Grand Army of the Republic
Colonel Ivan N. Walker
Commander-in-Chief 1895 / 1896



Ivan N. Walker, son of James and Jane (McBride) Walker, was born February 3rd, 1839, at Arlington, Rush County, Indiana. His parents moved to Fort Wayne, Allen County, Indiana, where he attended school and grew to manhood.

His first official position was that of Deputy Warden of the Indiana State Prison at Michigan City, La Porte County, Indiana. He was serving in this capacity when the war began, and in 1862, at the age of 23, he entered the army as junior Captain in the Seventy-third Regiment Indiana Volunteer Infantry. For gallant services rendered at the Battle of Stone River he was made Major; was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in March 1863, and on the death of Colonel Hathaway, in May 1863, was made commander of the regiment.

For more than a year he endured all the rigors of Libby Prison, confidently expecting to be exchanged. At the time, however, Morgan and his raiders had been thrown into the prison at Columbus, Ohio, and Colonel Walker was among those held In Libby Prison as a leverage for Morgan and his men.

Finally on February 9, 1864, when hopes of being exchanged seemed slight the famous tunnel was conceived and with General A. D. Streight, Colonel Walker worked untiringly to its completion. Knives, pans, anything in fact, that could be used in making the tunnel were utilized and at last the prisoners crawled out of the tunnel one by one and succeeded in making their escape.

But with freedom almost in sight, Colonel Walker was not to realize his highest hope at that time. When within a short of the Union lines he was recaptured and was again thrown into the prison to face its hardships and privations. It was not until three months later, in May 1864, that he was exchanged and returned to his regiment.

He then rendered most important service in the army of the Cumberland. protecting the line of supplies between Decatur and Stevenson along the Tennessee River, during the advance on Atlanta. He resigned July 4, 1864, on account of disability resulting from long confinement in Libby Prison. On October 27, 1864, he was married to Miss Anna Layton at Michigan City, Indiana. Colonel Walker remained in Nashville after his retirement from the army and served as a Volunteer Aide on the Staff of General George H. Thomas during the siege and battle of Nashville, in December 1864.

After the war he resided for a time at Nashville. In 1870 he returned to his native state and made his home in Indianapolis, where he served as Deputy County Auditor and State Tax Commissioner for several years, and as Regent of the State Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument until his death. In 1892, Colonel Walker was candidate for State Auditor on the Republican ticket, but went down with the remainder of the ticket in defeat. Later, he became a State Tax Commissioner and at one time was tax commissioner for the Pennsylvania Railroad Company.

Colonel Walker's service in the Grand Army of the Republic GAR) was continuous from the date of its organization, and he filled every office, from Post Commander to Commander-in-Chief, with high fidelity and conspicuous ability. While serving as Commander of George H. Thomas Post No. 17, Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1887, he was appointed Assistant Adjutant General of the Department by Commander Chase, and was re-appointed by the three succeeding Department Commanders. While occupying the office of assistant adjutant general, through his tireless efforts, nearly 10,000 new members were added to the organization.

In 1891, he was elected Department Commander, in 1893 as Senior Vice-Commander-in-Chief, and two years later unanimously elected Commander-in-Chief by the National Encampment at Louisville, Kentucky. His last active service was as Assistant Adjutant General of the Department, to which office he had been appointed for the fifth time. Colonel Walker was held in high esteem by the National Encampment and always took a prominent part in its deliberations and in shaping its action on important questions.

It is said that Colonel Walker's last illness could be traced back to the hardships he experienced while in Libby Prison. At many times disease caused by his long confinement at that place strongly manifested itself, but Colonel Walker made a valiant fight against it. He was stricken with the fatal illness upon his return from the national encampment of the GAR held at Denver, Colorado in September of 1905. Death came on November 25, 1905 caused by uremic poisoning in Libby Prison.

In beautiful Crown Hill Cemetery, with the flag at half-mast, the impressive burial service of the Grand Army of the Republic, and the bugle sounding taps, the mortal remains of Colonel Ivan N. Walker were laid to rest. The family left to mourn his death consisted of his widow, Mrs. Anna (Layton) Walker, and his daughters, Mrs. William E. Sharpe and Mrs. Harry D. Hammond, all of whom resided at Indianapolis; and his daughter, Mrs. Charles Caheir, of Paris, France, who achieved a wide reputation as a vocalist, having appeared in the finest opera houses in Europe.

Colonel Ivan N. Walker is buried at Crown Hill Cemetery, Section 13, Lot 31, Indianapolis, Marion County Indiana. His grave is just behind Colonel Eli Lilly's monument and just west of President Ben Harrison's. Colonel Walker's grave is NOT marked in any way.

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Sources:

History of the Seventy-Third Indiana Volunteers in the War of 1861-65. 1909. Compiled and published by a committee of the Seventy-third Indiana Regimental Association. The Carnahan Press, Washington, D.C. pp 214-216.

Pictorial and Biographical Memoirs of Indianapolis and Marion County Indiana. 1895. Goodspeed Brothers Publishers, Chicago.

Indianapolis Star, September 22 1905, Page 1, Column 3

Submitted August 5, 2000 by:
Stephen Bruce Bauer, Signal Officer
Department of Indiana
Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War
2412 North Saturn Drive
Indianapolis, Indiana 46229-1152
suvcwsb2@worldnet.att.net


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