This letter was written by James C. Gosseline (1836-1863), the son of millwright Thurston J. Gosseline (1796-1878) and Mary (“Polly”) A. Cole (1807-1893) of New Bedford, Lawrence county, Pennsylvania. James mentions both of his younger sisters in the letter—Florence (“Flory”), born 1852; and May, born 1855.
Two months after he wrote the following letter, James enlisted at Caseyville, Illinois, as a private in Co. E, 22nd Illinois Infantry. At the time of his enlistment, he was described as standing 5′ 11″ tall, with light colored hair and blue eyes. He gave Pocahontas, Illinois, as his residence and his occupation as “painter.” Sadly, James did not survive the war. He was killed in action at the Battle of Chickamauga in Georgia on 19 September 1863. I don’t know if James’ body was sent home or not but there is a marker for him in the Scotch Grove Cemetery in Jones county, Iowa, next to his parents’ graves. Most likely he is not actually buried there as they did not move to Iowa until the 1870s.
This letter is remarkable for capturing the anxiety and chaos within the State of Missouri in the weeks leading up to the firing on Fort Sumter. In his letter, James informs his father, “all I can say now is that my life, and the life of every Republican, is in danger every moment. They (the disunionists) threaten to drive us out of the country….I have not went to bed a night for a long time without a Colt’s revolver under my head and in the daytime I am armed to the teeth and so are all of our party.”
[Note: This letter is from the personal collection of Richard Weiner and is published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]
April 14th 1861
I have waited a long time to get something of importance to write but about all I can say now is that my life, and the life of every Republican, is in danger every moment. They (the disunionists) threaten to drive us out of the country. But rest assured that if any such diabolical attempt should be made, I will stand alongside of those that oppose them, ready to fight and die in the cause of. freedom, and I will not give one inch though I die by it.
I have not went to bed a night for a long time without a Colt’s revolver under my head and in the daytime I am armed to the teeth and so are all of our party. This evening I got word that at Pilot Knob 1 mile above here where there are a great many Republicans, that they were all engaged making cartridges and running balls ready for firm resistance.
The news of the bombardment of Fort Sumter has just reached here and caused some excitement. We shall have fun here soon—especially if they try to drive any Republicans out. If they do, it will cost a great deal of blood for we intend to fight to the last.
You need not write to me here for I do not know how how long I shall stay in this state for I want to go to some free state where I can join the Federal army. I am bound to fight for my country if the war continues. Give my love to all friends, — J. C. Gosseline
To Flory and May—dear sisters. I should be glad to hear from you but I cannot now. But when I leave here, you can write to me. I should be glad to see you dear girls. But now I have little hope that I ever shall—although I may see you soon. Everything is so uncertain with me now but you will hear from me again if nothing happens soon. So farewell. — J. C. G.
Dear mother—it is late in the night and I am very much fatigued and sleepy so please excuse my brief scratch. All of importance is addressed to father. All I can say is that I have done very little work for six months and am consequently pretty hard up. But it is a long road that has no turn. When I get into the army, I hope to make some money. Still hoping and praying for your comfort and happiness, I bid you farewell. Affectionately, — James