The Fighting at Resaca, a Letter Home from a Nashville Hospital
Updated: Apr 11
by Gordon Thorsby
Aaron Burr Walker, Co. D 136th NY Infantry was a farmer from Wyoming County in western New York where he enlisted in Company D, 136th New York Infantry as Private in September,1862. He joined up along with the 300,000 more men called by President Lincoln to the cause.
The "Ironclads” as the 136th New York Infantry was nicknamed were part of Col. James Wood’s Brigade of von Steinwehr’s Division of the XI Corps. Men from the 136th was from western New Yorke and Canada (Canadians crossed over to fight.) Their Hardee campaign hats stood out in the XI Corps but the hats did not prevent shame when at Chancellorsville the entire XI Corps was easily routed. At Gettysburg, his company was out on the Emmitsburg Road skirmishing opposite Confederate sharpshooters where Aaron received an artillery wound in his right elbow (possibly friendly fire from guns on Cemetery Hill.) He was promoted to Corporal for his performance at the battle. The regiment fought at Wauhatchie, TN in the Chattanooga Campaign.
It was at Resaca that his letter refers to in greater detail. On May 14-15 at Resaca, GA the first major action between the armies occurred and the Spring Campaign was begun.
Aaron wrote this letter home to his brother since he was recovering from a thigh wound at Resaca. Spelling and grammar is retained.
To O.F. Walker
“Brown Hospital, Ward 11, Louisville, KY
June 16, 1864
With great pleasure I take this opportunity to address a few lines to you. I am well and hope these few lines will find you the same. The cause of my being here, I was wounded at the fight at Resaca, Georgia on the 15 of May. My wound has got well. I was wounded in the left thigh.
Our regiment suffered bad. We went in to the fite with 3 hundred men. Our loss killed and wounded was 85. My company went in with 32 guns and came out with 15. Two killed and 15 wounded.
You can bet the bullets came thick but we held our ground and drove the rebs three lines of breast works. They advanced on us three times. We drove them back every time. They came up within three rods of us. We shot them down by the hundred. We drove them out of their fourth line of brest works and took four peaces of artillery. They had them double loaded with grape and canister but we drove them away from their guns before they could shoot them off. Resaca is the best forified place I ever saw. If they can’t holde such a place I can’t see what their hopes can bee.
I think this summer will end the war. We are taking them at every turn. I haven’t had a letter from home in six weeks. The reason is that I have been on a move. I have been here ten days. I think I will get one soon.
Henry and William Blakeslee was both wounded the same time I was, slite wounds. They are both in Nashville, nursing. I am nursing here. I think I shall stay hear this summer. The doctor says he will haf to keep me for I am a good nurse.
You must write soon as you get this. Don’t wait as long as I have. I have neglected to write. A soldier gets to bee careless and lazy. Write often.
From Aaron Walker
Based on the letter, Aaron was not in the “March to the Sea” and remained as a convalescent, a nurse/orderly, or in the Kentucky hospital. Aaron remained at the hospital serving as a nurse until May where he rejoined the regiment in Washington for the Grand Parade down Pennsylvania Avenue before its discharge, June 13, 1865.
Aaron, brother-in-law, Henry Harrison and his brother William Blakeslee are buried in Chesaning, MI. Henry and William were also wounded the same day at Resaca.
Note 1: Brown General Hospital was a military medical facility erected by the Union Army in Louisville, Kentucky, during the American Civil War. It was the largest of six general military hospitals scattered throughout the city. Army surgeons administered the hospital, aided by civilian agencies such as the United States Sanitary Commission and the U.S. Christian Commission. The hospital was located near the present-day Belknap campus of the University of Louisville, not far away from Fort McPherson.
Conditions were often crowded, with insufficient medical staff (particularly surgeons and nurses) to fully treat the sick and wounded.
A large number of wounded and ill soldiers from the Atlanta Campaign and other operations in the South were transported to Brown General Hospital for treatment; several died and were buried in a small cemetery adjoining the medical complex.
Brown, Aaron's Doctor, later became known as a leading regional center for the treatment of ophthalmic disorders, with Dr. Charles Porter Hart as its chief eye surgeon.
Note 2: Based on the three men's names, (the family liked Whig politicians.) Aaron Burr Walker is my Great Great Grandfather. He became the town's veterinarian and dentist.
Note 3: He moved to Chesaning , MI in 1867, his brother was already a leader in the village,
Chesaning Argus, 1888.
Letter to O.F. Walker in Private Collection, Esther Scott, 1985.
History of Kentucky, University of Louisville: History of Brown General Hospital, Belknap Campus.
Aaron Walker post-war