The Missouri History Museum Archives has many collections that provide first-hand accounts of the Civil War. One such collection is the James E. Love Papers. James enlisted with a Union regiment in St. Louis in May 1861. When his regiment left St. Louis in June 1861, James started writing letters home to his fiancée Eliza Mary “Molly” Wilson. James continued to write these letters throughout his entire Civil War service. We believe this collection is unique because it documents not only one man’s experiences during the war, but also the great love story of James and Molly.
We will publish the 100th Civil War Love Letter on May 20. The series follows the life of a Union soldier named James Love, who faithfully writes letters to his fiancee, Molly Wilson, in St. Louis. We have been publishing the contents of each letter, along with links to the original version, 150 years to the day that James wrote each one. If you haven't been following the series, here is a chance to get caught up. We've compiled the highlights of the first 100 letters into a handy recap below. Read more »
In this letter, James writes of copperheads, good news from Vicksburg and Fredericksburg, and a newspaper article about Charles Drake. The term "copperheads" referred to northerners who opposed the war and the abolition of slavery, and favored immediate peace. James clearly had no kind words for them. Regarding the good news, by early May 1863, Union general Ulysses S. Grant was several weeks into his campaign to take Vicksburg, Mississippi. When James wrote this letter, the campaign was by no means complete, but had so far succeeded better than previous attempts.Read more »
While James remained in Nashville, writing about a poem from a recent issue of Harper’s Monthly and his memories of evenings in Molly’s parlor with her sister Sallie and brother John, other forces under the command of Union generals Ulysses S. Grant and William S. Rosecrans focused on control of the southern part of the Mississippi River, especially around Vicksburg, Mississippi. Grant had already started his campaign to take Vicksburg, and Major General Grenville M. Dodge, who commanded part of Grant’s Army of the Tennessee, led his forces on an expedition into Alabama.Read more »
While James remained in Nashville, where Union officials continued to drive out any resident who would not sign an oath, other members of the Army of the Cumberland went on an expedition from Murfreesborough to McMinnville, Tennessee. Major General Joseph J. Reynolds commanded the force of 6,600 troops that, during the course of the expedition, destroyed railroads, burned bridges, and captured prisoners. On April 21, Colonel John T. Wilder and his brigade took possession of McMinnville.
Hd. Qts. 8th Ks. Vols. Nashville Tenn April 25th 1863
Hd. Qts. 8th Ks. Vol. Nashville Tenn April 16th 1863
My Dearest Molly
Since I wrote last all is quiet on the "Potomac"? We have had rain & spring has come in earnest. I wish I was in the woods to enjoy it or even in your 9th St. garden that "Alex" says is so much improved. By the bye I had that letter from him to day. Read more »
While James remained at Nashville, wondering if his secret engagement to Molly would cause awkwardness if he was able to visit St. Louis, he heard news of guerrilla raids and skirmishes in the area. From April 7–11, Confederate major general Joseph Wheeler raided Union trains on several railroads in the region between Nashville, Chattanooga, and Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and Louisville, Kentucky. In one attack, the Confederates hit 18 railroad cars loaded with horses and other stock.Read more »
James remained in camp at Nashville, where he worked up to 12 hours a day in various record-keeping tasks as adjutant. His work was increased by the arrival of the final company of his regiment, Company G, and the paymaster. At the same time, the Union officials in Nashville were working to drive all “secesh” from Nashville. Residents of the city who were over the age of 18 had to take an oath of allegiance and pay a bond to insure the oath. Any citizen who refused to take the oath had to leave the city.Read more »
In this letter, James writes of issues both military and personal. He mentions that there are still plenty of young men in St. Louis, but fewer young men in the South, which leads to a discussion of deserters and conscription. By early 1863, the United States government realized that, after almost two years of war, they needed more troops, and fewer men were volunteering for duty. To solve this problem, Congress passed the Enrollment Act, also known as the Conscription Act, on March 3, 1863.Read more »
At the end of February, James celebrated President George Washington’s Birthday and the arrival of four companies of his regiment, the 8th Kansas Infantry. In May 1862, five companies of the regiment, including James’s Company K, left Kansas and marched to Tennessee to join the fight, leaving five other companies from the regiment in Kansas. In February 1863, four of these companies were ordered to leave Kansas and join the rest of the regiment in Nashville. This order angered many of the men because they had enlisted as Home Guard for the state of Kansas.Read more »
In this letter, James addresses both war news and a death in his family. In late 1862 and early 1863, Union general Ulysses S. Grant made several attempts to move farther south down the Mississippi River and take control of Vicksburg, Mississippi. On a personal note, James responds to Molly’s sad news of the death of James’s cousin, Anne Jane Forsyth. She and her sisters Elizabeth and Mina were the daughters of John Forsyth and James’s aunt, Eliza Steel Forsyth.Read more »
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