Sunday, March 8, 2015

Military Monday - Resurrecting Cpl. Walter Gard (1839-1864)

Corporal's Frock Coat
courtesy of
Note: The Morris County, New Jersey, Gards are sometimes found in the records with the spelling Gard and sometimes Guard.  Even a given individual might be found with both spellings.  As the family moved west, some retained the Guard spelling and others opted for Gard.  Walter Gard (1839-1864) is found in various records under both spellings.  In this narrative, I have elected to use the spelling Gard except when it is in direct quotes as Guard.

Now that I have traced my ancestors back about as far as possible on every branch on the family tree via, I have begun to focus more closely on nuclear families on the tree, following as much as possible the lives, loves, activities, calamities, deaths, and burials for every brother and sister in a given family, to the extent the resources allow.  And thus it was that I came to the sons and daughters of William James Gard (who seems to have been called James) (1795-1846) and his wife Keziah Wheeler Gard (1807-1859), who lived in Wood County, Virginia (later West Virginia).

Wood County, West Virginia
from Wikipedia
William James Gard was the son of my fourth great-grandfather, John Gard, Sr. (1742-1824), though not the son of my fourth great-grandmother, Elizabeth Dudley, but of John’s second wife, Elizabeth Watson. The list of the children of William James and Keziah and their (approximate) birth dates went something like this:

Mary Ann, b. 1824
Walter (either no birth date or 1824)
Chester, b. 1827
Marcellus, b. 1832
Minerva, b. 1832
Jane, b. 1834
Elizabeth, b. 1840
Drucilla, b. 1844
Emarilla, b. 1844
Jeremiah Theodore, b. 1848

As I looked at the information, I noticed that the sons were of the age typical of the Civil War generation.  However, no military information (or any other information, for that matter) was turning up for Chester or Walter.  I had just about come to the conclusion that these two must have died in infancy, an all too common fate for families before the twentieth century.  The father had died by the time of the 1850 census, but Keziah shows up as a widow with several children still living at home: Minerva, Elizabeth, Drucilla, Jeremiah, and Emarilla.  Jane Gard, age 16 in 1850, was living with the Lemly family (possibly as a servant).  Marcellus, age 19, was living with the Scofield family; his occupation is given as laborer.  But there was no trace of Chester or Walter.

Now, some researchers on show another son of William James and Keziah: John Wallis Gard (1830-1904).  I found John Wallis in the 1860 census, married and raising a family in Gallia County, Ohio, which is just a few miles southwest of Wood County, Virginia.  In fact, Gallipolis, the town where they resided, is on the Ohio River which serves as the border between the two states. 

Gallia County, Ohio
from Wikipedia
It was in that 1860 census record that Walter Gard turned up, age 21.  I have since determined that John Wallis Gard, with whom he was residing, was probably his cousin, rather than his brother, as “Jno W. Gard” turns up living with his father Jeremiah Gard (1810-82) ten years earlier in the 1850 census.  This Jeremiah, by the way, was another son of John and Nancy Watson Gard and was married to Elizabeth Wheeler, who may have been a sister to Keziah Wheeler, though I have found no trace of either woman’s parents.
Realizing that John Wallis and his cousin Walter were in the generation that fought the Civil War, I began to look for military service.  

John Wallis Gard turned up as having served in the 18th Independent Battery of the Ohio Light Artillery.   Submitting a Google search for “Walter Gard Civil War Ohio,” I discovered an obituary for Walter Guard (with the u spelling ) from the Gallipolis Journal, dated September 21, 1864, and identifying his military unit as Co. G, 4th West Virginia Infantry.  This was the key that unlocked the mystery of what happened to Walter Gard, son of William James and Keziah Wheeler Gard. 
Gallipolis Journal

The obituary read: “Walter Guard, Corporal, age 22, enlisted July 21st, 1861, from Gallipolis, killed at Snicker’s [sic] Ferry, Virginia, July 18th, 1864—unmarried.”  The fact that he was unmarried and left no heirs goes some way toward explaining why few have searched for him on  Walter’s unit—Co. G of the 4th West Virginia Infantry—was organized at Mason and Point Pleasant, West Virginia, June 17 to August 22, 1861.  Since Point Pleasant is closer to Gallipolis and also the county seat of Mason County, West Virginia, which is immediately adjacent to Gallia County, Ohio, it was probably there that Walter Guard enlisted.  He entered service as eighth corporal, which is just above private, and had been promoted to corporal before his death.[1]

Battle of Vicksburg
from Wikipedia
The men of the 4th West Virginia Infantry had seen plenty of action in the war prior to the battle in which Walter Gard lost his life.  Some of the major conflicts included the Battle of Vicksburg (Mississippi),  May 18 – July 4, 1863, where a monument was raised in their honor (see below); the third Battle of Chattanooga (Tennessee), November 23-25, 1863 (also called the Battle of Lookout Mountain and the Battle of Missionary Ridge); and the Battle of Piedmont (Virginia), June 5, 1864.[2]

Col. Joseph Thoburn
In July 1864, Walter’s unit, led by Col. Joseph Thoburn and under the command of Maj. Gen. Horatio Wright, was asked to interfere with the movement of Confederate Lt. Gen. Jubal Early’s defeated troops from the Battle of Fort Stevens near Washington, D.C., as they moved into the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.  On the 17th, Early entered the valley and established his troops at Berryville, leaving a division led by Gen. John B. Gordon to guard Snickers Ford on the Shenandoah River.  Wright, under the mistaken impression that only a strong rearguard of Confederates was at Snickers Ford, ordered Col. Thoburn’s men—Walter Gard among them—to cross at Island Ford, and they set out at about 3:00 p.m.  While crossing, Thoburn learned from Confederate prisoners they had taken, that his men were about to face off not with a mere rebel rearguard, but with the greater part of Early’s army.  Sending word back to Wright, Thoburn pressed on across the ford.[3]

At this point, let us transfer the narrative to an eyewitness account of the battle, which appeared in the Gallipolis Journal on August 4, 1864:
Camp 4th Va.V.V. Inftry., in the field near Snickers Gap, Va., July 19th, 1864 Mr. Stewart: Sir: Thinking a brief statement of facts in regard to yesterday's fight may not be uninteresting to your patrons, many of whom have friends and relatives in the 4th Va. Inftry. I hereby subjoin one the source of which is perfectly reliable. I was not a participant. I will commence by stating the order of crossing the Shenandoah river at Snickers Ford, distant from Snickers Gap one mile and a half and about one mile below the crossing on the Turnpike.

Snickers Gap (Blue Ridge Mountains)
The 1st Brigade under Col. Wells in the advance followed by the 2nd Brigade under Col. Thoburn and 3rd Brigade under Col. Frost. The whole commanded by Col. Thoburn crossed at 3 o'clock P.M. Skirmishers were immediately thrown out to the front and the Div., formed as follows, 1st Brigade on the left, 3rd Brigade in the center, and the 2nd Brigade on the right. In this position they lay for nearly an hour without any show of hostility and indeed without scarcely any indication of the enemy in our front. Up to this time, not a shot was fired.—But now it was discovered that the enemy were massing on our right. The 4th Va. Inftry. was ordered on the double quick to the extreme right and formed near the crest of a small ridge running paralell [sic] with the river. Still further to the right and a little in advance of the 4th Va. was placed a strong body of Dismounted Cavalry as skirmishers and for the protection of the right flank of the line of battle. 

The Shenandoah River at Cool Spring
Courtesy of the Civil War Trust
Whilst the 4th Va. Inftry. were forming, the enemy were seen in a strong force moving to the right and into a dense woods.—They here threw out into the skirt of the woods and in full view, a small line in order to make a show of charging us, whilst the main body of the enemy passed on under cover of the woods until they got entirely clear of our line and within three hundred yards of the Charlestown road which runs parallel with the river and along which our line extended. They then filed out of the woods and marched directly toward the river bank. The dismounted cavalry, which were placed on our right to protect our flank seeing the enemy bearing down upon them in such heavy force, fell back without firing a shot. Col. J. L. Vance of the 4th Va. Inftry. immediately then took two companies to the right to protect our flank thus left wholly exposed. But the enemy availing themselves of the advantage thus gained had already taken position behind a stone fence running at right angles to our line. From this point they poured upon us a terrible enfilading fire. Simultaneously a galling fire was opened on us in front. Here Lt. G. W. Scott was killed, a loss severely felt by all.—He was an efficient officer and a perfect gentleman. His relatives and friends at home have the sympathy of the entire regiment. Here also Capt. W. S. Hall & Capt. C. A. Shepard and Lt. M. Christopher were wounded; indeed here it was that all our loss occurred.
Battle of Cool Spring, Confederate's First Attack, July 18, 1864
Image courtesy of the Civil War Trust

This situation however was not to be endured. Col. Vance seeing there was no other alternative, gave the command to fall back, whereupon they fell back in some haste to a stone fence some fifty yards in our rear and immediately upon the river bank. The whole line, as well upon the left as upon the right fell back to the river bank. A great many especially Dismounted Cavalry, rushed into the river and I have learned many were drowned. At the stone fence on the bank of the river Col. Vance rallied the 4th Va. and others and formed line, the advance of the enemy was now checked and driven back, that body on our right however, continued their flank movement until it was discovered they were in the road and on the bank of the river. At this movement the 116th O.V. Inftry., commanded by Col. Washburn came to our assistance and while moving to the right its noble commander fell probably mortally wounded. But the men drove the rebels off the road and took up position. And here let me in praise of the 116th say that better soldiers are nowhere to be found. We maintained our position at the fence until dark and then under imperative orders recrossed the river bringing all off safely. We could have held the position all night and Col. Vance requested it but it was denied him.
Cool Spring Battlefield
from Wikipedia

During the time we lay along the fence the enemy made repeated charges upon us and each time were handsomely repulsed. They did not once attempt a swooping charge of their whole line else they must have certainly taken us. But they charged first at one point and then at another. We were compelled when the enemy charged on our right to take men from the left to strengthen the right and thus the men were kept continually changing from point to point. At one time the enemy charged on our left with a strong line and was repulsed by less than fifty men. As they retreated fresh men were brought up and they were punished severely.

Battle of Cool Spring Marker
The officers and men of our Regt. behaved nobly. In bringing off our little command Col. Vance withdrew a few men at intervals along the line and sent them over on to a little island that lay near the middle of the river.—He then selected a few more and ordered them to the main bank on the opposite side of the river and this he continued to do until all had passed over except himself and six men, these he crossed successfully having accomplished all without the loss of a man. The heroic conduct of Col. Vance in the trying ordeal cannot be too highly extolled. He labored incessantly to beat back the insolent foe and after having accomplished his object was the last man to cross the river.

Co. F—1st Lieut. George A. Scott; Private Daniel McNeer
Co. D—Corporal George Howsen
Co. I—Sergt. Francis M. Clendinen
Co. G—Corpl. Walter Guard, Privates Moses Knapp and Isaac N. Kitterman
Co. B—Private John Kinser

Co. G—Privates George Wallace in leg, slightly; George W. Flesher, also in leg, slightly
Co. B—Privates Joseph B. Pursinger, in shoulder, severely; Lewis P. Cubbage, in shoulder, severely; Andrew Roberts, in arm, severely
Co. K—1st Sergeant John C. Hailay, slightly; Corp. Anthony Betts, in face, slightly
Co. C—Corp. John Samson, in arm, severely; W.W. Edmonds, in arm, amputated; Privates John Terrill, in hand, George W. Townsend, in hand, slightly Co. H—1st Lieut. Michael Christopher, in leg, severely; Private I. Terrill, in hand, slightly
Co. A—Sergt. Thomas Pascoe, in thigh, slightly; N. N. Knight, in face, slightly
Co. F—Capt. W. S. Hall, in side, severely; Sergt. F. D. Chalfant, in side, severely; Privates: David Hamilton, in right shoulder, severely; B. A. Safreed, in knee, severely; Allen Robinson, in shoulder, severely
Co. D—Private J. A. Lewellen, in hip, slightly
Co. I—Capt. C. A. Shepard, in foot, severely

P. S. By later intelligence I learn that Lieut. Scott was not killed, but was most probably fatally wounded.      Very Respectfully Yours &c.,

Winchester National Cemetery
from Wikimedia Commons
According to the U. S. Burial Registers for Military Posts and National Cemeteries, Walter Gard (listed as W. Guard) was initially buried at Cool Spring, no doubt alongside others who fell that day.[5]  However, after the war, the government established national cemeteries for the war dead, and in 1866 Walter’s body was re-interred at Winchester National Cemetery in Winchester, Virginia (Section 83, Site 3887).[6]
West Virginia Monument at Vicksburg
Dedicated to the West Virginia 4th Infantry
National Park Service Image

Walter’s cousin, John Wallis Gard, was mustered out of the service at Resaca, Georgia, on June 29, 1865, and returned to Gallipolis, where his last child, Mary Jane, was born in 1866.  He eventually returned with his family to West Virginia, where he died in 1904.  Walter’s memory was honored by his younger brother, Jeremiah Theodore Gard, who named his son Otis Walter.  Otis later became Reverend Otis Walter Gard and served the Baptist Church in Willow Island, West Virginia, a small community in Pleasants County, where many Gards resided.  He is buried in the church graveyard there.

(c) Eileen Cunningham, 2015

[1] “Civil War Soldiers.” 2015. Web. 4 Mar. 2015.
[2] National Park Service. “Union West Virginia Volunteers: 4th Regiment, West Virginia Infantry.” The Civil War.  28 Feb. 2015. Web. 5 Mar. 2015.
[4] Transcribed by Eve Swain Hughes. Gallia County Genealogical Society.  Accessed 5 Mar. 2015.
[5] U.S., Burial Registers, Military Posts and National Cemeteries, 1862-1960 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012
[6] National Cemetery Administration. U.S. Veterans Gravesites, ca.1775-2006 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc,

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