My second “Pot of Gold!!

Civil War, Genealogy Research

James R Van Meter letter to mother

On this Civil War Saturday I’m transcribing the second letter from James R Van Meter to his mother Rachel Millikin. James is a collateral ancestor of mine. He served in Co. F of the 4th Ohio Cavalry. There were two letters written in his own handwriting in his pension file. He died in 1864 and his mother tried to receive a pension on his military service citing the fact that he supported her. His first letter is here. Here’s his second letter:

Louisville Kentucky Oct the 2ond, 1862


Dear Mother

I take my pen in hand to inform that my health is ?? getting better and I hope those few lines may find you all well. I have left the hospital and I am with my old(?) Regiment there is only a part of it There yet the rest of it is gone back to Bowling Green to guard the train to Louisville but we are expecting them here every day. I left the hospital last Sunday and my health has improved very fast since I am going to try the service again.


And if I can’t stand it I will come home. I was in the 14 Ohio Last Monday and saw all of the boys but John he was left back at Nashville sick The rest of the boys was well and Hardy and look as fat as Tet pigs. I received my money the 22nd of last month and I sent $10 home. I expressed to uncle Jim and I told him to let you have all of it you wanted of it.


I am a going to see if Lieut Boss won’t let me have a furlow home.
Well I guess I will bring my letter to a close.
So no more at present but remains your son. You must excuse me for not writing to you sooner. I have wrote eight letters and haint had an answer.
Direct your letter to Louisville Ky To the 4 OVC to company F in care of Leiw(?) Boss Commander

J.R. Vanmeter
R. H. Millikin

I did not correct James’ spelling or random punctuation. It’s very interesting to read the level of this 19 year old’s education.

I love his reference to “the boys” of 14 Ohio. James had three cousins serving in Co. K 14th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Two men named John Van Meter and an Isaac Van Meter. One of the two Johns he speaks of would be my gg uncle. I will do some research to see if my gg uncle is the one sick back in Nashville. Uncle Jim, who James sent the money to is my 3x g grandfather. James was living with my 3x g grandparents when the 1860 census was taken. So I assume he was close to Uncle Jim and apparently trusted him.

This reference to Uncle Jim and the one in James’ other letter are all I have at this time to give me an idea of what kind of man my 3x g grandfather was. I’m really happy with what I’ve found so far.

Another interesting tid-bit is that James signs his last name Vanmeter – all one word. Various family’s tomb stones spell it with capitals and run it together. So I can’t tell if it’s one word or two. Most historical documents spell Van Meter with two words. I wonder if this time frame is when the family’s name morphs into one word. Interesting!

One last thought. In a blog post dated January 23, 2012 – 13 months ago today!! I listed researching James Van Meter as a goal for the year. I wasn’t sure what I’d find. He lived barely 21 years, didn’t marry or have children. I wasn’t sure I’d find much at all about him. Boy was I wrong! A little research has brought me a lot of info! (But that’s another blog post!!) Stay tuned!

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2 thoughts on “My second “Pot of Gold!!

  1. My favorite phrase: “And if I can’t stand it I will come home.” This is a very realistic and sensible letter. It’s really too bad that James didn’t make it all the way through the war. He sounds like he is no daredevil and will get a “furlow” if he can. BTW, what is a “Tet pig”? I wonder.

    • Hi Mariann! You know I tend to think if James had lived through the war he would have made someone a very loving husband and good father. He seemed to be gentle in spirit and did take care of his mother well.
      What little I could find on “Tet pig” was that it was the term used for a roasted pig after it was cooked. An expression lost to the ages I would have to say.
      Thanks for your comment!

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