What happened to James?

James R Van Meter Co. A 4th OVC

James R Van Meter Co. A 4th OVC

Here’s the conclusion of yesterday’s post Checking a Goal Off the To-Do List.

As one year merged into the next, James was aware of the country’s changing political climate. Abolition, electing a new president, threats of southern secession. James had finally found peace and contentment in life on his uncle’s farm but if that life was challenged by war he would fight if and when needed.


The opportunity to fight came much sooner than anyone imagined. April 1861 brought the firing on Ft. Sumter, state after southern state seceded and then the president’s call came for recruits.


In the little village of Rockport, in Allen County Ohio, young men were stirred to fight for the Union. They would preserve this country and the freedoms their forefathers had fought for, they would answer President Lincoln’s call for volunteers. As recruiters came to the tiny town looking for men to join the 4th OVC, 18 year old James Vanmeter(1) and his 21 year old brother George eagerly enlisted. Mustering in Sept. 6, 1861, both in Company F, the boys joined their regiment two months later on November 12 at Camp Dennison.


With the rest of their fellow cavalrymen the Vanmeters spent their initial days drilling, learning commands, caring for their horses and building stables. A soldier’s life was much different than a farmer’s and the regimented tasks and training were learning experiences for the young men.


Orders soon came for the 4th to move to the battlefield and on December 6, 1861 the 4th OVC headed to the front. First it was to Louisville then on to Bowling Green to face the Confederate line there. The Vanmeter brothers had to be anxious! Finally they would realize their goal of fighting for their country.


George moved with the rest of the cavalry but James stayed behind. As with many men who served James was struck down by illness. He spent January through August of 1862 in and out of field hospitals with a diagnosis of lung fever, Febris Typhoides or typhoid fever. James does seem to accompany the regiment in May and June of 1862 while they were in Huntsville, Alabama but is reported sick at Breon Creek.


Throughout the war James writes home to his mother and sends her part if not most of his pay when drawn. His Uncle Jim visits him in the military hospital on a couple of occasions. James’ close ties with his family throughout the war is apparent.


James continues his fight with lung infections during most of the war. He’s present with his company from Sept. 1862 to April 1863 so he’s involved in the great battle at Stones River. Yet he’s sick May and June of 1863, present July and August and sick yet again September and October missing the deadly battle at Chickamauga. Back with the troops in November and through the new year James sees wicked fire at Winchester and Chattanooga to name a few. Even with the illness and harrowing battles James reenlists with the 4th OVC on January 4, 1864.


His reenlistment papers state he is 21 years and ¾ months old, a 5′ 10” blue eyed, fair complexioned farmer who is very willing to serve his country for another three years.


James along with the rest of the reenlisted veterans received a one month furlough February 5 to March 5, 1864 then he was to report back to Camp Dennison. On furlough and traveling with Lt. Thomas McClure to his home in Rockport Ohio, James contracts pneumonia.


He arrives in Rockport weak and very ill. The strain of war and sickness the past two and a half years are evident in the young man. Even with home visits from the family doctor James’ lungs cannot overcome one more infection. James Vanmeter passes from this life to the next February 18, 1864.


The short epitaph on his tombstone says it all.


Soldier rest thy warfare is ore


James Vanmeter died in service to his country. He may not have succumbed to a battle injury but still gave his life to preserve the union for a future he would never take part in. To my first cousin four times removed – I remember and honor the memory of James R. Van Meter – Civil War soldier and hero.








(1) James R Van Meter pension file, no. 51554, The National Archives Dependent’s Original, can 30 bundle 53, Washington National Archives, digital copy.

I found in affidavits in the pension file James’ father’s generation spelled their name Van Meter, where James and succeeding generations spelled it Vanmeter.


James R Van Meter, pension file, no. 51554, NARA can 30 bundle 53


Nancy Pape-Findley, The Invincibles The Story of the Fourth Ohio Veteran Volunteer Cavalry, 1861-1865, (Tecumseh, Michigan: Blood Road Publishing, 2002)

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4 thoughts on “What happened to James?

  1. What a sad and also noble story! James was courageous to keep trying to join the battles even though he was often attacked by illness and finally overcome. You have so much sympathy/empathy for the Civil War soldiers that you write about, that your posts are inspiring to read.

    I’ve heard somewhere that in the Civil War, as many men were killed by illness as by fighting battles. Life is so contingent, and yet so many lives are expended in war. History is hard.

    • Mariann – In my early research of Civil War veterans those I studied survived the war. It’s only recently my research has turned up these sad endings. It certainly puts war of any kind into perspective. Thank you for being such a consistent reader.

  2. What a beautiful and sad story. Your post gave honor and a voice to James’s military service and his transition from a farmer to a solider. He gave his life for his country and there is no greater honor than that. Thank you for sharing his story.

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