This letter was written by James K. P. Martin (1842-1862) to his parents, John Clark Martin (1797-1867) and Jane S. (Owens) Martin (1804-1886) of Grenada, Yalobusha county, Mississippi. James’ full name was probably James Knox Polk Martin. His father, John Martin, was trained as a gunsmith and was deeply religious; a member of the Baptist Church of Christ and later ordained a minister in that church.
It is believed that James enlisted in October 1861 at the age of 19 to serve in Capt. P. Randolph Leigh’s Company of Mississippi Volunteers. The “Oakachickimas” were an independent company attached to the 15th Mississippi Infantry until 8 May 1862, when they became Co. C, 1st Battalion Mississippi Sharpshooters, Army of the Tennessee.
Muster rolls indicate that James received a gunshot wound in the thigh at the Battle of Shiloh, was taken prisoner to a hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, and that he died there on 2 May 1862.
Sunday evening, December 15th 1861
Very dear and affectionate father,
I attempt to drop you a few lines to let you know that I am well at the present time and hope that this will find you all enjoy[ing] the same blessing.
Father, I started a letter to [ ] last Tuesday week and have not received answer answer from him yet. I would like to hear from him very much. Father, I met with about seventy of the 15th Regiment boys. Some of them was close friends of mine. You may be sure that I was glad to see them. They have been at Knoxville in the hospital. I saw them leave this morning on a steamboat up the Cumberland River going to hunt their regiment. They know not where they will find it. Some of them stayed with us last night.
Father, I went to the Roman Catholic church last Sunday. I was perfectly disgusted at their maneuvers.
Father, we are all lively and in fine spirits. Martin is well. He wants you to write to him. Him nor me has not heard the first word from home since we left. I hope we will hear soon.
I went to the penitentiary yesterday and went all through it. There is three hundred and 76 in there. I saw one young man put in there for three years for stealing. I felt sorry for him.
Tell Betty if she sees Elizabeth Hanomoc [?], tell her that I saw her Uncle William Curtis today and he is well.
Father, I know it is hard times with you and I feel a delicacy in asking you to send me money but I would be very glad if I could get a little. I know nothing about when we will get any money for our service. I cannot write many more letters for the want of money to buy paper. We have had to live on beef and flour, bread and coffee, and we all bought molasses and I had to pay my share for them and it took about all the money I had. I am indisposed to spend money for any unnecessary thing. Father, I feel that if I could just be with you at such a meeting as you had, I could enjoy myself better than any other place that I could mention. I hope that the day is fast approaching when we all will enjoy ourselves together, when there will be room for enjoyment.
I will come to a close as I have nothing of interest to write, Father, please answer me soon. I want to hear from you all. So nothing more at present. Give my love to other and all the family and accept the same for yourself. Your most affectionate and obedient son, — James K. P. Martin
Jasper Young sends you his respects—also to his family.
Envelope is scribed, “Soldier’s Letter, From Jas. Martin. A private in the Oakachickamas