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.
Since writing his last letter, James was moved to a prison in Columbia, South Carolina. At the end of September 1864, due to the spread of yellow fever among prisoners at Charleston and the movements of Union general William T. Sherman’s Army, Confederate authorities decided to move prisoners to Columbia. Approximately 1,400 Union officer prisoners were moved from Charleston to Columbia, including James. He arrived at the new prison camp on October 6, 1864.Read more »
I asked Capt. Austin to send you a letter when he reached Atlanta which would give you the news more in detail than I can by the “Truce Boat.” I think I told you before of Capt. A. (of the 8th) being captured on the 4th of July last. Well he was one the fortunate ones under the arrangement made between Genls. Sherman & Hood at Atlanta. So also was Lt. Hale, who was wounded at Chicamauga about the same way and time as myself, and who has been my messmate and companion ever since. Read more »
For some reason, two lines were cut from the end of this letter. During the Civil War, mail to and from soldiers in prison camps was inspected. However, there is no evidence that any of James’s other letters from prison were censored. Since the lines were cut from the end, most likely they would have contained only his closing and signature.
In this letter, James mentions that he was paroled with 600 other officers a few days earlier. The exact reason and circumstances for his parole are not known. However, it may have related to the Union shelling of Charleston, which started in 1863, and the resulting movement of prisoners, by both sides, to the area under fire. In June 1864, Confederate major general Samuel Jones requested the transfer of 50 Union prisoners to Charleston, to be placed in the area of the city that was being shelled by the Union. He hoped this action would encourage the Union to stop bombing the city.Read more »
Since his last letter, James was one of many prisoners moved from Camp Oglethorpe in Macon, Georgia, to Charleston, South Carolina. The first group of 50 officers left Macon on June 10, 1864, and arrived in Charleston two days later. They were jailed near the wharf, under fire from Union guns on nearby Morris Island, in an attempt to stop the shelling of the city. As James mentions in this letter, the officers in this group were exchanged on August 3. James was part of a second group of 400 officers moved to Charleston. By this time, Union general William T.Read more »
At the end of this letter, there is a note from Molly’s brother William C. Wilson, dated June 22, 1864. William forwarded this letter and others to Molly, who was presumably visiting her family and friends in Illinois at the time. In 1864, William owned a steam bakery, Wilson & Atwell, in St. Louis.
Camp Oglethorpe Macon Ga. June 6th 1864
I understand a mail will leave to day so I hasten to improve the opportunity. We hope to hear from St. Louis soon. We get news from our armies every day, but none from home for over a month. Read more »
In this letter, James again mentions Molly’s “grand fair,” a reference to St. Louis’s Mississippi Valley Sanitary Fair, which raised money for the Western Sanitary Commission to buy hospital supplies for sick and wounded soldiers. The fair opened on May 17, 1864, closed a few weeks later, and raised over $550,000. Molly and her sister Sallie were in the Floral Department.
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