is some talk of it. We are today having a heavy storm and I suppose cold weather will follow. Give my regards to thy father, mother, and the rest of the family. I should be pleased to hear from thee at thy earliest convenience.

Truly as ever, — Walter Lackey

Co. K, 95th Reg. P. V., 2nd Brig, 1st Div., 6th Corps, Washington, DC.

2 thoughts on “1863: Walter Lackey to Thomas Walter”

  1. I love the letters and newspaper communications of the Civil War. I do living history and help teach students at events. Also am a commercial artist. I notice the “back slanted style” of this soldier’s script. Is he left handed? Or just his style. Also does the use of “thee” indicate a particular rural or religious community? Not good questions but I’m curious. So interesting to read of the common soldier’s thoughts on changes in officers above them. So many political appointees and typical infighting or ladder climbing. God bless the common man, as I tell privates I know today. Thank you for the work you do on these letters! I have a private collection of WWII letters from my home town/home town men in all theaters I am beginning to work on. Not sure what I have yet. Keep up your great work! Anything to stress to students regarding letters? Tired, missing home, determination, and attention to duty shine through to me…and their longing and love for news from home.

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    1. Thanks for your comments. To answer your questions, yes he was probably left-handed. It would have been difficult, but not impossible, to write in that manner without smearing the ink. Use of the word “thee” instead of “you” does suggest he was from a Quaker family. He was from Philadelphia which had a very large Quaker population. It was not uncommon for soldiers to be critical of their superior officers–especially when they were compelled to take actions that did not make sense to them. By late 1863, there were a lot of disenchanted Union soldiers who had become convinced that their leaders were not interested in fighting to end the war. Officers were very well paid compared to enlisted men and there were many of the latter who felt the former wanted the war to drag on because they made more money as officers than they did in their professions or trades at home. Advise your students to read primary source material and form their own opinions as to the causes of the conflict that led to the Civil War. Preserve those WWII letters. Someday people will clamor for them as much as they do the Civil War letters.

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