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.
In this letter, James continues to write about the “deadly policy” of the United States government, most likely a reference to either the policy of stopping packages from home, or the persistent refusal to exchange prisoners. In early 1865, Confederate officials asked for a prisoner exchange because they needed the manpower, but Union officials refused, leaving Union prisoners to languish in prisons throughout the South.Read more »
After not writing a letter since December 5, 1864, James finally let Molly know that he was doing well. In mid-December, after dealing with almost nightly escapes from Camp Sorghum, the Confederates moved James and the other prisoners to Camp Asylum, a walled enclosure located on the grounds of the State Lunatic Asylum in Columbia, South Carolina. The prison camp became home to approximately 1,200 Union officer prisoners. In this letter, James briefly refers to his previous escape from Camp Sorghum in November 1864.Read more »
Conditions at Camp Sorghum were so bad that prisoners escaped nightly. James escaped shortly after writing his last letter on November 19, and spent the next two weeks walking through swamps and living with slaves on plantations. He reached the Savannah River, at which point he was not far from the army of Union general William T. Sherman. Sherman was in the midst of his March to the Sea, or Savannah Campaign, marching from Atlanta to Savannah, Georgia. On December 3, 1864, Sherman, with part of his army, was at Millen, Georgia, just south of the Savannah River.Read more »
By the time James wrote this letter, he had lost all hope of Molly’s brother William obtaining a special exchange for him, but he was pleased with the re-election of President Abraham Lincoln. The war and related issues caused the formation of factions within the primary political parties ahead of the presidential election on November 8, 1864. A group of radical Republicans, who did not like Lincoln, formed the Radical Democracy Party.Read more »
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 »
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