This letter was written by Dr. James A. Jones (1824-1864), the Second Assistant Surgeon of the 115th Illinois Infantry, who joined the regiment on 3 October 1862. Jones was the son of Elias Jones (1797-1876) and Lydia Sweet (1802-1885) of Tazewell County, Illinois. He was married to Harriet (“Hattie”) Hoghton (1836-1903) in April 1854. James and Hattie had two children: Mary Ladora Jones (1856-1884) and Minnie Belle Jones (1861-1946).
Dr. Jones was murdered by guerrillas on 9 July 1864 at Tunnel Hill, Whitfeld County, Georgia. He was with a few others, unarmed, attempting to round up the regimental horses that were out grazing to keep them from falling into the hands of a band of guerrillas when the rebels fell in upon them. Spurring his horse to escape, the doctor fell with his horse while attempting to jump a ravine and the rebels shot and mortally wounded him before he could free himself.
Dr. Jones’ older brother, Elias Orville Jones (1820-1894) served only three months as a musician in the 115th Illinois Infantry. He was discharged for disability on 24 December 1862.
Addressed to Mrs. Hattie Jones, Delavan, Tazewell County, Illinois
November 13th 1862
I have a few minutes leisure and I will improve it as best I can. I am in most excellent health and have gained in flesh very rapidly since I left home. My appetite is good. My fare is very satisfactory and not that of soldiers generally as I am in connection with the Hospital Department. My opportunities for a variety of diet is much better than the others.
There has been a great amount of sickness in our Regiment since we have been in camp here. We have lost three cases with typhoid pneumonia, and have a very large sick list still — or rather had, for our Regiment moved today out toward Richmond [Kentucky] which is nearly thirty miles from here in a south direction and off the railroad.
We received orders last night after ten o’clock to march this morning to Richmond [Kentucky] and leave our sick in Lexington [Kentucky]. The Regiment moved and I am still here superintending the removal of the sick to the hospital in Lexington, and it will take till night to get them all away and in comfortable quarters. They are going into the Masonic Hall (hospital) ¹ that has been used for a rebel hospital ever since the “Morgan’s Raid.” ² We have turned the rebel sick and wounded out of it and quartered them on the secesh citizens of the place and taken possession. It will accommodate a large number of patients. Indeed, it looks like a statehouse, it is so large.
Our ambulances are going backward and forward loaded with sick and will have to make two more trips to get them all sway, and I am writing wile waiting. I will go with the last load and probably remain in Lexington tonight and go on & overtake the Regiment tomorrow in the ambulance as the horse I rode from Falmouth [Kentucky] here has been turned over to the Division Quartermaster for the benefit of the government. The prospect is we will not do much marching — at least for some time — and a horse is more trouble than profit, so I don’t intend to get one of my own until I need it more than I do now.
Co. H is now the healthiest company in the whole Regiment. Amongst the number sent to the hospital from here, there are but three from that company — viz: Wm. Albright of Hittle’s Grove, James Akin from Boynton, and [Elias] Orville [Jones]. None of them are much sick but being unable to march, we prefer leaving them in good quarters to exposing them on the march. Orville has sore eyes that trouble him considerably and his back is lame from his old hurt.
I think I received all your letters as they have come to hand with an agreeable frequency of late. I received the last one but three days ago and presume you received mine at or about the same time. I shall expect them often — especially if the Watts girls are there to take Minnie off your hands for a few minutes occasionally.
I expect to go to Richmond but you continue to direct to Lexington till further direction as the letters will follow us with dispatch as Uncle Sam keeps his eye upon us and thinks pretty well of us yet.
I am very well pleased with Dr. [Enoch W.] Moore ³ who is first surgeon. He is a very good man & says and treats me with a good deal of consideration. He is not puffed up or haughty but a first rate reliable man and what is better still for me, our practice is very much alike. The other assistant has not yet come up.
I received a visit this afternoon from some ladies from Lexington with soup and other good things for our sick that had been since morning without anything to eat. Most assuredly the Union Ladies of town are watching the opportunity to do us a good turn and never fail to improve them. I was invited to dinner today by a good Union man here and partook of a first rate meal. A couple of nights ago I took supper with the rebel surgeon of the hospital that we compelled to evacuate. Found him a perfect specimen of southern chivalry and one that was taken prisoner at Fort Donelson, but we had a most splendid supper and was treated with the greatest politeness.
When the weather becomes very cold, you will remember to put in your cellar windows, but it will not freeze in there till the weather becomes very cold and continues for some time. A little care may be necessary to prevent the cistern from becoming too full and there being no horses to water out of it, you will use it out slow. And now as I wish to write a letter to father and will have but little time, I will again say goodbye. Kiss the children & get somebody to kiss you for me.
Yours in love, — J. A. Jones
¹ The three story Masonic Hall stood on Walnut and Short Street in Lexington, Kentucky. During the Civil War, the hall was seized by the Union army and used as a hospital, recruiting office and later as a prison. All of the mason’s records, furniture and archives were either lost or destroyed during its occupancy by the Yankee soldiers. Having become badly dilapidated and in great need of repairs, the old Masonic Hall was torn down in December 1891.
² Confederate General John Hunt Morgan’s first Kentucky raid began on 4 July 1862 and lasted three weeks during which time 900 men swept through Kentucky in the rear of Major General Don Carlos Buell’s army.
³ Dr. Enoch Moore (1821-1899) attended the medical department of St. Louis University, where he was graduated in 1853. He then practiced his profession at Carlisle, Ill., until he removed to Decatur in 1856. On the organization of the 115th regiment he offered his services to his country, and was made surgeon of the regiment, with the rank of major. He was an eminent physician, and was greatly beloved by all the regiment. He served with the regiment until compelled to resign because of ill health, April 17, 1863. He then returned to Decatur and after recovering his health, resumed the practice of his profession, which he continued until his death, May 19, 1899.