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This biography is from HEROES OF ALBANY, by Rufus W. Clark, D. D.

Sergt. Walter Henry Angus

Walter Henry Angus, son of Egbert and Bridget Angus, was born on the 10th of Jnne, 1845. From his earliest childhood he was distinguished for his amiable qualities, his prompt obedience to his parents, and his conscientious desire to do what he thought to be right. At school he made such rapid progress in his studies, and won so many testimonials from his teachers, for good conduct and accurate scholarship, that his parents thought of conscrating him to the work of the gospel ministry. But these plans were thwarted hy the sickness and death of his father.

At the commencement of the war, the spirit of patriotism was stirred in his young heart, and he often expressed to his mother his earnest wish to serve his country as a soldier. But, as he was an only son, and so young, she could not entertain the thought of parting with one so dear to her. At length, however, his appeals were so earnest that she reluctantly consented to yield to his desire, and committed her boy to the care of a covenant-keeping God.

Walter enlisted, on the 21st of October, 1861, as a private, in the Forty-fourth New York Regiment, when but little over sixteen years of age. A taste of the hardships of the camp and the battle field did not, in the least degree, cool his ardor or lessen his courage. His letters, written to his mother, through the whole period of his connection with the army, reveal a degree of patience under suffering, a persistence in laboring to accomplish his purposes, and a heroic daring in the hour of battle, that would have reflected honor upon many of maturer years The first experience that our youthful hero had of the fearful realities of war was in the battle near Hanover Court House, in May 1862. In writing to his mother, after the battle, under date of May 28th, he says: ''By the time this letter reaches you, you will, doubtless, have heard of our fight. I have time to give you only a few particulars. Yesterday, the 27th inst., it rained all day, as it had the night before, and in the afternoon we received orders to leave our camps with one day's rations, and without our knapsacks. We started in the pouring rain, with the mud nearly up to our knees. We marched about twelve miles, when our regiment was ordered to support Allen's Battery. We halted in the woods and had been there about fifteen minutes when the order came to Colonel Stryker, to advance with those under his command. At the same time, we started the battery and went about two miles, where we halted and took our position.

We engaged with the enemy, and soon we saw a regiment of them retreating as fast as they could. For the first time in my life, I then saw the boasted stars and bars in their hands. Seeing us, they turned and fired, and two boys in our company dropped at the first fire. We retreated to the road, taking the whole of the enemy's fire for one hour. The fire was so heavy that the battery and the Twenty-fifth New York Regiment had to retreat. Our Colonel was cool and brave, and, at one time, saved the lives of the whole regiment. Our Lieutenant Colonel was the bravest man I ever saw. He had his horse shot from untler him and his sword shot from his side, and still he had two men loading guns for him, which he fired. One gun was fired so often that the powder exploded from the heat, and scorched his eye badly.

Company F, from old Albany, was cut to pieces; out of the sixty-seven men that came upon the field, only thirty-one escaped without injury. All my best friends are either killed or wounded; my old friend James Young is dead. He was wounded twice, once in the neck and again in his leg. He died clasping our flag staff in his arms. All our boys acted bravely. After the first I was all right, and I trust that some of my bullets did some good. Our Major and our Adjutant were both wounded. Had not reinforcements come up just when they did, we should have been terribly cut up. But suffice it to say, we whipped them, and have taken a great many prisoners. Our cavalry are bringing them in every minute. I have passed through my first fight, thank the Lord, and I hope that I shall pass safely through many more. Good bye my dear, dear mother.

From your aftectionate son,


The wish expressed in this letter that he might pass safely through many more battles, was most remarkably realized. For at Gettysburg, in the attacks upon Fredericksburg, at Cold Spring, and in many other battles, he was always in the thickest of the fiht. Men fell at his side, on the right hand, and on the left; shells exploded above and around him; balls flew near him repeatedly, and still in his letters, he constantly thanks the Lord for having so wonderfully preserved him. He never was wounded, nor received any personal injury; nor had he been sick a day, up to the moment, when a single fatal shot hurried him into eternity.

In giving an account of his first engagement before Fredericksburg, he speaks of the fearful havoc among our men as a wholesale butchery. He says, "the rebels were on a large hill with batteries so placed, as to have an enfilade fire upon our men across a level plain, just outside of the city. For our brigade to get into position, we had to cross this plain, and it is a miracle to me how so many of us escaped alive. One regiment lost between forty and fifty, killed or wounded. I thought I had been in hot places before, but that was the hottest one of all. Through the Lord's mercy, however, I came out safe and sound."

The uniform bravery and unexceptional deportment of young Angus, won for him the respect of his officers and the warm affection of his comrades in arms. His friends too, at home, took a deep interest in his welfare; and through their influence, and especially through the kind eftorts of Erastus Corning, Esq., and his lady, he was appointed Corporal and Sergeant at the same time.

On the 9th of October, 1863, he was appointed, by Governor Horatio Seymour, Second Lieutenant in the Forty-fourth Regiment of Infantry, New York State Volunteers. The regiment, however, was so reduced by the war that Walter was not called to discharge the duties of this office, but continued to act as Sergeant. In May, 1864, he was sent out on a skirmish, and .was taken a prisoner with twenty others. As they were approaching a railroad, they met General Sherman's forces, who were on a raid, and were released by them. As they could not return to their camp, they were obliged, in order to keep out of the hands of the enemy, to follow General Sherman on foot. They walked, in a week, one hundred and fifty miles; but, amid all their hardships and sufferings, no complaints escaped their lips. On the morning of the 21st of June, 1864, he led his men out in front of Petersburg, on picket duty. As they were starting, he said to them: "Come, boys, let's go on to Richmond." After a very fatiguing day, late in the afternoon, he laid down on the ground to rest. In a moment a ball struck him in the head, and he died instantly.

Thus passed away the dutiful son, the pure patriot, the brave soldier, and the kind friend. His companions, in their letters to his bereaved mother, speak of him in terms of the highest admiration and warmest affection. The following letter shows us in what estimation he was held by one of his superior officers:

Quartermaster's Dept., 44th Regt. N. Y. S. V.
Near Petersburg, Va., June 25, 1864.

My dear Madam—Although a stranger to you, permit me to communicate these few lines in expressions of sympathy for you, upon the great affiiction which has befallen you, in the untimely death of your son, who was killed on the skirmish line, on the afternoon of the 21st inst.

Being one of the original officers of the regiment, the opportunity has been afforded me to notice and mark the progress of your son, together with others of its members, from the very commencement of its career. Among the first to attract my attention, and for me more particularly and carefully to observe since our regiment left Albany, was your son Walter.

Uniformly straightforward and upright in his demeanor, invariably prompt and efficient in the discharge of every duty, he fully merited, what he always received, the respect and confidence of his officers; while his intelligence and social qualities made him the agreeable and popular companion of all his associates.

I shall long remember the conversation I had with him in December last, when the subject of reenlistment was being agitated in our regiment; nor will I soon forget, when speaking of what he felt to be his duty at the time, the feeling and touching manner in which he alluded to his obligations to his mother.

He has gone—but how nobly he has fallen! In the front line, the foremost position, he was bravely skirmishing with the enemy; had ceased firing, thrust his musket into the ground, and laid down to rest, supporting his head upon his hand, when the fatal bullet struck him in the head. He died almost instantly.

He was carefully interred by his comrades, and his grave plainly marked. He now sleeps beneath an evergreen tree, near the spot where he fell.

On behalf of the officers and soldiers of his regiment, let me assure you of our deepest feelings of sorrow and condolence. We all mourn his loss as one whom we admired while he lived, and whom we honored when he died, fearlessly, faithfully, nobly discharging his duty—a true soldier.

With extreme sympathy, I am, my dear madam,
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Quartermaster 44th Regt. N. Y. S. V.

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