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 describes efforts to have a 4th of July celebration, which failed due to the continued heavy rains. He also speculates about the future movements of Rosecrans’s army, which depended on the results of actions by the Union army in other parts of the country. By this date, although James had not yet received the news, General Ulysses S. Grant’s siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi, ended with surrender by the Confederates, and the Army of the Potomac, commanded by General George G. Meade, was victorious at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.Read more »
By June 30, Confederate general Braxton Bragg and his men had retreated to Tullahoma, Tennessee. After a brief rest, Union general William S. Rosecrans’s Army of the Cumberland prepared to pursue Bragg and fight him at Tullahoma, only to discover, on July 1, that Bragg’s forces were already retreating once again to the southeast. James was part of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, 20th Army Corps, Army of the Cumberland, which left Manchester, Tennessee, at 2 P.M. on July 1 and marched 12 miles to Tullahoma, where they arrived at midnight. At 6 A.M.Read more »
After Union general William S. Rosecrans, and his Army of the Cumberland, gained control of Liberty, Hoover, and Guy’s gaps, he started to gather his forces at Manchester, Tennessee. The main column of his army, including James, marched along the muddy Manchester pike, where they camped near Beechgrove. Confederate general Braxton Bragg and his men retreated toward Tullahoma, Tennessee.
The day after writing his last letter, James left Murfreesboro on what became known as the Tullahoma, or Middle Tennessee, Campaign, General William S. Rosecrans’s long-awaited offensive against Confederate general Braxton Bragg. The campaign faced two primary challenges: the weather and the terrain. It rained heavily during the entire campaign, which turned the roads to mud, and the Union troops had to travel on difficult roads to reach the enemy. The troops in Bragg’s army were spread out over three Tennessee towns: Tullahoma, Shelbyville, and Wartrace.Read more »
Union general William S. Rosecrans camped at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the first half of 1863. During that time, several Union army commanders and government officials, including President Abraham Lincoln, strongly urged Rosecrans to begin a new campaign against Confederate general Braxton Bragg. They did not want Bragg to send his troops to Vicksburg, Mississippi, and affect the Union siege of that city. Rosecrans wanted to wait until he had adequate cavalry and supplies. Finally, on June 23, Rosecrans sent orders for a campaign, which James mentions in this letter.Read more »
In this letter, James writes of a visit from Alf Burnett, who served with an Ohio regiment, then, after he was mustered out, became a prominent writer for several Cincinnati newspapers. He was also known as a great storyteller. In 1863, Burnett published a book of his war experiences titled Incidents of War: Humorous, Pathetic and Descriptive.
Hd. Qts. 8th Ks. Vols. On Picket Shelbyville road Tenn. June 12th 1863
Based on the text of this letter, which focuses entirely on personal matters, it appears that Molly’s mother and brother, William, learned about James and Molly’s secret engagement. Since Molly’s letters did not survive, the exact circumstances are not known. The ramifications of their relationship coming to light will unfold throughout the upcoming letters that James wrote during the summer of 1863.
Hd. Qts. 8th Ks. Vols. On Picket near Murfreesboro June 10th 1863
Finally, after almost six months of provost duty in Nashville, James and the rest of the 8th Kansas Infantry regiment received orders from General William S. Rosecrans to rejoin their former division, now at Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Colonel John Martin stayed behind in Nashville long enough to instruct his replacement as Provost Marshal. The mayor, citizens, and new military commander of the city wanted the 8th Kansas to remain in Nashville, but, since the regiment was one of the largest in the area, numbering 700 men, it was needed at the front. Read more »
Hd. Qts. 8th Ks. Vols. Nashville Tenn May 29th 1863
It was only yesterday I wrote you and yet I commence my eternal palaver again. Well this is Friday & my usual epistle is due you on Sunday and I wont mail this before that time, so thats settled. Read more »