This letter was written by James Monroe Putnam (1837-1879), the son of Ira Horace Putnam (1797-1847) and Polly Alice Gavit (1798-1880) of Cass county, Michigan. In 1857, James married Polly Alicia Markham (1838-1880), the sister of Henry Lane Markham, and by 1860 had relocated to Bourbon county, Kansas Territory.
James wrote this letter to his cousin, Sarah Annette Markham (b. 1840), while serving in Co. E, 10th Kansas Volunteer Infantry. At the time, he was among the non-veterans of the regiment who were utilized as guards at the Gratiot Street Military Prison.
St. Louis, Missouri
May 30th 1864
I received your letter of the first inst. in due season but when it came to hand it found me very sick in the hospital. I could hardly raise my head from the pillow so you must excuse me for the delay in answering it. I was taken to the hospital five weeks ago yesterday and returned to my company day before yesterday evening. So you see I was in the hospital five weeks lacking about twelve hours, the first time I was ever sick in the hospital since I have been in the army. I was first taken down with the pneumonia. As soon as the the fever was broke & before I had gained any strength, the erysipelas set in my head and face swelled up so that the boys out of my own company would not recognize me when they would come in to see me. My eyes swelled shut so that I was deprived of seeing for several days. But through the blessings of a kind Providence, I have got up again. I never had a spell of sickness leave me in such a fit before. I have had the neuralgia in my head ever since. I began to recover after eating all the green trash I can get hold of. Then I have to take salts every third day to keep my bowels open. I never was in such a fix in my life.
We are quartered between 7th and 8th opposite Gratiot Street Prison which establishment we are guarding. We have only got about 300 men left since the veterans went home on furlough. There is 8 or 10 old reble Colonels and Majors and any amount of reb prisoners—I don’t know how many. The M. V. Sanitary Fair is creating more interest than anything else at the present time. That and the Laclede Race Tracks has been keeping the people in a perfect hubbub for the last 3 or 4 weeks, but now the races is over & M. V. S. F. attracts all attention. Speaking of the Laclede courses, it was surprising to me to hear the boys tell about the Ladies attending them by the thousands. The richest ladies of the city would go out there with their little baskets full of greenbacks and just pile up their hundreds and their thousands on their favorite [and] when the horses would be coming in on the home street, they would clap their hands, wave their handkerchief, and seem to be as deeply interested as the biggest jockey on the grounds. I hardly know how to take it but it looks strange to me. The idea of ladies who style themselves the first class of society attending jockey clubs and staking their money—and I was going to say credit—on a horse race! Surely we are living in fast times when we take into consideration the war with everything else, don’t you think so?
Our old Colonel has finally succeeded in getting himself under arrest. Our Lieutenant-Colonel has command of us now. He is a gentleman in every sense of the word. Well, I guess I will have to draw my scribbling to a close for the present. Give my respects to all enquiring friends. From your cousin, — James M. Putnam
Miss S. A. Markham
P. S. Direct to St. Louis, Mo. Please write soon. — J. M. P.