Civil War Love Letters: March 26–28, 1862
In this second letter of the day, James continues to describe the journey from Lawrence to Aubrey, Kansas, including a humorous account of a fire he accidentally started when he dropped a match. During their travels, the men heard news of the war from other parts of the border. On March 22, troops from the 2nd Kansas Cavalry regiment skirmished with William Quantrill and his men at Little (or New) Santa Fé, Missouri, near Kansas City. As adjutant and quartermaster, James now assisted with field and garrison duty and had charge of the wagons, horses, and other means of transport.
Aubrey Johnson Co. Kansas
March 26th 1862
My Dear Molly
I aint half satisfied writing yet, so although the mail closed just now I mean to keep on writing a little longer, & so take up the thread of my narrative at Lawrence the muddy - where our men got drunk again in order I suppose to forget their past hardships & prevent any ill effects from their late Exposure. We had thus the most miserable night of the trip - sober as we were of course. Next morning the 22d - got an extra wagon & some extra supplies & started at 10 oclock - but when 3 miles out in the "Wankerusha" bottom one of our wagons broke down & we had to camp until the teamster went back to town for another. A fine cold windy day - high grass on the prairie & on Fire in all directions. I accidentally raised a most extensive Fire from a match that I dropped after lighting a Cigar. It went off like a flash of powder and although I tried to put it out at once with some green bushes, & my big boots it defied my efforts - rather "skared" me & most burnt my whiskers off & proceeded roaring to Leeward of us at the rate of l5 or 20 mile an hour. We camped on the "Wankarusha" Creek 4 ½ miles from town all night & had a fine view of the Fires for 20 miles up & down it. Next morning fine cool day. We started early & pushed over high ranges or bluffs for 20 miles with level prairie between - all prairie now between us & the rocky mountains or Pikes Peak - beautiful well settled country roads pretty hard as we took the "range" road & passed through half a dozen towns with high sounding names - though houses barely enough for a small settlement anywhere else - none of them over a dozen. Camped at Black Jack after a pleasant Sabbath days journey all before 2 oclock in the afternoon
I intended writing all day but was too footsore & weary when the time came so I procrastinated until next day the 24th when we again made an early start & through a level rich prairie - on the old & hard "Santa Fe” road. Made 20 miles more to Spring Hill - pleasant day & pleasant marching but hard work. So after calling on the Union folks & sparking some pretty girls - besides going around at each village to see the Election - we slept sound & made an early start again under the inspiriting news of a fight just over & another impending - with seven miles to go - but we lost our road in the prairie & had to march 10 miles instead which we got through by ten oclock & camped at Aubrey under Command of Major Schnieder a good specimen of a Knickerbocker or Pennsylvania Dutch Man.
That was yesterday the 25th & now already we begin to get our comforts around & I have been appointed "Adjutant" & Quartermaster to the Battalion
The Posts are no sinecure but the work is easy as I have a clerk to write while I sign my name, & a Sergeant to scour the country for Beef &c while I do the Financial by signing my name. I’ve a horse at my service when I please to ride but my duties lay pretty much in camp and Capt. Herd has just bought a pony so I suppose I may probably do the same if time permits & I get a chance of a good trade. Capt. Herd expects his wife daily so he is preparing for her - hence the Pony.
I don’t expect now to see much service here, as Quantrell the Leader here, has been wounded & seven of his man taken prisoners besides 8 more burned to death in their store houses where they had taken refuge & were firing on our troops.
One of our men was shot in the foot - the rest unhurt
Quantrell has about 100 men & plenty of friends at his back in Missouri but is more of a jayhawker than a warrior & now that there is more troops here, he will give us a wide berth. But the Major calculates to go in search of him in a day or two & jayhawk the contents of his den or rendezvous if we can find it within 20 miles so there is fun ahead for somebody yet
I guess he will run at any rate we will take wagons to pack the plunder
He rides a fine horse & is another Dick Turpin in his way with his gallantry & chivalry - & love's & hair breadth scapes & sometimes bloody deeds & is in consequence the great Hero of this section
We shall see.
I have not heard from you later than the 12th Inst. But I suppose there is a couple on the way somewhere. So I hope you are in good health & spirits & expect a feast in good time on the papers & letters that Molly the Dear Dear Girl has sent me lang syne.
I am better & better daily & if I had ten miles a day to walk for a month to come would feel all the better for it. I think I am safe over any spring fevers or such – nothing better than this walk could have occurred for my health or spirits - as even you divined that I was fast getting the "blues" from inaction - & not I alone for it was epidemic in the camp and over 20 men deserted during February under the influence
The prairie wind & sun here is cold but I get brown & bronzed daily & I believe health goes with it.
Look out for an account of our trip in the Democrat, if they only think worthwhile to publish it
I see that at last troops must be sent to New Mexico. I wonder if "Halleck" will send us? If "Hunter" was here he would!
But I don’t believe our Colonel will ask to go now that he is Provost Marshall General of Kansas & that he & half his officers have arranged to make their wives comfortable & especially now that there is fighting to be done out there & hard times ahead for the ladies, at least if not for the soldiers - for according to the first ideas - both officers & men were to take their wives along - time will tell. I will take no step to urge Providence or the powers that be to send me there but I must say that in my heart I have still a sneaking wish to travel that way or perhaps it is only sorry that I am not there to help the Gallant Canby & the few white folks out there for the cowardly "Greasers" can not be depended upon. So mote it be! Amen!!
I am a week behind the times now as to news, for so long I’ve not seen a paper & in these days within that time there sometimes occur great events. As soon as I close I intend taking some steps to get the "Democrat" Meantime goodnight my love & I expect to put a P.S. ere the Express leaves tomorrow. Yours Love
28th Our men have just come back from that reconnaisance 7 miles into Missouri & across lots some 7 more making over 20 miles! & back by 2 oclock without seeing but one Irishmen, supposed to be a Union man. They found plenty of empty houses & deserted farms but could see nothing of "Quantrell" or his band. They rescued the stock of cattle hogs & chickens belonging to a Union man who went along as guide & picked up some nicknacks & packed home some eggs & chickens that were wild in hundreds on several farms. Thousands of bushels of corn, potatoes, turnips, cabbages & apples all rotting with no one to look after. Honey too & young colts & cattle - too poor to drive just now or they would have brought some too.
In short as there was no inhabitants & no guerillas they went a little on the jayhawk.
We may go back again next week! & if we are again unsuccessful in finding our opponent we will bring some wagon loads of Feed? I cannot leave camp until relieved unless as a spectator & on horseback
I am My Dear Eliza -
With much love & kind remembrance to all friends
Ever Yours Sincerely
address for the present!
Lieut. James E. Love
Co K. 8th Kansas Vol.
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