Friday, May 23, 2014

Chrispianos Walker - A daring young man and soldier in the War of 1812

(Family lineage:  A brother of  Charles C. Walker, Jr., who was the father of  1  Sarah Walker; 2  Eliza Frances Walker;                  3  Emarine Bartram,4  Queen Rebecca Dickerson; Edna Bethel Franklin ; Judith Ann Hayward)

1792 - 1876

Chrispianos H. Amos Walker (what a mouthful!) was born in Augusta, Virginia to Charles C. Walker, Sr (a veteran of the Revolutionary War) and Elizabeth Margaret Peters (a sister of a Revolutionary War soldier).  I have been unable to find the origins of such a strange name but we do know that he was often called “Chrispi” or “Uncle Amos”.

Early in his life, the Walker and Peters families migrated across the Allegheny Mountains into the New River Valley where the children grew up and became friends, as well as cousins.  But things got tense when, at age18, Chrispi and his first cousin, 16 year old Frances Jane Peters, (aka “Frankie Jane”) fell in love and decided to marry.  This news was not greeted with joy by her  parents. Their concerns, expressed loudly and often, had to do with the prospective bride's age and - even more seriously -  their close bloodline ties. Thinking to stop it before it went any further, Chrispi was forbidden from visiting the Peters house and the girl was constantly kept under the watchful eyes of her parents and siblings. 

However, the young man came up with a creative plan to solve the problem. Christi talked a mutual  friend into secretively informing Frankie Jane that at a given time he would be waiting for her at his father's house two miles away with all the necessary paperwork and the preacher.  He asked that she try to escape her family home early on the designated morning and run to the Walker's house.  Frankie Jane did manage to escape while her family was still sleeping.  But it wasn't long before her absence was detected and two of her brothers started chasing her.  Because of her head start, she managed to outrun them and, upon reaching the Walker house, pushed open the door and cried out "It's now or never!".

It had to have been a shock to discover that her intended husband hadn't expected her to arrive that early, and was still in bed when she opened the door.  But he immediately sprang out of bed, wearing only his underwear, and the preacher married them before her brothers arrived. (Johnson, David E. A History of Middle New River Settlements and Contiguous Territory)

Chrispi had no formal education but had great verbal ability and could often talk himself into being hired for all kinds of jobs.  However, he eventually discovered the disadvantage of being illiterate when a cattleman hired him to drive a herd of cattle to Baltimore and handle the sale.  However, because of his inability to read, write or calculate, he was unable to negotiate a contract with the buyer and had to ask for help.  After this experience, in what seemed to have been his typical style, he threw himself into learning everything he could as fast as he could. It wasn't too long before he had developed reading and math skills and eventually became a distinguished debater. 

On June 18, 1812, just slightly over 2 years after their marriage, the United States declared war on the United Kingdom.  Known as the War of 1812, it was brought about mainly because American seamen were being forcibly impressed into the Royal Navy and British agents were inciting Indian hostilities.

Chrispi volunteered to serve as an Orderly Sergeant in the 4th Regiment in Lt. Ralph Lucas' Virginia Militia  (some genealogy records mistakenly refer to his rank as Captain). The 4th Regiment was a unit of Capt. George W. Camp's Company of Infantry under the command of Colonel Koonts.  Chrispi's cousin and brother-in-law, Jon Peters, was an ensign (lieutenant) in the company. Since the winter of 1813/14 was unusually cold and snowy, there couldn't be much military activity; so the company only existed from mid-September 1813 to mid March 1814.  A pitched battle had occurred the previous summer in the area and several significant engagements, culminating in the sack of Washington, would occur the following summer.  That winter, however, things were at a stand-off on the Chesapeake.

Despite the awful weather in the area, however, the British fleet continued to maintain their ships so only a few American ships were able to run the blockade. In addition, the British frequently came ashore in small boats to obtain fresh water and provisions, and continued to harass the populace in general. It is likely that Lt. Lucas' company confronted the British during one of those excursions, but the precise action was not documented.

The company was discharged at Fort Norfolk and - with no transportation available -  the men were forced to walk hundreds of miles to get  home. They were granted an allowance  to pay their expenses for the estimated 20 days it would take to make the trip.  Fortunately, Chrispi never incurred injury during his service, and had been paid $11.00 a month.

The company was in existence only six months, from mid-September, 1813, to mid March, 1814. It was formed in Giles County, and under Lieut. Lucas they marched over 200 miles to Norfolk. It appears that they camped in Fort Norfolk or in the Peach Orchard at its rear for the entire term of the enlistment except for 40 days Lynnhaven Bay. The company was discharged at Fort Norfolk; the men apparently then walked home. All the muster rolls identifed the company as Capt. George W. Camp's Company, 4th Regiment, Virginia Militia. The note beside Camp's name (listed first) was that he was detached to be Regimental Inspector, which accounts for Kirk's note that he did not see Camp after the first day, and several men identified Lieut. Ralph Lucas as their commander. Lieut. Andrew Caldwell was listed second, followed by Ensign John Peters.
The winter of 1813/1814, the time the company existed, was unusually cold so that military activity was minor. A pitched battle had occured the previous June at Craney Island across the Elizabeth estuary from Norfolk, and several significant engagements culminating in the sack of Washington would occur the following summer. That winter, however, things were at a stand-off in the Chesapeake. The British fleet maintained ships throughout that time in Lynnhaven Bay and in Hampton Roads and only a few American ships were able to run the blockade. The British frequently came ashore in small boats to obtain fresh water and provisions and to harrass the populace in general. It is likely that Lucas' company met the British in one of these excursions, but the precise action has not been identified.
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Years later, In the 1830's, Chrispi served on the first grand jury in the newly formed Mercer County, Virginia. He also was the surveyor who laid out the city of Princeton, West Virginia.  In 1852, the family moved to Wyoming county, West Virginia, where he became the justice of the peace and official surveyor of the county.

Chrispianos and Frankie Jane Walker were the parents of twelve children, seven of whom were named as creatively as their parents had been (John Wise Council, Valoris, Myrinda, Muhulda, Narcissa, Underwood, Numa Dink). It would be so interesting to learn where these names had come from but that knowledge seems to have been lost in time.

Original headstone of Chrispianos Walker

Headstone honoring Chrispi's service