Page images

prosecutor was taking the tide at the flood which would have led to fortune, when the great war cloud that had been lowering over the country for months burst forth in all its fury and intensity. At this time Walker was captain of the “Pulaski Guards," a crack volunteer company composed of hardy mountaineers, who afterwards won fame on a hundred battlefields by following the victorious plume of “Old Stonewall.”

At the first call for troops, in 1861, on the part of Governor Letcher, this company went to the front, brimful of patriotism and enthusiasm, and was assigned to the Fourth Virginia Regiment, commanded by Colonel James L. Preston, and from Richmond was soon ordered to Harper's Ferry. It is not the purpose of this article to follow General Walker throughout the war, or to recount the deeds of valor gloriously wrought by him and his gallant men for four long and bloody years. Others have performed this task more worthily. But from the time he went forth to do battle for Virginia and Virginia's cause and that of her people, until the close, at Appomattox, of the titanic struggle, his record is a part of the history of the Army of Northern Virginia, led by the greatest chieftains of modern times.

From a captaincy he was rapidly promoted to lieutenantcolonel, colonel, brigadier-general, and finally, at the close of the war, was in command of Early's Division, with the rank of major-general. His promotion to this high command was recommended, but owing to the unsettled condition of affairs near the close of the war, the commission was not issued. He participated in the battles of First Bull Run, Front Royal, Winchester, Cross Keys, Port Republic, Gaines Mill, Malvern Hill, Cedar Run, Second Bull Run, Ox Hill, Fredericksburg, Second Winchester, Gettysburg, Payne's Farm, Vine Run, Wilderness, Spottsylvania Courthouse, Fort Stedman, Petersburg, Sailors Creek, and laid down his arms with his comrades at Appomattox.

None of the boys who wore the gray and participated in the great battle of Spottsylvania Courthouse will ever forget how shot and shell flew thick and fast at the "bloody angle.” At this point, while gallantly leading his command, on May 12, 1864, General Walker was severely wounded in the left arm. This wound prevented him from participating in active service for months. However, before he was fully restored to health and strength, he reported for active duty and appeared at the head of his brigade, with his arm in a sling. Surrounded by his men at Appomattox, he received the news of Lee's surrender. Many of his old comrades state that he wept like a child, and - made his men a speech, that for eloquence and pathos, will ever be remembered by those who heard it.

On the 30th day of May, 1892, a magnificent monument to Lieutenant-General A. P. Hill was unveiled in Richmond. General Walker had succeeded General Hill as colonel of the noted and chivalrous Thirteenth Virginia Regiment. His old comrades in arms, therefore, chose him as the orator of the occasion. He was presented to the vast audience by Rev. J. William Jones, the “Fighting Parson,” who said he would “simply announce, not introduce, the orator, General James A. Walker, more familiarly known as Stonewall Jim Walker, the fighting general of the Army of Northern Virginia."

James A. Walker was brave to a fault. But he was as generous and magnanimous as he was brave. Not one of his old comrades, who had lest his all by the “crimson tide of war," ever appealed to him for help, in vain. In the annals of this great struggle between the Northmen and his warm blooded, courageous brother of the South its story is studded with brilliant achievements and terrible losses that gave proof of devotion to the Southern cause. And this cause had no more chivalrous champion than Walker, the lion-hearted. “As a soldier no knight that followed the fortunes of the lost cause yielded a more stainless blade.” He was in very truth a warrior “without fear and without reproach."

The great struggle being over, he was one of the first to realize it, and at once bent all his energies to a new public life, and to building up the waste places. He returned home without means and without property, to again resume his law practice, which had been so rudely disturbed for four years. At this time he


was thirty-three years of age. Many of the former members of the bar had yielded their lives a willing sacrifice on the altar of their country's devotion. Therefore, when General Walker returned to Newbern to practice, he found the old familiar faces gone, the places that had once known them never to know them again forever. He almost immediately organized a co-partnership with Mr. John B. Baskerville, one of the most learned and accomplished lawyers Southwest Virginia ever produced—who is still living in Newbern, nearly ninety years of age—and with that indomitable will and energy so characteristic of him, went to work. The firm soon sprang into great prominence in the section in which its members practiced. It was retained on one side or the other of all important cases in Pulaski and adjoining counties, a large measure of its success being due to General Walker's great power and ability as an advocate.

The Virginia Reports abound in cases in which he appeared as counsel in the Supreme Court. Many of them settled principles of the greatest importance to Bench and Bar, and no higher tribute can be paid the great advocate than to call the attention of my professional brethren to a few of them, and to the points and principles which they decide. These cases commence as far back as 21 Grattan.

In Mitchell v. Thornton, 21 Gratt., which was a road case, it was held that land, whether its value be great or small, could not be taken for public purposes without just compensation to the owner, and that certain motions were not made in the court of original jurisdiction, they were waived in the appellate court.

The case of Carroll County v. Collier, 22 Gratt., was a suit brought by a contractor to recover an alleged balance for building a jail, and the court decided that an order entered by the County Court, appointing commissioners to examine the jail, was not a judgment of that court, and, therefore, not an estoppel

In the case of Trout v. Virginia di Tennessee R. R. Co., 23 Gratt., the important principle was settled beyond all question

Like a

that a party has a right to demur to the evidence, and an action for negligence was no exception to the rule. It was also decided in this case that the railroad company, in the absence of any statutory rule on the subject, was liable for stock killed on its track, if on the track without the negligence or default of the owner, and the engineer failed to take proper care to avoid the injury.

In Ewart v. Saunders, 25 Gratt., the doctrine is laid down that the statute prescribes no particular mode by which it shall be made to appear that the rents and profits will not pay the judgments against a defendant in five

years. General Walker was one of the most powerful prosecutors that ever appeared before a jury in criminal cases. mighty tornado, he swept everything before him. In 1873 he was retained in the county of Carroll to prosecute Leftwich Stoneman for the murder of Annuel Edwards. Stoneman was defended by the late J. W. Shelton and the late Judge Tipton, two eminent lawyers. The jury found the accused guilty of murder in the second degree. The case went to the Supreme Court, and is reported in 25 Gratt. Judge Staples, in a most able opinion, laid down the doctrine of the right of self defense in Virginia. There is hardly a murder case in the courts of the Commonwealth in which this opinion is not used and referred to, and it is regarded as a leading case.

In Sayers v. Wall, 26 Gratt., the doctrine was laid down that a conveyance from husband to wife and children in 1857, though not founded on a valuable but only en a meritorious consideration, will be given effect in a court of equity as against the subsequent creditors of the husband.

The case of Kent's Admr. v. Kent's Admr., 28 Gratt., was an action on a bend for fifty-six hundred dollars, dated the 6th of June, 1845, payable on demand. The Circuit Court in rendering judgment, abated the interest from the 17th of April, 1861, to the 10th of April, 1865. The Supreme Court, in an opinien by Judge Moncure, held that the bond was payable presently; that it bore interest from date; that there was an


implied contract to pay interest; that the act allowing the abatement within the periods mentioned impaired the contract and was null and void.

In the case of Coltrane v. Worrell, 30 Gratt., the important doctrine was reaffirmed that a trustee cannot derive profit from the trust-fund without rendering an equivalent therefor. He is bound to execute the trust for the benefit of the cestui

que whether the latter live at home or abroad, or whether the trust is to be executed in peace or in war.

The case of Grubb v. Wysor, 32 Gratt., was a controversy between creditors over a certain fund claimed by each. Judge Burks laid down the doctrine that while a surety who pays a debt of his principal will, ordinarily, be subregated to all of the lien rights of the creditor, when the latter has no longer occasion to hold them for his own protection, equity will never displace the creditor to his prejudice merely to give the surety a better footing

On the 4th of April, 1877, the Legislature passed the first married woman's act for Virginia. This law made radical changes in the property rights of husband and wife. By a singular coincidence General Walker happened to be counsel in three of the first cases that settled principles of great importance under the act.

In the case of Breeding v. Davis, 77 Virginia, a creditor sought to subject the husband's interest in the wife's land as tenant by the curtesy initiate to the payment of his debt. The Supreme Court held that the act had abolished this common law interest of the husband in the wife's real estate, and that, therefore, the husband had no interest in the wife's land that could be sold until her death.

In the case of Alexander v. Alexander, 85 Virginia, it was held that the Married Woman's Act was an enabling act, and should not be construed strictly nor technically, but fairly, and that not only was tenancy by the curtesy initiate destroyed by the act, but the husband's common law right to reduce into his possession her choses in action, was likewise destroyed.

« PreviousContinue »