Where’s Walter?

I have sad news to relate, Walter I think is crippled for life.  These were the chilling words which Parham penned following the bloody Battle of Second Manassas.  Shot in both legs, Walter stayed behind in Warrenton, Virginia where the town’s women tenderly cared for his wounds.  Uncle Newton, Walter’s father, journeyed to Virginia to be with his wounded son.  However, the wounds were mortal, and Walter passed away in October of 1863.

Where do Walter’s remains lie?  There are two markers with his name on it, one at Warrenton Cemetery and another almost 900 miles away at College Hill Cemetery in Mississippi.

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According to the article “To Name the Fallen” Wall Dedicated in Warrenton Cemetery,

Six hundred Confederate soldiers who died in Warrenton field hospitals following the Battles of First and Second Manassas have rested in anonymity in the town’s cemetery since 1877, when their bodies were removed from their unmarked graves and reinterred beneath a granite shaft erected in their honor by the Ladies of the Memorial Association of Fauquier. Although each soldier had originally been identified by a wooden marker made by local schoolchildren, Union troops callously pulled up the makeshift headstones and burned them for firewood in the winter of 1863. The names of Warrenton’s Confederate dead were thus lost to history.

This was the case until, as the before mentioned article explains, 520 of 600 names were accidentally discovered in a misfiled box within the National Archives.  On May 24, 1998, the United Daughters of the Confederacy Black Horse Chapter #9 memorialized the names, Walter S. Buford among them, on a wall erected around the already existing granite shaft.

Did Uncle Newton arrive before or after Walter’s passing?

Though not impossible, it is unlikely Walter’s remains could have been easily transported from Northern Virginia to Mississippi in 1863.  Are conclusions made from National Archive records incorrect, and Uncle Newton arranged for Walter’s body to be transported back to Mississippi?

The wall in Warrenton indicates Walter died on October 1; the tombstone in College Hill shows October 2.  Which is correct?

Did Uncle Newton stay in Northern Virginia long enough to see or learn of what Union soldiers had done to the wooden markers in Warrenton Cemetery? Did he, as a result, choose to have a Memorial Service for Walter among family and friends back home?

Was it common for tombstones of fallen soldiers to be erected in family plots at cemeteries far from where they fell?

28th Letter: Fathers Visit Wounded Sons (October 8, 1862)

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October 8, 1862: page 1

Camp near Winchester Va, Oct 8th- 62

Dear Sister- Again I will avail myself of the present opportunity to send you a few lines- I am enjoying good health and hope this may find you all likewise-

I have no news of interest to communicate- I have never heard from Rufe Shaw yet, nor have I any chance. Old Man Houston came here two days ago to see his son- they are both together at Shephardstown just this side of the River- I expect to hear some thing from him when Houston returns-

Photo is of Walter Scott Buford.

Click image of Walter Scott Buford to view source.

Uncle Newton is with Walter at Warrenton or Richmond, and most all the boys rcd letters by him except me, I was sure you would send a letter- I rcd one from Aunt Polly last week, they were all well, but did not have much to eat, as well as myself.

We have been here two weeks and have not eaten any thing, but beef and bread, and hardly enough of that and haven’t draw did drawn bacon but once- nor can we forage any, for they won’t let us out of the lines- and it won’t pay to buy any thing that is brought in to sell- apples 50 cts pr dozen, honey 1$ per lb- and so on

Our Rgt had just 100 men on drill this morning and this time last year, we had 800- We have now just about 150 for duty- the result of 6 fights that we have been in- I suppose you have heard all the particulars of our last fight by this time, if not let me know in your next & I will particularize-

You may rest assured that I never want be in another battle, such as the last- I could tell you things I saw that would sicken you, but I refrain-  I have myself become some what used to such sights, which I thought I never could do-

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October 8, 1862: pages 2 and 3

Some think that there will be another big fight soon, but there is no telling- I believe the Yankees here are as willing to rest awhile as we are- If they don’t fight in less than a month I don’t believe they will fight anymore this winter- You may rest assured that I never want be in another battle, such as the last- I could tell you things I saw that would sicken you, but I refrain- I have myself become some what used to such sights, which I thought I never could do-

I must close for the present, having nothing to interest you- Write me a long-long letter as soon as this is rcd. Give my love to all the family & servants – & to all enquiring friends- Wishing an immediate reply I remain your affectionate and ever faithful Brother

PM Buford


Blogger’s Notes:

  • A History of Company G, Eleventh Mississippi Regiment, C.S.A. documents information about comrades mentioned in this letter by Parham.
    • Rees A. Houston present at Sharpsburg, where he was severely wounded.  Although this letter does not specifically mention Rees by name, we know it is him that Parham writes of because he is the son of  Old Man Houston.
    • Rufus A. Shaw, Parham’s cousin, present at Boonsborough, Sharpsburg, where he was severely wounded and brought back to Shepherdstown, Va.  He was retired July, 1864 by reason of wound through left lung.  Parham described the wound in a previous letter as being a ball which entered the left shoulder and came lodged just under the skin and under the shoulder blade.  Although eventually retiring almost two years later, Rufus is not cited as having served in any battles following Sharspburg.
    • Walter S. Buford, Parham’s cousin, present at Second Manassas, where on the second day he was mortally wounded, August 30, 1862; was taken to the hospital, where he died on the 15th of September.  […as gallant a soldier as ever stood before an enemy.  The record the Company shows that he was present at every battle in which the Company was engaged until he was mortally wounded.  Such records made the imperishable names of Lee and Jackson.  Our independence would have been assured could we have recruited our army with such material.  We would have been invincible. – A COMRAD.]  
  • Thomas Newton Buford, referred to as Uncle Newton by Parham, is mentioned in this letter as visiting with his son, Walter, in either Richmond or Warrenton.  What Parham does not yet know when writing this letter on October 8th is that Walter passed away 23 days earlier on September 15th.  Parham will soon learn of this tragic turn of events and write of it in his next letter.
  • It is assumed that both Old Man Houston and Uncle Newton have traveled from Mississippi to Virginia to visit their wounded sons.
  • Mary Polly Buford, referred to as Aunt Polly by Parham, is indicated to have written a letter about her side of the family not having much food to eat.  Aunt Polly and Parham’s biological father, though not siblings, share a grandfather who was an American Revolutionary War veteran.
  • Parham mentioned there is a shortage of food provisions and that he and his comrades are not permitted to forage for food.  Why was this?  Could it be that the army could not afford to have its dwindling numbers picketed off?  In one year’s time, their numbers dropped from about 800 to 15o as a result of six engagements with the Yankees.
  • Parham referred to the last battle at Sharpsburg, known as Antietam by the Federals, indicating that he never wants to be in such a battle again and that he will refrain from mentioning the horrors he has grown accustomed to witnessing.