This letter was written by James Ogburn Norton (1825-1862), a 1st Lieutenant in Co. F, 32nd Tennessee (Confederate) Infantry while imprisoned on board a boat docked at St. Louis. Lt. Norton was among the 528 members of the 32nd Tennessee that were taken prisoner on 16 February 1862. They would eventually be imprisoned at Camp Chase, Ohio, where they suffered through hard times. Though he tried to reassure his wife that he would be alright, Lt. Norton was one of the first officers to die at Camp Chase. His date of death is given as 4 March 1862, less than two weeks after this letter was written.
In the 1860 US Census, Norton was employed as a physician—a profession he learned from his father—at Hawkerville, Franklin county, Tennessee.
On Boat, St. Louis, Missouri
February 24, 1862
My Dear Wife,
I write you a few lines by Dr. as I learn that he is going to Tennessee. I am well and am getting over hte fatigue of our late Battle Fort Donelson. We were all taken prisoners of war on Sunday morning, February 16th. There were none of our company killed and but three wounded. I was in the fight but did not get a scratch. How long we will be retained, I do not know know. I suppose we will be taken off the boats & be placed in comfortable quarters. We are treated very well by the officers who have charge of us. I can give none of the particulars as our letters will have to come open & be inspected.
I want you [to] bear up under it the best you can under the circumstances. We are in a healthy climate and when we get settled, we will enjoy fine health. My kindest regards to all. I want you all to do the best you can and not grieve about my confinement. I will ty and take care of myself the best I can and return when permitted. May God bless [my] dear wife and children.
From your affectionate husband, — Jas. O. Norton
Capt. [Elijah] Ikard [and] George is still with me.