Athens Attorney And Historian Relished Civil War Anniversary

By
Fred Kight

Dateline
Updated Sun, Aug 5, 2012 10:13 pm

Bill Walker enjoys studying the American Civil War.

He's constantly reading, researching and talking about the war.
 
Walker - who is an Athens attorney - is not alone with his special interest in history, especially right now.
 
That's because we're in the midst of a 150 year anniversary commemoration of the Civil War, which started in 1861 and ended in 1865.
 
"Last year, I told my wife I was going to take a little bit more time off from my work to attend a number of areas of the Civil War and one of them is to attend some conferences and so forth. I've been attending a few more conferences than I normally do, started last year with 1861 and have done so with this year, for 1862. It's a multi-year, you know, so it started last year and it's just going progressively for the next four years," says Walker.
 
Waler says hedoesn't think the anniverary is being recognized as it should be and that the states are not involved and are not offering funding support.
 
Earlier this summer, Walker traveled to Gettysburg, where his immersion was complete.
 
"It's the Gettysburg Civil War Institute, held annually for four to five days and we just had it in June. It's just a great time to meet there with other enthusiasts of the Civil War, historians of the Civil War. It tends to be around 350 or 400 people and we meet on the college itself and we have a number of prominent historians come and speak about a particular topic," says Walker.
 
The topics can span from Lincoln and Lee's generals to African-American involvement in the Civil War.
 
Walker calls the Gettysburg conference "a great opportunity."
 
"Not only is it classroom lectures, but it's the opportunity to get out on to the field with a lot of the historians and it's great to go out and actually hear them analyze and describe the battles and the engagements and so forth, because you're hearing it from those who are studying it full time," says Walker.
 
He likens the conference to a return to the scene of the crime.
 
It was at Gettysburg, many years ago, that Walker got a little nip from the Civil War bug.
 
"My parents took me there, back when I was probably 13 or 14, to Gettysburg, and then, I'd enjoyed the trip, it kind of fascinated me, but I didn't think much about it.  It wasn't until I was in law school, between my second and third year, the third year being your final year of law school and we lived in Toledo and I said to my wife, I said, 'Debbie, why don't we go somewhere? I remember going to Gettysberg when I was 13 or 14, why don't we go back there? Just spend a couple days there'," said Walker.
 
That was late 1960s.  Walker says he fell in love with the history and the trip led to a long study of the Battle of Gettysburg.
 
As time passed, Walker's Civil War appetite grew larger.
 
After he obtained his law license, he re-located back to Athens. 
 
"I was walking through the courthouse, the Athens County Courthouse, and there was a picture hanging down there of prominent Athenians and one of them was a general by the name of Milton Holland.  Milton Holland was a black Civil War soldier in the United States Colored Troops. He earned the medal of honor in an engagement at Chaffin's Farm that was a part of the Petersburg, the Richmond campaign in 1864-65. And that captivated my interest, because as much as I had really studied the civil war, I was not aware at all of the African-Americans involvement in the Civil War," said Walker.  
 
Ohio was a Union state but West Virginia, being a part of Virginia at the time, was in the Confederacy, and the proximity made for divided loyalties.
 
Walker says Ohio provided the third most Union soldiers, but along the river, there were a number of what were called Copperheads, people who were sympathetic to the Southern cause and wanted peaceful resolution to the war without the blood shed.
 
Similarly, he explains, there were Union sympathizers in the western portion of Virginia.
 
It is a dynamic he's sure to learn more about over the next several years of study during the Civil War's 150th anniversary. 
 
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