This letter was written by a Union soldier from Centervillage, Delaware County, Ohio, who signed his name Jim but gave no regimental affiliation. In the letter, Jim states that they have made a hard march to Somerset, Kentucky, and now (8 February 1862) have to return to where they came from. He asks the recipient to address a return letter to Lebanon, Kentucky. The regimental history most closely matching these movements is that of the 65th Ohio Infantry that was organized at Camp Buckingham in Mansfield, Ohio, in October 1861:
On December 18, 1861, the 65th Ohio Infantry traveled to Louisville, Kentucky via Cincinnati, Ohio. After remaining in Louisville for approximately one week, the regiment marched to Camp Morton, four miles east of Bardstown, Kentucky, arriving on December 30. At Camp Morton, officials brigaded the 65th with the 64th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry, the 51st Regiment Indiana Infantry, and the 9th Regiment Kentucky Infantry. On January 13, 1862, the regiment departed Camp Morton for Hall’s Gap, Kentucky, passing through the Kentucky communities of Bardstown, Springfield, Lebanon, Haysville, Danville, and Stanford, reaching Hall’s Gap on January 24. [Hall’s Gap was near Somerset, Kentucky.] At Hall’s Gap, the 65th constructed new and repaired old roads. On February 7, the regiment returned to Lebanon, before traveling by train to Green River, Kentucky on February 12. The organization moved to Camp Wood, near Munfordsville, Kentucky, on February 13, remaining at this location until February 23. In late February, the 65th departed for Nashville, Tennessee, passing through the communities of Bowling Green, Franklin, Tyree Springs, and Goodlettsville. The regiment arrived at Nashville on March 13, 1862.
The content of the letter suggest the author was single and most likely raised in the vicinity of Center Village, Ohio. I searched the 1860 Census to identify all service-age young men named James but could not find a likely candidate whose service matched the profile.
James wrote the letter to his hometown friend, Silas J. Mann (1839-1900), the son of Abijah Mann (1813-1874) and a Betsy A. Adams (1816-1866). Silas later served as a private in Co. G, 45th Ohio Infantry which was organized at Camp Chase in Columbus on 19 August 1862. See: A Delaware Countian in the Union Army. Letters of Silas J. Mann 45th OVI. by Dennis Keesee. pgs 4 & 9. The Delaware Gazette. Delaware. Ohio. Monday September 19 1988.
Center Village (formerly Centerville) is in Harlem Township of Delaware County, Ohio. Only a tavern remains in the town today. It is some 20 miles from Columbus.
[Note: Suzanne Allen has compiled a list of soldiers from Eastern Delaware County that she has posted on-line and two of them served in the 65th Ohio so it is clear that there were some Delaware County residents who served in that organization. This is not be a comprehensive list, however.]
Addressed to Mr. S. J. Mann, Center Village, Delaware County, Ohio
February 8th 1862
I received your letter and was very glad to hear from you and Center. We have had a long and tedious march over the hilliest part of Kentucky and mud — oh golly. Your swamps ain’t a patching [?] to some of the roads we have come through. Several places we had to unhitch the mules and pull the wagon ourselves for the mules could not stand. And now we have to march right back again to where we came from and go from there to Bowling Green where there is a strong force of the rebels.
You spoke of the boys going for whatever they wanted — a fat goose for instance. Well, as for that I am in a company that can steal the strings out of your shoes without your knowing it. I went with the wagons one day and there was one fellow shot a hog and a goose and another one shot a chicken and a goose. This with what some others captured made a very fine supper.
They have got 4 of our men and one drummer boy under sentence of a court martial now for killing hogs. I have never been in any of their scrapes yet but came very near getting into one.
I should like to have you explain what you meant by saying that someone was putting Ellen up to blanny [blaming?] me for my presents and nothing more. You know that if I knew that such was the case that I would make short work of it. You need not be afraid of my betraying you in anything you might tell me. I thought you knew me better and if you have any proof for your suspicions, let me know it at once and I will exonerate you from all blame in the affair. But I think you must be mistaken. As soon as you find out, let me know for if there is any such game being played, I want a hand in. If I do get euchred, you may rest assured that anything you tell me will be kept sacred. I suppose you know me well enough for that.
I must close for this time as I am in a hurry to go out to a farm house close by where there is a couple of pretty girls. You think that you can beat me playing euchre when I come back, do you? Well I will give you a trial when I come bak unless I turn parson in the meantime. When you go down to Cramer’s, I want you to kiss Louise for me. Goodbye from your friend. Direct to Lebanon, Marion County, Kentucky. Forward if removed.