James writes to tell his father of the 1st Nebraska Infantry’s assignments in Missouri. The unit was assigned to guard military supplies in Warsaw until a wagon train could remove them to safer territory. They were successful in doing so before a Confederate sympathizer started a fire which did more damage to the town than to the supplies. They then moved on to Sedalia where he finally has an opportunity to write home.
He expresses his sympathy for his brother’s illness and says that he gets better medical care than the Army provides in Missouri. He then reports on the illnesses that have claimed several soldiers’ lives in the past month.
Cox thinks that the 1st Nebraska will shortly be moved elsewhere although they are waiting for General William T. Sherman to review the situation in Missouri to see if the Union must maintain soldiers stationed there.
James is disappointed to learn that his Uncle Ezra’s family supports the Confederates. This might indicate that James had moved to Nebraska earlier in response to the bitter disputes over slavery following the Kansas Nebraska Act and his support for the anti-slavery forces.
He indicates that the 1st Nebraska soldiers are very unhappy that President Lincoln removed General John C. Fremont from his command. Missouri was a slave state that remained in the Union although public opinion was bitterly divided. In August, 1861, Fremont declared martial law in the state and ordered the emancipation of the slaves owned by Missourians who took up arms against the Union.
Because of Missouri’s critical geographic location at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers as well as the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, Lincoln quickly revoked Fremont’s order. He feared it would lead the state to formally secede and deny the Union full access to those important waterways. The 1st Nebraska’s unhappiness suggests that they probably supported Fremont’s anti-slavery position.
Sedalia Pettis Co Mo Nov 27th/1861
You have doubtless thought it strange that you did not hear from me before this, but I have been so situated that I could not mail letters to you. We left Springfield on the 8th and got to Warsaw on the Osage, on the 14th & the company that I belong to was ordered to stop & guard some commisary store that were stored there while the rest of the troops come on to this place. The next morning after we stopped we were joined by a company of Cavalry. There was no mail communication from there with any point there was a Telegraph Line with Sedalia & that was all the way we had of communicating, we had a good time of while we were there, we were quartered in a good frame building, on the 21st a train of 80 Waggens came in after the Stores guarded by one Company of Infantry and one of Cavalry & we loaded all of them up & they drove out about ½ mile. About 7 oclock that evening the town was Set on fire by some Secessionist, They thinking probaly that they would destroy a large quantity of Government Stores but it happened we had the most of them saved & the loss will not exceed $2,000 of Government property while the loss of citizens will not fall much short of $150,000, We started that night and traveled about six miles expecting an attack every minuet, but we were not disturbed, & arrived here safely last Saturday. The above is the reason why I have not written before, a Soldier can never tell to day where he will be tomorrow, we are now having some pretty cold freezing weather the first that we have had this fall, There is a rumor that we are to go to St Louis in a few days but I don’t know how true it is.
I have never heard from Charles but once, that was shortly after he got to Washington. I wrote to him while I was at Springfield and shall write to him again soon, I am sorry to hear that he is sick, for there is nothing that discourages a soldier so much as to be sick, and unless he gets better attendance from the Medical Department than they do here he will fare pretty hard, There is great many sick in our Regiment mostly Fever & ague Bowell Complaint, and Measals, have buried four men out of our company within four weeks, I got a letter from Mary at the same time I did yours. She says that she is enjoying herself first rate but she says that Uncle Ezras folks are all Secessionist which supprised me very much, It is a shame. There is about Six thousand troops here now. General Sherman of Kentucky is here for the purpose of seeing whether it is necesary to keep a Body of men here this winter. We shall probaly be moved from here in the course of a few days. There is a great deal of dissatisfaction among all the troops in regard to Fremonts being superseded, but time will show whether he is right or wrong.
I have nothing more to write at this time.
P.S. I shall to mail this without paying postage for it is impossible to get postage stamps, our officers are out and cannot get them.