James Cox next writes to his father when the 1st Nebraska has moved to Georgetown, Missouri where he is recovering from an attack of jaundice. For that reason, possibly, he does not describe any action he has been involved in. Rather, he offers a fairly descriptive account of the guerilla war in Missouri.
Because Missouri, a slave state, was so bitterly divided between pro- and anti-slavery factions, historians have often said that there was a civil war within the state in the overall context of the American Civil War. In this letter, James writes to his father about the Union’s efforts to defeat a large force of pro-slavery irregulars under the command of Gen. Sterling Price.
Price, a wealthy plantation and slave owner, has served as Governor of Missouri in the mid-1850s. The Governor in 1861 was Claiborne Fox Jackson, a Confederate sympathizer, who commissioned Price to command the Missouri State Guard. At the Battle of Lexington in northwest Missouri on the Missouri River, Price defeated a Union force. Cox says that the Union Army is now concerned that Price is now reorganizing for further action.
Cox’s description of how the Missouri pro-slavery sympathizers operate is typical of guerilla warfare throughout much of history. Armed men in civilian clothes attack a weaker, exposed military unit. They take control of the unit, the supplies, and equipment. By the time the regular army can react, the irregular forces have slipped away, blending into the population.
He closes once again by reporting he has heard nothing further from his brother, Charles.
Georgetown Pettis County M
Dec 19th 1861
I seat myself to write you a few lines although I am quite unwell and have been for more than three weeks. I have had an attack of the Joundice and I am just getting a little better. Last Sunday the Regiment was ordered out with five days rations to cut off a Provision that has been fitting out at Lexington for price and is on their way south to join him. But I think they went out for a nother purpose & that is to try & surrond Price. There were some 8000 troops went out. and there is 10,000 more here. We heard last night that our men had captured a party of Rebels at Warrensburgh 1,300 strong but I cant say how true it is. The Rebels are getting to be very troublesome The country is full of small bands of from fifty to a hundred and they go through the country robbing the Union men of everything they have in the shape of money, clotheing and eatables and take them to the main body of their army It is generally thought that Price will disband all his forces in this state until spring, if he does we are going to be bothered with them all winter There is men in here every day with complaints of the Secesh, yesterday three men came in and said that a party of Rebels had stolen their teams and wagons, besides taking all of their Provision from them. One day last week the Quarter Master sent out 12 teams of our Regiment about eight miles after Forage and while our men were in a cornfield loading their wagons they were surrounded by about fifty men on horseback armed to the teeth and ordered our men to unload what they had loaded and follow them. They took our men about ten miles and took all the overcoats, they had, their boots & shoes & most of the teamster had Colt Revolvers with them they took them and then made our boys take the Oath never to take up arms against the Southern Confedracy and then let them go the boys said that taking the oath was the hardest part but it was their only chance. one of the boys happened to be in an adjoining field & saw the fix our boys were in & came into camp and our Col started immediately, with about one hundred men and pursued them some twenty miles, and then lost all track of them, it was a band that was made up by men living in the neighborhood and this is the way the thing works a squad of them get together commit some depredations and then disperse and it is impossible to catch them, you go and talk with these same men and they are the best Union men that there is in Missouri they are all willing to take the Oath and many of them do take it, and violate it the same day, we can do nothing with such men unless we catch them in the act of doing some misdemeanor I have not heard a word from Charles for the past two months and I do not know his Post office address I received a letter from Mary last week, she wrote that she was well and enjoying herself
I have nothing more to write this time.