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.
After a couple days in camp at Alpine, Georgia, James moved again, as General William S. Rosecrans concentrated his army after receiving reports of failed attacks by Confederate general Bragg against Rosecrans’s isolated corps. Major General Alexander McD. McCook, commander of the corps to which James belonged, received orders to move north to support the corps of Major General George H. Thomas as quickly as possible. On September 13, McCook’s corps started to move.Read more »
Since James wrote his last letter on September 6, he continued to move as part of General William S. Rosecrans’s Army of the Cumberland. On September 8, Rosecrans ordered his cavalry corps, commanded by Major General David S. Stanley, to make a reconnaissance toward Summerville and Alpine, Georgia, to determine the location of the enemy. Two brigades, including James’s, moved with the cavalry to provide support. On September 9, James marched from Valley Head, Alabama, across Lookout Mountain, to Neal’s Gap.Read more »
James dated this letter August 6 but, based on the content, he actually wrote it on September 6. By that time Union general William S. Rosecrans’s movement toward Chattanooga, now known as the Chickamauga Campaign, was well under way. The forces of Confederate general Braxton Bragg were concentrated around Chattanooga. Rosecrans wanted to force Bragg out of the city, and decided to surround the city rather than attack it directly.Read more »
In this letter, which James wrote from Trenton, Georgia, not Alabama, he explains that he left Louisville on Sunday, August 23 and rejoined his regiment the following day. By that time, the men in Union general William S. Rosecrans’s Army of the Cumberland were on the move again, headed toward their next encounter with Confederate general Braxton Bragg’s forces. Bragg and his army, after being forced out of middle Tennessee, had gathered at Chattanooga.Read more »
Based on the text of this letter, it appears that James traveled to Washington, Illinois, to see Molly, and that he convinced her to resume their engagement. He mentions his friends William and Jane, most likely a reference to Molly’s brother and sister. By the time he wrote this letter, he had returned to St. Louis, and was ready to leave again to return to his regiment.
After writing his last letter on July 25, when he received the news that Molly was ending their engagement, James requested a leave of absence so he could return to St. Louis and change her mind. His letter of request, which he wrote to Brigadier General James A. Garfield, General William S. Rosecrans’s chief of staff and future president of the United States, on July 27, 1863, is in James’s Compiled Service Record at the National Archives. In his request, James states that he received two letters that required his immediate return to St. Louis.Read more »
This letter focuses entirely on James and Molly’s relationship. At the beginning of the letter, James wonders why he has not heard from Molly. Was it because she was traveling with her brother, R.B.M. Wilson, some other mishap, or was it because Molly’s family and friends had learned about James and Molly’s secret engagement? Halfway through writing the letter, James received sad news from Molly.
Hd. Qts. 8th Ks. Vols. Camp at Winchester Tenn July 25th 1863
In this letter to Molly, who was visiting her oldest brother, Robert Wilson, in Washington, Illinois, James celebrates several recent Union victories. On July 3, after a skirmish at Winchester, Tennessee, Confederate general Braxton Bragg retreated from middle Tennessee toward Chattanooga, ending Union general William S. Rosecrans’s successful Tullahoma Campaign. The following day, July 4, the Confederates surrendered at Vicksburg, Mississippi, and Confederate general Robert E. Lee retreated after losing at Gettysburg.Read more »