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    James M. Givens, 4th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry, Archive of Letters. A group of approximately 27 war-dated letters written by Captain James Givens, dating from October 30, 1861 to May 15, 1864. The majority of the letters are written to his sister Lavinia A. Givens. There are a few pre- and post-war letters from Givens as well as some other miscellaneous letters. Givens enlisted as a 1st lieutenant on March 22, 1862, but was promoted to captain the following day. He was then commissioned into Company K of the 4th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry five months later, where he served for the remainder of the war. The regiment was raised by Lieutenant William Nelson in early 1861, but was commanded by Colonel Speed Smith Fry. The regiment's first engagement was at the Battle of Mill Springs. They also saw action at the Siege of Corinth, Perryville, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, Missionary Ridge, and the Second Battle of Franklin. In February 1864, the regiment was reorganized to be the 4th Kentucky Mounted Infantry. Givens was discharged from service on May 24, 1864. Letters are of various sizes, and a few have retained their original transmittal covers.

    While still in camp in Kentucky at Camp Fry, Givens wrote of the duplicity of some of the civilians he encountered in Kentucky, which had been a neutral state. He also felt lucky that, ironically, being in the army meant that he was not bombarded with news about the war. His October 30, 1861 letter reads, in part: "There are a good many secesh over here I am told, but they all profess to be very good Union men. Our company occupies the second position now in the regiment; on the extreme left. We are armed with Enfield Rifles...You will pardon me, but should I rather talk of the disastrous and most cruel war and tell you the horrible punishment an outraged Deity ought send down upon the wicked and ambitious instigators of it. I suppose you have heard me talk enough of that already. As to what is going on outside of our camp no doubt you are better [illegible] than I for I confess I have not seen a newspaper for some time and must confess also that I rejoice thereby from the necessity of being tortured with the reading of conflicting telegrams..."

    Givens' letter dated January 7, 1862, written while he was at Camp Thomas, Kentucky, provides an interesting view on the soldier's opinion on the abolition of slavery. He writes, in part: "I never was in better health and what I can see and hear, from the northern view of our army are in the best spirits. For I can see anything like a solution in any they say or do, but a spirit of disaster to this Union and maintenance of the cause which is quite satisfactory to the heart of everyone who truly knows the Constitution as it was framed by our fathers. Much has been said about the abolitionism of the north but if we are to trust what our ears hear and what our eyes see, we must be convinced that the people of the north are [illegible] to principle, and determined to assail all attacks upon this constitution and laws whether it comes from the secessionists of the south or the abolitionists of the north. It may be possible that I misunderstood the spirit of the north our people who have taken up arms in this war..."

    Givens was soon thrown into battle, and wrote in his January 21, 1862 letter about the experience of leading his troops at the Battle of Logan's Crossroads. In part: "The next morning a little after daylight I was awakened by the cry of 'get your guns men, get your guns'. I at first thought it was some foolish alarm waking the boys...I had just gotten out of my tent when Major Hunt directed me to take command of company F all of which officers were absent or sick. The company was on the road at double quick when we overtook it. I assumed command, the regiment went up the road at double quick through mud...we came to an open field on our right, filed up through it, a [illegible] upon us from the opposite side of the field from an old double story log house, the woods. When bullets fell like hail around us we were over the fence in the undergrowth in an instant...our men fought like old veterans. They stood in their places and could not be made to move or an inch from it...Men fell wounded and dead around me. The splinters from the bushes and trees stick on every side. We saw the flash and heard the boom of artillery firing by the enemy, but the balls would pass over our head and it played havoc with the tree tops above...I must say here that though exposed to the severest fire, I felt not one [illegible] of personal fear or apprehension during the whole contest; but found myself lost in all sense of self, exhilarated by the excitement around me, frequently on the trunk of a fallen tree or on a stump waving my sword cheering on my men...the boys told me afterwards that they expected me to fall every minute..."

    By the summer of 1862, Givens and his regiment had moved into Tennessee. In a letter dated August 11, 1862, Givens muses on the potential conscription of soldiers and on upcoming elections, in part: "I do most sincerely hope that the rebels may not again visit Ky. Whether they will or not I cannot say, as I have my apprehensions. I have not yet heard much about the election. I would like to know how it passed off in Harrison, if any of the voters are afraid to vote. Also how both Union and secesh feel and talk about the conscription I think the only hope for the country is to get the new lines in the field with all dispatch and let us close up this most [illegible] war. I am more determined against secession and separation every day, as I have said to you frequently the security of this nation must be preserved, at whatever cost of blood and [illegible]. If blood must be spilled in Gods name, let the work be speedily accomplished. I have no faith in rebellion or traitors. And rebellion must be put down even if every state should bite the dust. Let whatever is necessary to be done be done..."

    Givens' letter from October 26, 1862, written from Rolling Fork River near Lebanon, Kentucky, reveals his opinions on his commanders' actions at the Battle of Perryville, specifically those of General Don Carlos Buell. His letter reads in part: "There was a good deal said against Gen. Buell before we left Tenn, for letting Bragg come into Ky. Now again there is a good deal of complaint against him for letting Bragg get out of Ky. I, myself, have been rather conspicuous as a defender of him. At the same time I am unable to understand why we did not bring on a general engagement at Perryville. I understand it would have been close. We, Thomas' old division, lay inactive within five miles of the battle grounds, in hearing of it, all anxious to take part. But we lay awaiting orders. That evening we moved up and took position about sunset, near the battleground where we could see the flash of our cannon and the exploding shells and lay that night expectantly to go into the engagement the next morning my daylight. We lay the next morning in the mounting expectation of the fight opening, but after dinner were informed that our advance was 8 miles ahead, and that the enemy had fled. We of course were sadly out of sorts."

    In his January 5, 1863, Givens writes about a review held, and boasts about his regiment being specifically called out by General Sheridan. In part: "Yesterday we had a review by Gen Granger in comdg post. The 4th Ky was highly complimented, Gen Sheridan said in the presence of the officers from the other regiments that we far excelled not only our own brigade but the division and community in marching, drill maneuvering, and appearance that certainly is no small compliment...our old division is here, and it is a glorious thing to meet together after a separation of months. Our division is the largest, and in the opinion of Gen Thomas and Buell the best in the army of the Cumberland and in that when we all get together, we feel all right."

    While Givens was incredibly proud of the 4th Kentucky, it seems that his tolerance for some of his fellow officers and superiors had run thin by May of 1863. After a dispute with his commanding officer, Givens handed in his resignation to Colonel C. Goddard, dated May 15, 1863, and later provided a statement as to why he felt it necessary to leave the company. His resignation letter reads: "Col, I have the honor to tender through you to the Genl Comdg my resignation as Capt Co K, 4th Ky Inft. I do this from no disposition to abandon the service of my country at this time, when the services of all are so emperatively demanded, but for the reason that after mature consideration, the conviction is force upon me, that I cannot longer, without the sacrifice of that high sense of honor which should [illegible] every soldier, fighting to defend the honor of his nations flag, and the principles of truth and justice, serve under John T. Croxton Col Comdg 4th Ky Inft..." His later statement, dated May 18, 1863, extrapolates on the slight he felt, in part: "On the morning of the 14th day of May 1863 while I was in the proper discharge of my duty as commanding officer of Co K, 4th Ky Inft, Lt Col PB Hunt of the 4th Ky Inft, delivered an order to me from John T Croxton Col Comdg 4th Ky Inft, both in substance and language greatly insulting. The manner of Lt Col Hunt was most violent and insulting, so that it was heard and remarked upon by a great number of the officers & soldiers of the 4th Ky Inft, and I doubt not my the whole of my command. John T Croxton Col Comdg was a witness to this language and hearing of it said Lt Col Hunt. I demanded of Col John T Croxton if the language used by Lt Col Hunt to me was by his authority. He replied very abruptly that he did not remember the language, but that the substance was. Therefore I have received at the hands of John T Croxton Col Comdg 4th Ky Inft a great and unprovoked insult, violation of the rules and station of the U.S. Army and common country..."

    However, it appears that a compromise may have been reached, as records show that Givens remained with the 4th Kentucky for the remainder of his service. Two months later, he was with his regiment, camped just outside of Winchester. In a July 19, 1863 letter, he wrote, in part: "Where Bragg is is more than I know. The 6th Ky Cavalry returned from New Market Ala yesterday, they found nobody there. We have moved our camp to within 1 ½ miles of Winchester, and we camped out in an open field with not a patch of shade. Of course it is very warm about the middle of the day, and I suffer particularly from the heat. The nights however are very cool and we sleep under two blankets. There is a rumor here that 2 corps of our army are going to Va. It is a mere camp rumor..."

    Givens' good luck ran out by the fall of 1863, as he was wounded near Chattanooga. He wrote home in an October 2, 1863 letter to assure his family that his injury was not too severe: "I am here well cared for, and in no danger of life or limb. You may look for me home in about two weeks, the sad news of the death of Mr. Jameson came in your letter last night. Give yourself no trouble on my account. I can write no more..."

    Unfortunately for Givens, he ran into troubles while trying to travel with his injury. He describes in his April 28, 1864 letter about the bureaucratic road blocks that he ran into: "I am again located in Columbus and will have to remain here until I can get another leave of absence. Col. Richardson is still in command of Camp Chase. He did not know that I had been ordered to return here and had not heard of my letter. He said some of his staff must have made the order and received the letter. However no certificate of disability is sufficient which does not state inability to travel. He thinks the whole matter an absurdity, but says that such are the orders to him and he has no discretion in the matter. He says he has tried to have an exception made in case of paroled persons of war, and thinks they might all be allowed to remain at home, but he could do nothing..."

    In one of his last letters, Givens writes again from Columbus about his hopes for General Grant. Dated May 13, 1864, in part: "The fighting in Va is terrible. We seem to have the better so far. I hope Grant may be equal to the task before him." He was discharged nine days after this letter was written. It appears that Givens returned home to Kentucky, living another twenty odd years before passing away in 1886. This wonderful archive shows the leadership and trials of a captain in the Union Army, and would be an excellent choice for any historical or military collector.

    Condition: Usual mail folds and wear, with some toning at the edges. Some of the letters have separations at folds where paper was weakened. Varying degrees of soiling. Handwriting is at times difficult to read.


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    May, 2019
    14th Tuesday
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