As a Civil War scholar, all too often I deal with faceless names, the common soldier whose record of service survives, a man who merited mention in the Macomb Journal or the Macomb Eagle only for their death or wounding. In rare moments, I have the opportunity to match an image with a soldier, and the anonymity of a century and a half erodes just a bit. Such a moment came yesterday, thanks to two readers of this blog.
This is First Sergeant John E. James, Company C, 78th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment. His descendants, Nancy Hedberg and Julie Whitmore Bymaster shared this image with me after yesterday’s post. Orderly James was a casualty of the assault at Kennesaw Mountain; yesterday, his name appeared in the casualty list printed in the Eagle. Before the war, First Sergeant James was a teacher in Blandinsville, northwest of Macomb. In the fall of 1862, he enlisted as a private in the 78th; in eighteen months he was promoted to first sergeant, and at some point in 1864, to Second Lieutenant, a rank he never lived to serve at. He was approximately 28 at the time of his death, July 22, 1864.
A Name with a Face. So much more than thousands of others.