1864: George Nelson Chalker to Otto Bignall Chalker

A post-war image of George Nelson Chalker

This letter was written by Pvt. George Nelson Chalker (1842-1920) of Co. B, 26th Michigan Infantry. George was the son of Otto Bignall Chalker (1813-1884) and Mary Ann Lee (1821-1901) of Locke township, Ingham county, Michigan.

The letter was penned from the James River near Harrison’s Landing after five grueling weeks of hard marches and fighting across Virginia. The regiment participated in the fighting in the Wilderness, at Spotsylvania Court House—including an assault on the “Bloody Angle,” at the North Anna River, at Cold Harbor, and were just about to participate in the first assault on Petersburg.

George survived the war, married, and eventually moved to Clinton county, Iowa.


Addressed to Otto B. Chalker, Locke P. O., Ingham county, Michigan
Postmarked Old Point Comfort, Va.

On the James River in wilds below Harrison’s Landing
June the 14th 1864

Dear father & mother & sisters,

I again take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well but I am very tired and sore this morning. I was on my feet for forty-eight hours. The first twenty-four I was on picket and the next twenty-four we was on the march. We got here last night about five o’clock. William Chalker ¹ came very near getting killed the other day—day before yesterday. It was a ball just grazed his head taking the hide and hair off to the skull. He went back to the hospital. It ain’t a very bad wound. He will be back in a short time.

I got a letter from you day before yesterday that was dated the 3rd and mailed the 4th of June. I wish that I could get a letter every day from home. I was sorry to hear that mother was not very well and hope that she is better. Mother, you must not be sick for George ain’t sick, you know. I guess you ain’t sick now, be you Mother?

Mother, that tea that you sent to me is worth a half a dollar. I hain’t steeped it yet but I shall sometime today. I must go down to the river before long and take a swim. The river is quite salty here.

Piece of the Regimental Flag, 26th Michigan Infantry

Father, out of sixteen boys that has enlisted in this regiment from the town of Locke, there ain’t only four of us left. One is Seth Porter and George Chamberlain, Charley Roxley, and myself.

Oh Mother, cherries is ripe and so is strawberries and so is blackberries. I had a good mess of them this morning. I wish you had some. They are thick. Corn is waist-high in some places. I wish that we could stay here a few days and rest ourselves.

I have got them stamps that you sent but the papers and envelopes—them hain’t come yet. Don’t I make some awful marks? Can you read these marks? I don’t see how you can. I can’t read it myself after it gets cold. Well, I must close for this time so goodbye from George, James River, Va.

To father & mother & sisters
Lock, Michigan

¹ William S. Chalker of Putnam, Livingston County, enlisted with his brother (John G. Chalker), cousin (George Chalker) and uncle (Myron J. Chalker) into Co. B. on August 16, 1862, at the age of 18. He was wounded in action at the Po River on May 11th and again in action at Spotsylvania the following day (12th). A Minié ball ploughed a furrow across his head and Chalker kept his forage cap that showed where the ball had passed. More than twenty years after the war, a comrade,who had picked up the lock of hair cut away by the bullet, returned it to him. He survived and marched in the Grand Review, then mustered out with the regiment at Alexandria, Virginia on June 4, 1865. In 1867 he married Charlotte Loud and had three children. In 1905 he was living in Mason, Ingham County, Michigan, and was a member of the Methodist Church and Phil McKernan G.A.R. Post 43 of Blissfield. At Fowlerville he attended the 43rd Annual Reunion in 1908 with his cousin, George. Born Feb. 16, 1844, he died at the Veteran’s University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor on May 15, 1919, and is buried in the Hawley Cemetery Lot 47. He was survived by his widow and sons, William and Bert. His brother, John, also served in the 26th Michigan and another brother, Liewellyn, served in Battery H. of the 1st MI Light Artillery. Source: L.G. Overmyer


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