SUBMITTED BY THOMAS CARTWRIGHT, FRANKLIN, TENNESSEE
NAME: Henry J. Walker
DATES: February 19, 1842, to April 6, 1862
HIGHEST RANK: Private
UNIT: 24th Tennessee Infantry, Company B
SERVICE RECORD: Enlisted in the 24th Tennessee, Company B, on August 24, 1861. Served under Patrick Cleburne in early 1862 when his unit became part of General Albert Sidney Johnston’s Army of the Mississippi. Killed on April 6, 1862, at the Battle of Shiloh, Tennessee.
The war swept Henry J. Walker away. It carried him through his native Tennessee, into Kentucky, and, later, Mississippi. It carried him into two armies and onto the battlefield at Shiloh, back in his home state. And there it left him.
Born on February 19, 1842, in Williamson County, Tennessee, Walker was the fourth of the six children of Henry Jeffreys and Elizabeth Owen Walker. He was 19 years old when he enlisted in the 24th Tennessee Infantry’s Company B on August 24, 1861, at Camp Trousdale in neighboring Sumner County. Lieutenant John Smith swore the troops in for 10 months’ service, and the regiment was mustered in at the camp.
The 24th Tennessee’s first move was a march to Bowling Green, Kentucky. There, by January 1862, the 24th became part of Colonel Patrick R. Cleburne’s 2d Brigade in Major General William J. Hardee’s 1st Division of the Army of Central Kentucky. In February 1862, the army marched to Murfreesboro, Tennessee. From there, the Confederates marched to Corinth, Mississippi, where they were absorbed by General Albert Sidney Johnston’s Army of the Mississippi. Walker and his comrades sensed a major fight was coming; their premonition came true on April 6 at Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, near Shiloh Church, some 100 miles from Walker’s native Williamson County.
In the Battle of Shiloh, Walker’s regiment saw vicious fighting and suffered heavy initial losses. Positioned on the left flank of Cleburne’s brigade, the men of the 24th Tennessee charged against Federal infantry commanded by Brigadier General William T. Sherman. Walker and the 24th advanced unwavering through a swollen creek and up a ravine under murderous Union fire. The 24th’s courage during the charge did not go unnoticed by Cleburne. “Here the 24th Tennessee won a character for steady valor,” he wrote after the battle.
Walker, however, never reached the Union lines; Yankee bullets cut him down during the brigade’s first charge. He was one of 1,032 casualties–out of 2,750 men engaged–reported by Cleburne after the battle. The 24th Tennessee alone lost 52 men killed and 166 wounded; Company B lost three killed, one of whom was Walker.
Federal soldiers buried Walker in a mass grave on the battlefield, his remains left unmarked and irretrievably lost to his family and loved ones. But Walker, though swept away, was not forgotten. Through the efforts of his brother, N.O. Walker, he was posthumously awarded a United Confederate Veterans Southern Cross of Honor, and 43 years after his death at Shiloh, a room at George Peabody College in Nashville, Tennessee, was dedicated in his honor.