This letter was written by Frank R. Walker (1841-1889) of Co. E, 5th Wisconsin Infantry. Frank was the son of James Warren Walker (1821-1899) and Gratia Knight Warren (1804-1884) of Plover, Portage County, Wisconsin. Frank married Medora Alsette Patterson (1848-1896) in 1880.
The 5th Wisconsin was one of four regiments of infantry that arrived in New York City from Warrenton, Virginia, who left the Army of the Potomac to maintain law and order in the aftermath of the draft riots. Their duty was to take charge of the conscripts and forward them to their place of destination. They came to New York by way of Washington, Baltimore, and Philadelphia.
The four regiments were: the 37th Massachusetts (quartered at Fort Hamilton), the 20th Indiana (quartered on the Battery in NYC), the 5th Wisconsin and the 1st Massachusetts, (quartered at Fort Columbus). The 5th Wisconsin numbered roughly 400 men ready for duty at the time.
Fort Columbus was the name of a fortification, and later US Army post, located on Governors Island in New York Harbor, about a half mile from lower Manhattan. During the Civil War Fort Columbus served as a recruitment center and hospital, as well as a temporary prisoner of war camp and confinement hospital for Confederate P.O.W.s pending transfer to other Union prisons.
Camp of Governor Island, New York Harbor
August 7th 1863
I have not written to you in a long while but I think you would not complain if I should tell you half of what we have gone through since last I wrote & that I am as much indebted to the rest of our folks in the letter-line. I have not heard from home in some time. [Brother] Reese [W. Walker] ¹ is still in Philadelphia. We left the Army of the Potomac the last day of July. Three other regiments came with us. We are here, I expect, to help to enforce the draft & it is possible that we will stay here until our time is out & we may not stay more than a month.
This is a very pleasant & healthy place & we shall have a chance to get over the effects of the trying campaign through which we have just passed. From here we have a view of a portion of New York City, Brooklyn, & Jersey City & all that is going on in the harbor. If we stay here as long as present appearances indicate, I shall try and get a furlough & come & see you. I have no news to write so I will close.
With much love to you all. — F. R. Walker
Write soon & direct to Fort Columbus, New York Harbor.
P.S. I will try & be more forthright about writing in the future.
¹ Sgt. Reese W. Walker of Company E, 5th Wisconsin Infantry, was wounded at Williamsburg and Gaine’s Mill; he was killed in action in the Battle of the Wilderness on 5 May 1864.