The following biography of William George James places a great deal of emphasis on the period of his life between the years 1861 and 1865 when he served as 2nd Lieutenant of Company "I" of the 34th Texas Calvary. Extensive records of the history of this regiment have been compiled as well military records pertaining to William George James himself. Many individuals have contributed to this biography including J.F.A. Senior Researchers Eldon James and George Alspaugh. The hard data comes directly from the U.S. National Archives, the Texas State Archives and the Confederate History Center at Hill Jr. College in Texas.
William George James, or, “W.G.” James as he was referred to was born on July 7, 1832 in Bedford County, Virginia. He was the eldest son of Joel L. James (1811-1875) and Angelina Ryan (1812-) who were also both from Bedford County. In 1849, at the age of 17 William George accompanied his mother, father and siblings along with the families of his uncles George Washington James (1812-1864) and John James (1814-1863) and migrated west by covered wagon from Bedford County, Virginia to Taylor County, Kentucky. There the James family purchased land and resided until 1852 when the family sold their property in Taylor County and migrated even further west to a settlement called Kentucky Town in Grayson County, Texas.
On July 6, 1853 W.G. James married Lucinda Elizabeth “Betty” Whaley (1835-) in Lamar County, Texas. Betty was the daughter of James and Sophia Whaley. Betty would go on to bear nine children for W.G. James including: George, Leonard, Melinda, Leroy, Braxton, Florence, Charles, Richard and Carey James. It is not known exactly when, but by 1861 W.G. James had moved to the town of Ladonia in Fannin County, Texas. There he continued with the family trade of blacksmithing and farming until the outbreak of hostilities that led to the Civil War.
Neither William’s father Joel James (1811-1875) nor his grandfather, Jonathan James (1785-1843) were known to be military men. William’s great grandfather Daniel James (1750-1817) was, however, a veteran of the Revolutionary War. According to the Pennsylvania Archives, 5th Series, Volume 3, William’s great grandfather Daniel James was a bombardier, that is, an artilleryman in charge of mortars in Captain Hercules Courtney's 3rd Company of Pennsylvania Artillery. He was mustered March 10, 1777 and served in the Continental Line under General George Washington in the 4th Regiment of Artillery from February 6, 1777 through November 3, 1783. Whether or not William was aware of his great grandfather’s military contribution to the founding of the nation is unknown. What is known is that on February 1, 1861 the State of Texas seceded from the Union. On April 17, 1861, William’s home state of Virginia seceded from the Union. Within three months thereof both William and his brother John R. James headed the call to serve the newly formed Confederacy. W.G. James was 29 years old with the South seceded from the Union.
The Civil War Military History of
William George James (1861-1865)
And The 34th Texas Dismounted Calvary
On July 6, 1861, W.G. James enlisted in the Texas State Troops in the town of Ladonia in Fannin County, Texas. He and his brother John R. James enlisted on the same day and were assigned to the Company for “Fannin Precinct 4” which was also referred to as “Beat No. 4, Fannin County.” Captain George W. Merrick, a 30-year-old resident of Ladonia, initially commanded this company.
W.G. James enlisted one day prior to his 30th birthday, the 7th of July. The Company for Beat No. 4 of Fannin County was assigned to the 14th Brigade, which was commanded by General S.A. Roberts. W.G. James, as well as his brother were given the rank of Private and were among 96 men in total who made up Company for Beat No. 4, Fannin County. This company was officially commissioned on October 10, 1861.
On March 3, 1862 W.G. James enlisted in Company I of the 34th Texas Cavalry at Honey Grove. J. A. Donelson recruited him for a period of 12 months. The 34th was also known as the “2nd Regiment Texas Partisan Rangers” and was also referred to as “Alexander’s Regiment.” On April 17, 1862 the 34th Texas Calvary was officially organized.
On June 27, 1862 the 34th was reorganized. W.G. James’ name was recorded and “appears on a copy of a list of commissioned officers elected, and those relieved, at the re-organization of Colonel Alexander’s Regiment, June 27, 1862, in accordance with the provisions of an Act of Congress, approved April 16, 1862, and G.O. No. -- of date June 26, 1862. List dated Headquarters Department of Indian Territory, Fort McCulloch, June 30, 1862.” At this time W.G. James is a 2nd Lieutenant and is further reported to have been, “elected in place of T.M. Burnett.”
On September 1, 1862 the 34th participates in its first reported engagement, a skirmish at Spring River, Missouri. On September 30, 1862, the 34th participates in the engagement at Newtonia, Missouri. Following the Battle of Pea Ridge, in March of 1862, most Confederate and Union troops had left northwestern Arkansas and southwestern Missouri. By late summer, Confederates returned to the area, which caused much apprehension in nearby Federally occupied Springfield, Missouri and Fort Scott, Kansas. Confederate Colonel Douglas Cooper reached the area on September 27, 1862 and assigned two of his units to Newtonia where there was a mill for making breadstuffs. In mid-September, two brigades of Brigadier General James G. Blunt’s Union Army of Kansas left Fort Scott for Southwest Missouri. On the 29th, Union scouts approached Newtonia but were chased away. Other Union troops appeared in nearby Granby where there were lead mines, and Cooper sent some reinforcements there.
The next morning, Union troops appeared before Newtonia and fighting ensued by 7:00 a.m. The Federals began driving the enemy, but Confederate reinforcements arrived, swelling the numbers. The Federals gave way and retreated in haste. As they did so, some of their reinforcements appeared and helped to stem their retreat. The Union forces then renewed the attack, threatening the enemy right flank. But newly arrived Confederates stopped that attack and eventually forced the Federals to retire again. Pursuit of the Federals continued after dark. Union gunners posted artillery in the roadway to halt the pursuit.
As Confederate gunners observed the Union artillery fire for location, they fired back, creating panic. The Union retreat turned into a rout as some ran all the way to Sarcoxie, more than ten miles away. Although the Confederates won the battle, they were unable to maintain themselves in the area given the great numbers of Union troops. Most Confederates retreated into northwest Arkansas. The 1862 Confederate victories in southwestern Missouri at Newtonia and Clark’s Mill were the South’s apogee in the area; afterwards, the only Confederates in the area belonged to raiding columns. Result(s): Confederate victory. Location: Newton County. Campaign: Operations North of Boston Mountains (1862). Principal Commanders: Brigadier General Friedrich Salomon [US]; Colonel Douglas H. Cooper [CS]. Forces engaged: Two brigades, Army of Kansas (1,500) [US]; Cooper's Division [CS]. Estimated Casualties: 345 total (US 245; CS 100). The Official Records of the U.S. War Department reports 50 killed, 80 wounded U.S. and 220 killed and 280 wounded C.S. 115 missing or captured.
On October 22, 1862, the 34th participates in an action at Old Fort Wayne (Beattie’s Prairie) Indian Territory near Maysville, Arkansas. On November 8, 1862, the 34th participates in a skirmish at Cato, Kansas. On December 7, 1862, the 34th participates in Battle of Prairie Grove, Fayetteville (Illinois Creek), Arkansas. Major General Thomas C. Hindman sought to destroy Brigadier General Francis Herron's and Brigadier General James Blunt's divisions before they joined forces. Hindman placed his large force between the two Union divisions, turning on Herron first and routing his cavalry. As Hindman pursued the cavalry, he met Herron's infantry, which pushed him back. The Rebels then established their line of battle on a wooded high ridge northeast of Prairie Grove Church. Herron brought his artillery across the Illinois River and initiated an artillery duel. The Union troops assaulted twice and were repulsed. The Confederates counterattacked, were halted by Union canister, and then moved forward again.
Just when it looked as if the Rebel attack would roll up Herron's troops, Blunt's men assailed the Confederate left flank. As night came, neither side had won, but Hindman retreated to Van Buren. Hindman's retreat established Federal control of northwest Arkansas. Result(s): Union strategic victory. Location: Washington County. Campaign: Prairie Grove Campaign (1862). Principal Commanders: Brigadier General Francis J. Herron and Brigadier General James G. Blunt [US]; Major General Thomas C. Hindman [CS]. Forces Engaged: Army of the Frontier [US]; I Corps, Trans-Mississippi Army [CS]. Estimated Casualties: 2,568 total (US 1,251; CS 1,317)
On December 27 through 29, 1862 the 34th participates in operations against the Expedition over the Boston Mountains in Arkansas. On December 28, 1862, the 34th participates in the skirmish at Dripping Springs and Van Buren, Arkansas. These appear to be the 34th’s last engagements in the State of Arkansas.
From April 9 through May 14, 1863, the 34th participates in operations in Western Louisiana and the Campaign in the Teche Country. On April 14 the 34th participates in the engagement at Irish Bend, Louisiana. While the other two Union XIX Army Corps divisions comprising the expedition into West Louisiana moved across Berwick Bay towards Fort Bisland, Brigadier General Cuvier Grover's division went up the Atchafalaya River into Grand Lake, intending to intercept a Confederate retreat from Fort Bisland or turn the enemy's position. On the morning of April 13, the division landed in the vicinity of Franklin and scattered Rebel troops attempting to stop them from disembarking. That night, Grover ordered the division to cross Bayou Teche and prepare for an attack towards Franklin at dawn. In the meantime, Confederate Major General Richard Taylor had sent some men to meet Grover's threat.
On the morning of the 14th, Taylor and his men were at Nerson's Woods, around a mile and a half above Franklin. As Grover's lead brigade marched out a few miles, it encountered Rebels on its right and began skirmishing with them. The fighting became intense; the Rebels attacked, forcing the Yankees to fall back. The gunboat Diana arrived and anchored the Confederate right flank. The Confederates were outnumbered, however, and, as Grover began making dispositions for an attack, they retreated leaving the field to the Union. This victory, along with the one at Fort Bisland, two days earlier, assured the success of the expedition into West Louisiana. Result(s): Union victory. Location: St. Mary Parish. Campaign: Operations in West Louisiana (1863). Principal Commanders: Brigadier General Cuvier Grover [US]; Major General Richard Taylor [CS]. Forces Engaged: 4th Division, XIX Army Corps [US]; 28th Louisiana Infantry, 2nd Louisiana Cavalry, 12th Louisiana Infantry Battalion, 4th Texas Cavalry, and Cornay's Louisiana Battery [CS]. Estimated Casualties: Total unknown (US 353; CS unknown)
On April 17, 1863, the 34th participates in the action at Vermillion Bayou in Louisiana. While Rear Admiral David G. Farragut remained above Port Hudson with USS Hartford and Albatross, Major General Nathaniel P. Banks decided to go after Major General Richard Taylor's Confederate forces in western Louisiana. He moved by water to Donaldsonville and began a march to Thibodeaux up Bayou Lafourche. Banks beat Taylor at Fort Bisland and Irish Bend, forcing the Rebel army to retreat up the bayou. Taylor reached Vermillionville, crossed Vermillion Bayou, destroyed the bridge, and rested. Banks, in pursuit, sent two columns, on different roads, toward Vermillion Bayou on the morning of April 17. One column reached the bayou while the bridge was burning, advanced, and began skirmishing. Confederate artillery, strategically placed, forced the Yankees back. Then Federal artillery opened a duel with its Confederate counterpart. After dark, the Rebels retreated to Opelousas. The Confederates had slowed the Union advance. Result(s): Union victory. Location: Lafayette Parish. Campaign: Operations in West Louisiana (1863). Principal Commanders: Brig. Gen. Cuvier Grover [US]; Maj. Gen. Richard Taylor [CS]; Forces Engaged: 4th Division, XIX Army Corps, Army of the Gulf [US]; District of Western Louisiana [CS]. Estimated Casualties: Unknown.
On May 23, 1863, W.G. James’ name appears on a roster of the 34th as a 2nd Lieutenant. This roster is dated Camp [Allstouthean?] in Shreaveport, Louisiana. On June 7, 1863, the 34th participates in actions at Milliken’s Bend and Young’s Point, Louisiana. On June 6, Colonel Hermann Lieb with the African Brigade and two companies of the 10th Illinois Cavalry made a reconnaissance toward Richmond, Louisiana. About three miles from Richmond, Lieb encountered enemy troops at the Tallulah railroad depot and drove them back but then retired, fearing that many more Rebels might be near. While retiring, a squad of Union cavalry appeared, fleeing from a force of Rebels. Lieb got his men into battle line and helped disperse the pursuing enemy. He then retired to Milliken's Bend and informed his superior by courier of his actions. The 23rd Iowa Infantry and two gunboats came to his assistance.
Around 3:00 am on June 7, Rebels appeared in force and drove in the pickets. They continued their movement towards the Union left flank. The Federal forces fired some volleys that caused the Rebel line to pause momentarily, but the Texans soon pushed on to the levee where they received orders to charge. In spite of receiving more volleys, the Rebels came on, and hand-to-hand combat ensued. In this intense fighting, the Confederates succeeded in flanking the Union force and caused tremendous casualties with enfilade fire. The Union force fell bank to the river's bank. About that time Union gunboats Choctaw and Lexington appeared and fired upon the Rebels. The Confederates continued firing and began extending their right to envelop the Federals but failed in their objective. Fighting continued until noon when the Confederates withdrew. The Union pursued, firing many volleys, and the gunboats pounded the Confederates as they retreated to Walnut Bayou. Result(s): Union victory. Location: Madison Parish. Campaign: Grant's Operations against Vicksburg (1863). Principal Commanders: Colonel Hermann Lieb [US]; Brigadier General Henry E. McCulloch [CS]. Forces Engaged: African Brigade and the 23rd Iowa Volunteer Infantry [US]; McCulloch's Brigade [CS]. Estimated Casualties: 837 total (US 652; CS 185)
On June 16, 1863, William is issued a “Receipt for Articles Purchased of Major W. H. Haynes, A. Q. M., C. S. Army, and Chief Clothing Bureau, at Little Rock, Arkansas” for 4 yards grey cloth at $6 per yard for a total price of $24. The receipt further provides, “I Certify, on honor, that I have this day PURCHASED of Major W.H. Haynes, A.Q.M., C.S. Army, the articles above specified, that I have paid him therefore the amount stated, and that they are for my own personal use as an officer.” This document was signed in duplicate by “W.G. James, Jr. 2nd Lt. Co. “I” Col. Alexander’s Regiment.”
From June 20 to 21, 1863 the 34th participated in the action at La Fourche Crossing, Louisiana. Major General Richard Taylor sent an expedition under Colonel James P. Major to break Union supply lines, disrupt Union activities and force an enemy withdrawal from Brashear (Morgan) City and Port Hudson. Major set out from Washington, Louisiana, on Bayou Teche, heading south and east. While marching, his men conducted raids on Union forces, boats, and plantations and in the process captured animals and supplies and liberated slaves. Brigadier General William H. Emory, commanding the defenses of New Orleans, assigned Lieutenant Colonel Albert Stickney to command in Brashear City and to stem the Rebel raid if possible. Emory informed Stickney of Major's descent on La Fourche Crossing and ordered him to send troops. Feeling that no threat to Brashear City existed, Stickney, himself, led troops off to La Fourche Crossing, arriving on the morning of the 20th.
That afternoon, Stickney's scouts reported that the enemy was advancing rapidly. The Rebel forces began driving in Stickney's pickets around 5:00 p.m. Confederate cavalry then advanced but was driven back. After the Union troops fired a few rounds, the Confederates withdrew in the direction of Thibodeaux. In the late afternoon of the 21st, Confederate soldiers engaged the Union pickets, and fighting continued for more than an hour before the Rebels retired. About 6:30 p.m., the Confederates reappeared in force, started an artillery duel, and charged the Union lines at 7:00 p.m. An hour later, the Confederates disengaged and retired toward Thibodeaux. The Union held the field. Despite the defeat, Major's raiders continued on to Brashear City. Result(s): Union victory. Location: La Fourche Parish. Campaign: Taylor's Operations in West Louisiana (1863). Principal Commanders: Lieutenant Colonel Albert Stickney [US]; Colonel James P. Major [CS]. Forces Engaged: 838 men from eight regiments [US]; 2nd Cavalry Brigade [CS]. Estimated Casualties: 267 total (US 48; CS 219).
On June 28, 1863, the 34th participated in the skirmish at Lake Providence, Louisiana. On the Company Muster Role for June 30th, 1863, W.G. James is reported to be a 3rd Lieutenant and has been present from February 28, 1863 to June 30th. At this time, W.G. James is also reported to have last been paid on February 28, 1863 by W.P. Baughn and was still “due $6.00 for mileage and $4.00 for use of arms while a private.”
On July 8, 1863, W.G. James executes Voucher No. 60, issued by the Confederate States of America on account of “Pay to myself as Jr. 2nd Lieutenant...” from February 28, 1863 to April 30, 1863, a term of 2 months, at a rate of $90 per month for a total amount of $180.00. This voucher further provides that, “I Hereby Certify, That the foregoing account is accurate and just; that I have not been absent without leave during any part of the time charged for; that I have not received pay, forage, or received money in lieu of any part thereof, for any part of the time therein charged; that I am not in arrears with the Confederate States, on any account whatever; and that the last payment I received was from Captain W. P. Baughn A.Q.M. CSA and to the 28th day of February 1863. I at the same time acknowledge that I have received of Captain Quyin Fara [Aran?] Quartermaster C.S. Army, this 8th day of July 1863, the sum of one hundred & eighty 00/100 Dollars, being the amount in full of said account,” and signed, “W.G. James Jr. 2Lt. Company I. Alexander’s Regiment, Texas Dismounted Calvary.”
From July 12 through the 13th, 1863 the 34th participated in the engagement at Kock’s Plantation, Donaldsonville, La Fourche Bayou, Louisiana. Following the surrender of Port Hudson, two Union divisions were shifted to Donaldsonville by transports, to move inland and pacify the interior. They marched up Bayou La Fourche, a division on each bank. Confederate Brigadier General Tom Green posted a brigade on the east side of the bayou and placed his second brigade on the other side. As the Union forces advanced, skirmishing occurred on July 11 and 12. On the morning of the 13th, a foraging detachment set out along both banks of the bayou. Upon reaching Kock's Plantation (Saint Emma Plantation) they met Rebel skirmishers that forced them back. Then, the Confederates flung their might against the Union troops, which kept retiring although they tried to make stands at various points. The Union troops eventually fell back to the protection of the guns in Fort Butler at Donaldsonville, about six miles from Kock's Plantation. A much smaller Rebel force had routed the Yankees. The expedition failed, leaving the Confederates in control of the interior. Result(s): Confederate victory. Location: Ascension Parish. Campaign: Taylor's Operations in West Louisiana (1863). Principal Commanders: Brigadier General Godfrey Weitzel and Brigadier General Cuvier Grover [US]; Brigadier General Tom Green [CS]. Forces Engaged: Godfrey Weitzel's and Cuvier Grover's Divisions, XIX Army Corps [US]; two under strength Confederate brigades [CS]. Estimated Casualties: 463 total (US 430; CS 33).
From October 3 to November 30, 1863, the 34th participated in operations in Western Louisiana and in the Teche Country. On October 21, 1863, the 34th participated in the action at Opelousas and Barre’s Landing, Louisiana. And on October 24, 1863, the 34th participated in the action at Washington, Louisiana. On November 3, 1863, the 34th participated at the action in Grand Coteau, Bourbeau Bayou, Carrion Crow Bayou and Buzzard’s Prairie, Louisiana.
On a Company Muster Roll for the 34th dated January and February, 1864, William is reported to once again be a 2nd Lieutenant in Captain J.H. Roderick’s Company (Company “I”), part of Alexander’s Regiment of Dismounted Volunteers. From March 10 through May 22, 1864, the 34th participated in operations against Banks’ Red River Campaign. On March 20, 1864, the 34th participated in the skirmish at Rapides Bayou, Louisiana. And on March 21, 1864, the 34th participated in the affair at Henderson’s Hill, Rapides Bayou, Louisiana. From March 29 to March 30, 1864, the 34th participated in the skirmishes at Monett’s Ferry and Cloutierville, Louisiana. And on March 31, 1864, the 34th participated in the action at Natchitouches, Louisiana.
On April 2, 1864, the 34th participated at the skirmish at Crump’s Hill, Piney Wouds, Louisiana. On April 4, 1864, the 34th participated in the engagement at Capti, Louisiana. On April 7, 1864, the 34th participated in the engagement at Wilson’s Farm near Pleasant Hill, Louisiana. And on April 8, 1864, the 34th participated in the skirmishes at De Paul Bayou “Carroll’s Mill”, and, in the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads, Mansfield near Pleasant Hill, Louisiana. By this time, Major General Nathaniel P. Bank's Red River Expedition had advanced about 150 miles up Red River. Major General Richard Taylor, without any instructions from his commander, General E. Kirby Smith, decided that it was time to try and stem this Union drive. He established a defensive position just below Mansfield, near Sabine Cross-Roads, an important communications center. On April 8, Banks's men approached, driving Confederate cavalry before them. For the rest of the morning, the Federals probed the Rebel lines. In late afternoon, Taylor, though outnumbered, decided to attack. His men made a determined assault on both flanks, rolling up one and then another of Banks's divisions. Finally, about three miles from the original contact, a third Union division met Taylor's attack at 6:00 p.m. and halted it after more than an hour's fighting. That night, Taylor unsuccessfully attempted to turn Banks's right flank. Banks withdrew but met Taylor again on April 9 at Pleasant Hill. Mansfield was the decisive battle of the Red River Campaign, influencing Banks to retreat back toward Alexandria.
Result(s): Confederate victory. Location: DeSoto Parish. Campaign: Red River Campaign (1864). Principal Commanders: Major General Nathaniel P. Banks [US]; Maj. Gen. Richard Taylor [CS]. Forces Engaged: Banks's Red River Expeditionary Force [US]; District of West Louisiana (two divisions) [CS]. Estimated Casualties: 4,400 total (US 2,900; CS 1,500).
On April 9, 1864 the 34th participated in an engagement at Pleasant Hill, Louisiana. Major General Richard Taylor, commander of the Confederate forces had gained the victory at Mansfield the day prior. Major General Nathaniel P. Bank withdrew from that battlefield to Pleasant Hill, but he knew that fighting would resume the next day. Early on the 9th, Taylor's reinforced forces marched toward Pleasant Hill in the hopes of finishing the destruction of the Union force. Although outnumbered, Taylor felt that the Union army would be timid after Mansfield and that an audacious, well-coordinated attack would be successful. The Confederates closed up, rested for a few hours, and then attacked at 5:00 p.m. Taylor planned to send a force to assail the Union front while he rolled up the left flank and moved his cavalry around the right flank to cut the escape route.
The attack on the Union left flank, under the command of Brigadier General Thomas J. Churchill, succeeded in sending enemy troops fleeing for safety. Churchill ordered his men ahead, intending to attack the Union center from the rear. Union troops, however, discerned the danger and hit Churchill's right flank, forcing a retreat. Pleasant Hill was the last major battle, in terms of numbers of men involved, of the Louisiana phase of the Red River Campaign. Although Banks won this battle, he retreated, wishing to get his army out of West Louisiana before any greater calamity occurred. The battles of Mansfield and Pleasant Hill jointly (although the former was much more decisive) influenced Banks to forget his objective of capturing Shreveport. Result(s): Union victory. Location: DeSoto Parish and Sabine Parish. Campaign: Red River Campaign (1864). Principal Commanders: Major General Nathaniel P. Banks [US]; Major General Richard Taylor [CS]. Forces Engaged: Red River Expeditionary Force (Banks's Department of the Gulf) [US]; District of West Louisiana [CS]. Estimated Casualties: 3,100 total (US 1,100; CS 2,000).
From April 12 through 13, 1864, the 34th participated in actions at Pleasant Hill Landing and Blair’s Landing, Louisiana. After the battle of Pleasant Hill on April 9, Brigadier General Tom Green led his men to Pleasant Hill Landing on the Red River, where, at about 4:00 p.m. on April 12, they discovered grounded and damaged Union transports and gunboats, the XVI and XVII army corps river transportation, and U.S. Navy gunboats, with supplies and armament aboard. Union Brigadier General Thomas Kilby Smith's Provisional Division, XVII Corps, troops, and the Navy gunboats furnished protection for the army transports. Green and his men charged the boats. When Green attacked, Smith's men used great ingenuity in defending the boats and dispersing the enemy. Hiding behind bales of cotton, sacks of oats, and other ersatz obstructions, the men on the vessels, along with the Navy gunboats, repelled the attack, killed Green, and savaged the Confederate ranks. The Confederates withdrew and most of the Union transports continued downriver. On the 13th, at Campti, other boats ran aground and came under enemy fire from Brigadier General St. John R. Liddell's Sub-District of North Louisiana troops, which harassed the convoy throughout the 12th and 13th. The convoy rendezvoused with Major General Nathaniel Banks' army at Grand Ecore, providing the army with badly needed supplies. Result(s): Union victory. Location: Red River Parish. Campaign: Red River Campaign (1864). Principal Commanders: Brigadier General Thomas Kilby Smith and Rear Admiral David D. Porter [US]; Brigadier General Tom Green [CS]. Forces Engaged: Provisional division, XVII Army Corps, Army transports, and U.S. Navy Mississippi Squadron [US]; Green's Cavalry Division [CS]. Estimated Casualties: 207 total (US 7; CS 200).
From April 23 through 24, 1864, the 34th participated in the skirmishes about Cloutierville, Louisiana. On April 23, 1864, the 34th participated in the engagement at Monett’s Ferry “Cane River Crossing”, Louisiana. Near the end of the Red River Expedition, Major General Nathaniel P. Banks' army evacuated Grand Ecore and retreated to Alexandria, pursued by Confederate forces. Banks' advance party, commanded by Brigadier General William H. Emory, encountered Brigadier General Hamilton P. Bee's cavalry division near Monett's Ferry (Cane River Crossing) on the morning of April 23. Bee had been ordered to dispute Emory's crossing, and he placed his men so that natural features covered both his flanks. Reluctant to assault the Rebels in their strong position, Emory demonstrated in front of the Confederate lines, while two brigades went in search of another crossing. One brigade found a ford, crossed, and attacked the Rebels in their flank. Bee had to retreat. Banks' men laid pontoon bridges and, by the next day, had all crossed the river. The Confederates at Monett's Ferry missed an opportunity to destroy or capture Banks' army. Result(s): Union victory. Location: Natchitoches Parish. Campaign: Red River Campaign (1864). Principal Commanders: Major General Nathaniel P. Banks [US]; Brigadier General Hamilton P. Bee [CS]. Forces Engaged: Red River Expeditionary Force (Banks' Department of the Gulf) [US]; Bee's Cavalry Division [CS]. Estimated Casualties: 600 total (US 200; CS 400).
From May 3 to May 7, 1864, the 34th skirmished along Red River Road, Louisiana. From May 4 through May 5, 1864, the 34th participated in the engagement at David’s Ferry, Red River, Louisiana. On May 7, 1864, the 34th participated in the skirmish at Lamourie Bayou, Louisisana. From May 13 through the 20th, 1864, the 34th participated in operations against the Retreat from Alexandria to Morganza, Louisiana. On May 14, 1864, the 34th participated in the action near Alexandria, Louisiana. On May 16, 1864, the 34th participated in the engagement at Mansura, Belle Prairie at Smith’s Plantation, Louisiana. As Major General Nathaniel P. Banks' Red River Expeditionary Force retreated down the Red River, Confederate forces under Major General Richard Taylor attempted to slow the Union troops' movements and, if possible, deplete their numbers or, better yet, destroy them. The Union forces passed Fort DeRussy, reached Marksville, and then continued east. At Mansura, Taylor massed his forces in an open prairie that controlled access to the three roads traversing the area, where he hoped his artillery could cause many casualties. Early on the morning of May 16, the Union forces approached, and skirmishing quickly ensued. After a four-hour fight (principally an artillery duel), a large Union force massed for a flank attack, inducing the Rebels to fall back. The Union troops marched to Simmsport. Taylor's force could harass the enemy's retrograde but was unable to halt it. Result(s): Union victory. Location: Avoyelles Parish. Campaign: Red River Campaign (1864). Principal Commanders: Major General Nathaniel P. Banks [US]; Major General Richard Taylor [CS]. Forces Engaged: Banks' Red River Expeditionary Force [US]; District of West Louisiana [CS]. Estimated Casualties: Unknown.
On May 17, 1864, the 34th participated in the action near Moreauville, DeGlaize Bayou, Louisiana. On May 18, 1864, the 34th participated in the engagement at Yellow Bayou, DeGlaize Bayou and Norwood’s Plantation “Old Oaks,” Louisiana. Major General Nathaniel P. Banks during his retreat in the Red River Campaign, following the battles of Mansfield and Pleasant Hill, reached the Atchafalaya River on May 17. Once on the other side of the river he would be shielded from the continuous Confederate harassment. But, he had to wait to cross the river until the army engineers constructed a bridge. On the 18th, Banks learned that Major General Richard Taylor's force was near Yellow Bayou so he ordered Brigadier General A.J. Smith to stop them. Since Smith could not comply himself, he ordered Brigadier General Joseph A. Mower to meet Taylor. The Yankees attacked and drove the Rebels to their main line. The Confederates counterattacked, forcing the Federals to give ground. The Union force finally repulsed the Confederates. This see-saw action continued for several hours until the ground cover caught fire forcing both sides to retire. Yellow Bayou was the last battle of Banks' ill-fated Red River Expedition, and it insured that the Federals would escape as an army to fight again. Result(s): Union strategic victory. Location: Avoyelles Parish. Campaign: Red River Campaign (1864). Principal Commanders: Brigadier General Joseph A. Mower [US]; Major General Richard Taylor [CS]. Forces Engaged: 1st and 3rd Divisions, XVI Army Corps [US]; District of Western Louisiana [CS]. Estimated Casualties: 860 total (US 360; CS 500).
In June and July of 1864, there are reports stating that the regiment was encamped on the Atchafalaya River. While there, an epidemic of some unknown disease swept through the unit and almost one quarter of all the officers and men of the regiment died. On August 6, 1864, the 34th participated in a skirmish at Indian Village, Louisiana. On August 25, 1864, the 34th participated in the skirmish at Morgan’s Ferry, Atchafalaya River, Louisiana. On a roster dated September 5, 1864, near Monroe, Louisiana W.G. James is reported to be a 2nd Lieutenant for Company I of the 34th Texas Cavalry. It is also reported that W.G. James was appointed on August 22, 1863 and under the remarks section is noted as “present for duty.” From September 17 through the 25th, 1864, the 34th participated in operations near Morganza, Louisiana. On November 23, 1864, the 34th participated in a skirmish at Morganza, Louisiana.
On a Regimental Return for Company “I” dated April of 1865 at Reatchie, Louisiana, W.G. James is reported to be an absent commissioned officer and currently serving in “Detached Services.” He is reportedly left in charge of convalescents at Reatchie, Louisiana as of March 6, 1865. The 34th Texas Dismounted Calvary was included among the Confederate Trans-Mississippi forces surrendered at Galveston, Texas on June 2, 1865.
On January 30, 1900, W.G. James answers form interrogatories on behalf of Nancy A. Privett, the widow of the late Lee Andrew Privett, who is applying for financial assistance from the State of Texas in the form of a Confederate military pension due her late husband. W.G. James answers these interrogatories because Nancy A. Privett is his younger sister, and her husband Lee Andrew Privett served in Company “I” of the 34th Texas Cavalry with him during the Civil War as a private. The first question asks, “What is your name, age, and place of residence, and were did you reside in April, 1861?” To which W.G. James replies, “My name is William James, age 67 years. My residence is in Hunt County. I lived in Fannin County in April 1861.”
The second question of the interrogatories asks, “Did you ever know Lee A Privett? If you say you know him, state when and where you first met him. Where does he now reside?” W.G. James replies, “I first met him in Fannin County, Texas in 1855. He is not living.” The third and final question asks, “State whether or not he served in the Confederate army. If you answer yes, then state when and where, and in what company he enlisted, and how long he served. State if you know his present financial condition.” W.G. James replies, “He served in the Confederate Army. He enlisted in 1862 in Fannin County, Texas in Company “I” 34th Texas dismounted Calvary. From the time he enlisted to the close of the war. His family is in destitute circumstances.” Signed William G. James, Witness.
The Post War Years of William George James
And Reconstruction 1865-1908
Following the surrender of W.G. James’ regiment in 1865 William returned to Ladonia and resumed civilian life. Fortunately for the residents of Texas, they were among the least affected by the Reconstruction efforts of Washington and maintained a greater degree of autonomy following the Civil War. On September 11, 1875 W.G. James laid his father, Joel L. James, to rest in the Lebanon Cemetery just east of the town of Commerce in Hunt County, Texas. His mother, Angelina Ryan James would continue on and reside with his younger sister Melinda and brother-in-law William Hemsell. By 1880 W.G. James and family had moved from Ladonia to the town of Commerce just south of Fannin County. There, W.G. James went into partnership with a man by the name of B.F. Loving. The two opened a blacksmith and woodworking business, which was the primary livelihood of W.G. James until his advanced age forced him into retirement. W.G. James purchased 160 acres of land just west of Commerce and this is where his family resided until 1899.
In 1900 W.G. James, now under the care of his son Braxton Leftrich James (1864-1923) and daughter Flora Alice James migrated with his son further west to Jones County, Texas. There near the little town of Trent which lie just between the towns of Abilene and Sweetwater, the James family purchased an old rock house which was rumored to have previously served as a weigh station for stagecoaches and other travelers during the prior century. In 1906 W.G. James joined his children and grandchildren in a family portrait, the only known photograph of W.G. James to exist. In this photo his is pictured as a portly but distinguished old gentleman with a white beard set between his grandchildren with son Braxton, daughter-in-law Flora Alice Johnson, and daughter Flora James standing nearby.
On January 17, 1908, at the age of 75 years, W.G. James died. He was buried in the cemetery of the nearby Shiloh Church. A carved stone marks his final resting place. And although Shiloh Church no longer remains, the cemetery there is still maintained as of the date of this writing. W.G. James certainly lived an amazing life, a pioneer at the age of 17 he followed the great migrations west in 1849, as a soldier and an officer her served the Confederacy honorably throughout the entire duration of the Civil War. In his post war years he was an honorable and productive businessman. He died a devoted father and family man. Quite an amazing legacy he left behind.