Aldace Freeman Walker papers
Scope and Contents
The Aldace Freeman Walker collection is mainly letters written home from Aldace Freeman Walker to his father Aldace Walker, mother Mary Ann Baker Walker, and sister Mary Walker. The majority of the letters record day to day activities of camp or fort life during the Civil War from the perspective of an officer. Towards the latter part of the letters that are in the transcription Walker is involved in many of the famous battles of the Potomac campaign, including Spotsylvania and the defense of Washington. Walker spends almost his entire time in the service in the areas around Washington, D.C. The letters often speak of money and his need for his parents to send some in between drawing pay. They also note many of the deaths occurring in camp, many times due to disease and poor nutrition rather than from battle wounds. Many notable Middlebury College names are mentioned in the course of the letters such as Mead, Sheldon, Porter, etc. Other sets of letters included in the collection deal with Walker’s later life. Beyond the Civil War, Walker served as one of the first three commissioners of the Interstate Commerce Commission and later as the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway Company. He was very involved in the expansion of commerce during the later years of the 19th century. One of the letters has an affidavit from the Interstate Commerce Commission dealing with the unfair freight rates at the time. The reader can see the beginnings of the trust-busting movement in the United States through this piece. Letters and newspaper clippings in the collection also show his interest in the planning of the Panama Canal.
- 1862 - 1909
- Walker, Aldace Freeman, 1842-1901 (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
Open for research without restrictions.
Conditions Governing Use
For permission to publish materials, contact: Special Collections & Archives Middlebury College Phone: (802) 443-2387 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Biographical / Historical
Native Vermonter Aldace Freeman Walker, valedictorian of the Middlebury College Class of 1862, gave his commencement speech in the uniform of a First Lieutenant, U.S. Volunteers, and promptly set off for war. After nearly a month of initial training in Brattleboro, VT, Walker’s regiment, the Eleventh Vermont Volunteer Infantry, arrived in Washington, D.C., in early September 1862. For the next twenty months Walker and his regiment occupied the forts in the northeastern quadrant of the Defenses of Washington, drilling, socializing and fretting that the war might pass them by. But in mid-May, 1864, as Lieut. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Potomac began the bloody Overland Campaign against Robert E. Lee’s Amy of Northern Virginia, the Vermont “Heavies,” as they came to be known, were called up to active campaigning, joined the famous “Old Vermont Brigade” in the Sixth Corps, and participated in every battle of that famed unit from Spotsylvania until the end of the war, including a return to the defenses of Washington to stop Jubal Early’s mid-summer attack on the capital, the Shenandoah Valley Campaign under Sheridan, the Petersburg Campaign, and finally an abortive thrust south after the fall of Richmond to stop Johnston. Walker’s 288 letters to his parents and younger sister are regular, often long, and always lucid and opinionated. Historian Benjamin Franklin Cooling III, who has written extensively on the defenses of Washington during the Civil War, contends there is “no better account of the ‘life and times’ of junior officers in the wartime defenses of Washington” than Walker’s letters home. Walker celebrated three birthdays in the service, and his military experiences provided a solid transition for his future career as a lawyer, state representative, an active participant in veteran organizations, one of the first three commissioners of the Interstate Commerce Commission, and eventually Chairman of the Board of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway. He died in 1901.
This collection compromises the multifaceted life of Aldace Walker, Valedictorian of Middlebury College Class of 1862. The bulk of the original letters and bound transcription written between 1862 and 1865 come from various camps, forts, and battles around the United States during Walker’s service in the Civil War. Walker was commissioned as a First Lieutenant and eventually rose to the rank of Major. The handwritten letters cover the time between August 1862 and May 1864. Also included is a bound transcription of the original letters that take the story all the way through June 1865; apparently the written letters between June 1864 and June 1865 have been lost. Most of these letters are written home to family to inform them of Walker’s daily activities as a soldier in the war. Also included are later letters from Walker’s jobs in the railroad and commerce industries.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Gift of Mary F. Moore, great granddaughter of Aldace Freeman Walker, in December 2008.