Timeline - William Stoker (1837 - 1864)

Private William Stoker spent 24 months between his enlistment in May 1862 and his death in May 1864 in Walker's Texas Division. He left behind 30 letters, which are now in the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Credit: House Divided Project

War Begins- April 1861

Private William Stoker was a member of General John Walker’s Texas Division, which historian Richard Lowe considers “the single most formidable Confederate fighting unit” in the trans-Mississippi theatre. Yet it appears that William Elisha Stoker was not among the 25,000 Texans who volunteered for service as the war started. Credit: Library of Congress

Conscription - May 1862

After the Confederate government authorized a draft in February 1862, Stoker entered Company H of the 18th Texas Infantry in May. His letters suggest that he was conscripted into service. Credit: Footnote.com

Medical Care - November 1862

In addition, Stoker’s assessment of the medical care that he and his colleagues received was harshly critical. "They just dye all the time," as Stoker explained while at a camp near Austin, Arkansas.Credit: Library of Congress

Confederate Doctors - November 1862

Stoker explained that even if “the Doctors...had a waggon load [of medicine it] wouldent do any good for they are so lazy they want get up when they are setting down to give a sick man a dose of medisen.” Credit: Library of Congress

In Louisiana - May 22, 1863

Both the grueling army life and his loneliness contributed to Stoker’s belief that the war simply had to end. One year into his military service, the Texas farmer concluded: “Times gets harder with the soldiers Ive got so I just wish this confederacy was toar all to smash and turned bottom [up?].” Credit: National Civil War Museum

Vicksburg Campaign, December 1862 - July 1863

Confederate generals decided to employ Walker’s Texas Division as part of a desperate effort to stop the Union campaign to seize Vicksburg, the last remaining Rebel stronghold on the Mississippi. Yet the result was a major engagement at Milliken’s Bend and then a series of smaller skirmishes across northern Louisiana –none of which succeeded in preventing the Union takeover of the Mississippi. Credit: Library of Congress

Stoker's Perspective - June 1863

As the end of the Vicksburg Campaign grew near, Private Stoker knew that the situation was bad for his side. He told his wife Elizabeth after a skirmish at Richmond, Louisiana that even General John Walker had admitted they had “done well to come out with any men at all.” Credit: Library of Congress; National Civil War Museum

Battle of Bayou Bourbeau - November 3, 1863

Private Stoker’s company participated in the Battle of Bayou Bourbeau (also known as the Battle of Grand Coteau), which took place near Opelousas, Louisiana. Credit: Florida Center for Instructional Technology ; House Divided Project

Coffeeville, Texas - January/February 1864

William Stoker returned home to his wife and daughter on their farm in Coffeeville, Texas on furlough. Credit: House Divided Project

Red River campaign - Spring 1864

Stoker was also involved in the Red River campaign, a failed effort by the Union military to end Confederate resistance west of the Mississippi. Stoker participated in several engagements during the Red River campaign, including the Battle of Mansfield, Battle of Pleasant Hill, and the Battle of Jenkins Ferry . Credit: Library of Congress

Battle of Mansfield - April 8, 1864

Confederate General Richard Taylor later described the outcome of the Battle of Mansfield: "Twenty-five hundred prisoners, twenty pieces of artillery, several stands of colors, many thousands of small arms, and two hundred and fifty wagons were the fruits of victory in the battle of Mansfield. Eight thousand of the enemy, his horse and two divisions of infantry, had been utterly routed, and over five thousand of the 19th corps driven back at sunset." Credit: Library of Congress

Battle of Pleasant Hill - April 9, 1864

After the Battle of Mansfield, Confederate forces pursued the retreating Union forces. Yet the resulting battle at Pleasant Hill – only a few miles away from Mansfield – was a defeat for the Confederates. “Instead of intrusting the important attack by my right to a subordinate, I should have conducted it myself,” as Confederate General Richard Taylor later admitted. Credit: Library of Congress

End - April 30 - May 1864

William Stoker, however, never returned home to his wife and daughter. Stoker’s half brother Thomas McKissack informed Elizabeth Stoker in a short letter dated May 7, 1864 that her husband had been shot in the chest during the Battle of Jenkins Ferry on April 30, 1864. Credit: Library of Congress