Civil War Love Letters: July 20, 1861
James remained in Lexington, Missouri, where he had to deal not only with men who supported secession, but also with ladies who taunted the federal troops. James refers to the women as being of the F.F.V.s, which stands for First Families of Virginia, descendants of the original English settlers of Virginia.
Lexington - "Camp Fremont"
Steamer A. McDowell
July 20th 1861
My Dear Molly
Since last writing there have been no events of any note transpiring, half our Battalion is in Camp at the Masonic College, where we have almost completed a fine fortification or breast works such as proved of so much service in the Crimea - Our companies alternate two hours each - each day - so that we have thus about 100 men employed 14 to 16 hours each day for over ten days - the balance of the time being actively employed foraging - standing guard - Picket duty - Patrol duty & in parading around under arms - overhauling steamboats & wagons - not to speak of Farm houses - private houses, stores & Foundries - so we are constantly employed, with but short sleep - The health of the company & Regiment has however been improving since we went actively to work - as I do believe if we had loafed on this hot steamboat another fortnight we would have been all sick – I’ve never had better health & never had half as good an appetite in my life - I'm only in fear that I'll overeat Pork one of these days & turn Hog for life - All this hard work is necessary because we are in the heart of the enemies country, and as eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, so Col White thinks that eternal vigilance is the best means of striking terror & preventing our craven foes around from attacking - Three men out of four in this City & county, pray night & day I do believe for a good chance to assassinate even one of us & plan daily to murder us all! This we know!!
But they dare not! They fancy our numbers two or three times what they are & we have established such a good name, & try to do so daily - that they can not trump up an excuse! - Save that of searching houses without Warrant! And the amount of Powder &c that find Justifies us a thousand fold - Discipline with us is now very strict, but not more so than necessary - Soldiers are not all Gentlemen even when well raised - there are many many thieves & hogs
The men here - those whom we know well to be secesh - pretend the Strongest Union Sentiments (on the lips) but 5 minutes conversation, not to say argument proves their falsity - Jeff Davis, Jackson & Co are all Saints & Heros, while Lyon, Scott & Lincoln are Simply Constitution breakers &c &c &c &c
Many regard us with black looks & stand aloof - I might say most - For of the Union Men - one half of them with an eye to future consequences if we should be called away are even yet afraid to recognise us in public - but their hopes rise as their numbers increase daily - & when we have armed & drilled them a little more - They will be able to stand alone - as by that time their enemies will be all disarmed & without powder - We enrolled 180 in the city first day All Germans - Of the Americans we may enroll 100 & of the Irish an equal number. We enrolled 200 in the County since that. This is Lafayette County - contains splendid farms & rich land - plenty of niggers - who would all stampede if we say "go". It has a large & rich population - enterprising - & raises large quantities of Hemp & Tobacco - The City is built on & over very good coal mines which crop out of a High Bluff all along the river side & is thus easy loading on Steamboats or flats. So much for the City where "only Man is Vile". In the adjoining county of Johnson, we have organized over 1000 men & secesh is virtually dead so in two or three adjoining counties - while across the River in Ray & Carroll counties it is just the same - though supposed to be all secesh. While the Rich Men of Lexington & Lafayette with Jackson's Army ruled they day - they now all come in daily to drill as Home Guard & arm & fight to save the Union & if we had arms enough so would it be with thousands - could we only say come one come all
The "January" is now in Herman or St. Louis & we expect her to bring us a load of Stores & Guns
We have just detained the "Emma" bound down stream on which we intend to send some Sick & some mutinous men & prisoners
The Secessionists here have hit on the most ingenious plan of aggravation I’ve heard of yet, not being brave enough to fight their own battles or wishing to profess Union Sentiments to us. They have set nearly all the Ladies to insulting & annoying us - Our good Character galls them. They had painted us in such black colors that even moderate good behavior, shines by contrast & the fears of the ignorant fast wear off - this will never do say they - & so if they could only get us to insult or shoot a few ladies or children in a crowd, they think they could thus manufacture plenty of fresh Sympathy for the poor persecuted &c &c
This is why our discipline is so rigorous. Some men cant stand insult even from a Lady - & our German Boors - would wish nothing better than to war with Women & Children, & babes in the Cradle "So the Say" - & its so, for we can scarce restrain them as it is - & when Ladies, Young Ladies, Well Dressed & of the F.F.Vs – step so far from their place as to speak to us, taunt us, Sing Dixie at us, in the Street in open daylight & after night, as they prom¬enade in Sixes & Seven's along the streets, it is too bad - it is such a desecration of the womanly delicacy of the sex - & it is hard for some men to bear too - I don't say they aint boors - because I think they are - & the Ladies think so too, or I'm much mistaken if they would be prompted by their male friends to treat them so. You see I make a distinction. Well the Irish & Americans simply regard it as a good joke or rather treat it as such, & sometimes speak back - Sing Dixie too, & so we've got acquainted with some nice Young Ladies - without introduction - This is not what the Ladies expected though some of them seem quite pleased - but it is a natural consequence of their indiscretions & intended insults - Why if women of no character conducted themselves so for one hour, they would have a safe berth in the Calaboose & serve them right too
I have made some friends & some of them think I could & wish me too get up an Irish American Company for the War - There are many good men both from North & South & at present thrown out of business, who would go in - but I guess I wont commit myself in any way until I’ve seen you & old St. Louis again - There I wish to get a Washington Commission - I can get it - but I wont until I see you - I happened to find Mr. McPheeters was on board the "Emilie", & I sent a note by him though I was called away before I could deliver it. Mails are among the things that were & writing is a sorry task
I expect to hear from you by the January - When did you hear from "Sally" Give my Love to her & all. I hope to hear that you are all well - I saw a late paper for a few minutes & I can do without for another Week now -
This by the Emma - Paper is so scant so I cross it - & now with all the best wishes of my heart for my Dear Dear Girl - I am counting the days to see her - there is only about three weeks now - but it seems an age to look forward -
I am - with only one sweet kiss & Good night Sincerely Yours
James E. Love
Read the original letter by James E. Love.
Read more letters.
Read more about the project.