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James Maxwell
Company D, 127th Illinois Infantry

"I expect when the next fight that comes here, it will be the hardest Battle ever fought in the world. General Grant says he will take Vicksburg if he has to take it by the spoonful. ..." James Maxwell, February 15, 1863


February 15, 1863

I received your kind letters and was very glad to hear from you. It has been so long since I received a letter that I began to think that you had concluded not to write any more. I am about well and feel somewhat old fashioned once more and think I shall be able to stand the storm if it don’t last too long. There is not much new to write at present. There is to be no movement in our part of the Army at present.

We are camped just opposite Vicksburg where we see right in the City and see the Rebel’s large guns. Once in a while they fire a shell at our pickets but never have done any harm to anyone yet. The last time our Company was on picket, the enemy threw several shells at them, but all you have to do is to lay flat down where you see them a coming and they will not be apt to hit a fellow. You better believe they make a noise that is not very agreeable to hear, but I had rather hear them than the bullets of the Rebels. If you want to know how they sound, imagine a lot of bees a humming past your head and you have it exactly.

When we were at Vicksburg, our company was sent out as skirmishers and when we was taken our place, the man close by me was shot and wounded just below the ribs on the left side. The ball just burying itself and coming out lodged in his watch—tore it all to pieces—a narrow escape for him. He is all well now. He said he did not care a darn for the wound if it had not broke his watch. We were ordered to lay down behind a small log and the bullets came so close that I could feel them blow my hair—they came so close, I hugged the ground about as close as I could. I thought the rebels were very careless with them bullets, but when a six-pounder struck a tree and came rolling close to where I lay, I thought it was the most careless thing they could do, but such is war.

Tell Benjamin that he, poor devil, may be thankful that he is not in the war under Uncle Samuel. Tell him that I am very much obliged to him for the offer of his chamber for me to live in, but tell him I would prefer to live in his toter [sic] end, if he has no objections. Tell Veny I would like to be where I could kiss her. I will give you five dollars when I get my pay for yours and Veny’s—so you had better take up with my offer for I want to see you as bad as all that. I expect to see Liny coming along every day. As for Alice, I think she is a little to blame for some things, although I don’t blame her any.

About Ed Wait—he was shot in the inside of his leg, just below the knee--the ball passing down through the leg between the bones and lodging, wounding him severely. He was wounded at the Battle of Arkansas Post. I will not write anything about that as probably you have heard all about it. Only I will say that our Regiment was the first on the breastworks. I expect when the next fight that comes here, it will be the hardest Battle ever fought in the world. General Grant says he will take Vicksburg if he has to take it by the spoonful.

There was a gunboat run down past the city the other morning. They {the Rebels} fired 30 or 40 of their heaviest guns at her, but done her no damage. Tell Granville if he don’t write that I shall never forgive him. He need not feel above writing to a soldier twelve hundred miles from home, for when I get home, I will remember him. Tell Benjamin I think he might put in a few lines once in a while. I suppose he feels the great responsibility resting on him as a father.

I will not write any more at present. Be sure and write as soon as you get this.

From your loving brother, James R. Maxwell.

Lost Faces Ancestor Photos from the 1800s

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Submitter: Sherri Cawley James Maxwell enlisted on August 13, 1862. He mustered into Company “D”, 127th Illinois Infantry. He was mustered out on May 31, 1865

Brian Brown, author of In the Footsteps of the Blue and Gray: A Civil War Research Handbook which can be purchased from ABE Books kindly sends the following information:

James R. Maxwell was born in Milford (?) or Westford (?) (the entry was almost illegible). The state looked like Connecticut in the Illinois service records, but census records indicate birth in Ohio.

On 8/13/62, he joined Company D, 127 Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment at Chicago. He mustered in on 9/5/62, also at Chicago. He was discharged on May 31, 1865 at Washington D.C. At the time of his enlistment, he was single, a farmer, age 20, 5-10, black hair-gray eyes-light complexion and resided in Highland, Grundy County, Illinois. On the 1860 census of Grundy County Illinois, Wauponsia township, page 170, James Maxwell, a 21 year old farmer hand who was born in Ohio, is listed.

In 1890, Maxwell applied for an invalid's pension and received certificate #797043. At the time, he was living in Illinois. In 1930, his widow Emily (who was living in Illinois, applied for a widow's pension and received certificate #A-5-15-30.

Read more letters in the Maxwell Collection: undated | 5 Jan. 1863 | February 15, 1863 | 24 March 1863 | 29 May 1871 | 30 Sept. 1873

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