James William Hawkins
Biography

James William Hawkins
Born 1844 Died 1903

Researched by William (Bill) Lamb and Dennis W. lamb
Feb 5, 2007

James William Hawkins was born on March 13, 1844 near Meeksville bridge in Camden Township, Schuyler (pronounced Skylar) County, Illinois.  He was the second son and fourth child of Alexander Hawkins and Elizabeth (Betsy) Justus Hawkins.  He attended the old Linn school and then worked at farming.

On August 12, 1862 at the age of 18 he enlisted in the Union Army as a private.  He served three years in Capt. Josiah Stack’s Company F of  Col. Thomas J. Kinney’s  119th Regiment of the Illinois Volunteers. The Regiment moved into the field that fall to Columbus, Kentucky where they first saw combat before moving on to Jackson, Mississippi.  Over that first winter much time was spent near Union, Mississippi but by May of 1863 the regiment had moved into Memphis and joined the 4th Brigade of the 5th Division, 16th Corps Commanded by Major General S.A. Hurlburt.  The Brigade was composed of the 58th Illinois, 21st Missouri, 89th Indiana, 119th Illinois Volunteers, and 9th Ohio Battery.  This organization stayed together until the end of the war.  The history of the 119th is documented in the Illinois Adjutant General’s Report for the years 1861 through 1866 on Regimental and Unit Histories.   The Regiment remained in and around Memphis until 1864.

In January of 1864 the 4th Brigade, including the 119th Illinois, moved down the Mississippi to Vicksburg, Mississippi and then marched with Sherman’s army to Meridian, Mississippi.  They engaged in skirmishes along the way but finally “met the enemy” between February 14th to the 20th and took Meridian,  occupying the town.  They returned to Vicksburg before embarking to Simsport on the Atchafalaya River in Louisiana to enter General Nathaniel Banks Red River Campaign.  On March 14th they captured Fort De Russey along with 283 prisoners and 10 guns.  Union forces lost 48 men.  They then marched to Alexandria, Louisiana.  The Brigade advanced on Shreveport and joined the second day of battle at Pleasant Hill on April 9th.  They then provided the rear guard for the retreat back to Alexandria and then back to Simsport.  At Mansura (Smith’s Place) near Marksville south of Alexandria they had routed the enemy in a skirmish on May 16th  but then were attacked at Yellow Bayou by a large force on May 18th.  The Brigade lost 360 men during a desperate fight but a strategic victory resulted.  After 40 days “in the sound of enemy guns” they crossed back over the Atchafalaya and General Banks was replaced.

The Brigade next moved back up the Mississippi to Arkansas in the Expedition to Lake Village.  They landed at Lake Chicot and successfully engaged a Rebel force under the command of Confederate General John S. Marmaduke on June 6th in the “Old River Lake” battle while suffering 180 casualties.  The Brigade again moved up river, disembarked back at Memphis on June 24, transported to Lagrange, and were joined by the 122nd Illinois to avenge the Guntown disaster.  On July 5th they started their march through Mississippi, meeting Confederate Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forest at Tupelo on July 14th.  The combat was face to face and several advances, charges,  and retreats resulted in 1,948 Union deaths before victory was attained on July 15th.  On the return to Memphis they marched through Holly Springs to the Tallahatchie without interference but Forest out flanked them and made a raid on Memphis.

Although under orders to report to Sherman in Georgia the Brigade was diverted to St. Louis to reinforce that area as it was coming under enemy pressure.  While assigned at St. Louis they made a march of 700 miles attempting in vain to intercept the Confederate General Sterling Price.  They reached the Lamine River, moved on to Dunksburg fording rivers in October since all bridges had been burned.  The Brigade reached Big Blue river  to late to assist in the fight at Byram’s Ford, although they could hear the battle as the enemy was routed and Price retreated.  They then returned to St. Louis.

From St. Louis they again moved down the Mississippi and then up the Cumberland to Nashville, arriving on December 1.  On December 15 they attacked and after two days of battle chased a retreating enemy over Granny White Pike.  They marched through Franklin, witnessing the carnage of that recent battle before camping south of town.  The Brigade moved on through Columbia and crossed the Duck River without meeting Confederate General Hood’s forces that had been “effectually dissipated”.  They were then able to enjoy Christmas and New Years.

In early 1865 they transported from Clifton, on the Tennessee River, to Eastport, Mississippi.  They were at that time ordered down the Tennessee, back down the Mississippi and arrived at Algiers across from New Orleans in late February.  They came under the Command of General Canby with orders to move on Mobile, Alabama.  They camped in an old sugar house in the shadow of the monument to the Battle of New Orleans.  From there they embarked the boat Fairchild, met up and transferred to the ocean going steamer Guiding Star and landed at Dauphine Island off Mobile Bay about March 12, 1865.  They moved to the mouth of the Fish River on March 21.  The Brigade moved on Spanish Fort on March 27 enveloping by April 1st and capturing it on April 8th. On April 9th the Brigade was at the front of the assault on  Fort Blakely.  Union casualties were 629 and Confederate casualties were 2,900.  Three members of the 119th earned the Congressional Medal of Honor that day including a member of James’ Company F, John  Whitmore.  This battle was basically the last combined force battle of the war. 

On the very day of the battle at Fort Blakely General Robert E. Lee was surrendering At Appomattox.  However, the “rumor” did not catch up with the Brigade until about April 19th.  In route to Montgomery, Alabama they received the “official word” to much celebration.  The Brigade spent several weeks at Montgomery.  They marched north again reaching a point about 100 miles above Mobile before being transported back to Mobile on the Ship Osborn.  They were mustered out in August 1865.

The Regiment made its way back up the Mississippi and on to Springfield, Illinois where they were paid off and returned to their homes.

James was now 21 years old, had spent a full three years in the Union Army, participated in 13 of the 384 major battles of the Civil War, and had seen numerous hardships.  Although James was never wounded in service he had contracted the measles in March of 1863 and spent time in an Army hospital at Humboldt, Tennessee, again at Buntyn Station near Memphis, and then yet again at a general hospital at Jackson, Tennessee.  The after effects of the measles, particularly near total blindness to his right eye,  would plague him the rest of his life and provide a small pension.

On return to civilian live James took up farming near Doddsville, Schuyler County,  Illinois.

On September 12, 1867 James W. Hawkins and Martha McKinney were married by a Justice of the Peace in Schuyler County, Illinois.  Martha was born in Pennsylvania about 1846 and was the first of four children of Irish parents, John and Jane McKinney.  Sometime in 1869 and certainly by the time of the enumeration of the Census in July of 1870, James and Martha had moved to Kansas near the Missouri border.  They are found in Olathe, Shawnee Township, Johnson County along with one year old Oliver, their first child.  Oliver was born in Illinois.  James had become a broom maker and Martha was keeping house.  Although James was listed as the Head of Household no ownership of real estate is indicated.

James and Martha had two more children, Emmaletta Lettie born in December of 1870 in Kansas and John Alexander Hawkins born in 1875 also in Kansas.  According to a biography published in 1898 James spent five years in Kansas.  The family was back in Illinois when Martha died but the date of her death is not certain.  The 1898 biography states she died  on April 22, 1876.  However, an affidavit by her brother quoting the family bible states that she died in April 1877.  The cause of death is not known but she was only about 30-31 years old.  She was buried at the Pennington Cemetery west of the town of Industry in McDonough County, Illinois where her parents continued to live.  That is an area just north of Camden, Schuyler Co., Illinois.  James filed for a disability (invalid) pension in December 1876 at age 32 as a resident of McDonough County listing his occupation as farmer.  The claim was based on the effects of the measles he had contracted as a soldier. James was also in the Town of Industry in October 1878 when he filed one of many additional Pension affidavits. 

After the death of Martha the children apparently were looked after by relatives at various times.  James did not remarry until 1899.  In the 1880 Census the only James Hawkins matching our subject is found in Morgan County, Illinois living as a boarder and working as a farm laborer.  Two of his children are found with relatives.  Oliver who was 12 in 1880 has not been located in the Census.  Nine year old Emma is found on June 17th  living with her Grandfather Alexander and his fourth wife Elizabeth Crampton Hawkins in Browning Co., Illinois.  Emma is also found in the same census that same month with James’ sister, Mary Ann Hawkins Sorrells in Morgan County, Illinois near her father.  This is the first instance in which a member of this Hawkins family appeared twice in the same Census, moving between enumeration dates.  Six year old John is found with another Aunt, Lettie Jane Hawkins Aulgar and her family in Industry, McDonough County, Illinois.  James had served in the same Regiment and Company with Lettie Jane’s husband John Milton Aulgar.  In December of 1888 James was a resident of the Town of Ashland, Cass County, Illinois.

Unfortunately the Census of 1890 was almost entirely destroyed by fire.  On the other hand there was a special Census of Veterans that year and James shows up in Clarence, Shelby County, Missouri.  It is not clear what attraction Shelby County held for some members of the Hawkins clan but James’ younger brother George was enumerated there in 1880. The attraction was clear for James’ son Oliver who married a Shelby County resident in 1889. According to an affidavit related to his pension filed in 1892 James was back near his birth place in Schuyler County.  By 1896 James had moved to Brooklyn, Schuyler County, Illinois where he carried mail between Brooklyn and Rushville, the Schuyler County seat.  As of the date of that information in 1898 he had logged 12,800 miles carrying the mail.  Also at that time in 1898 daughter, “Miss” Emmaletta, was reported at her father’s home charged with the household duties.  Son Oliver was living in Ashville, Ill with his wife and four children.  Son John had departed for Washington State in 1896 and was apparently the first of this Hawkins line to make eastern Washington his home.

James remarried in 1899 on August 19 in Schuyler County.  This second marriage was to Sarah L. Harris who was born in Indiana and was 50 years old.  Sarah was married first to David Dorrell in 1870 and had two sons and three daughters.  Sarah was also married a third time after James’ death to another Civil War Veteran, William Swiger.  Sarah became Mrs. Swiger in 1909. 

In 1900 James is found in the Pennsylvania, Mason County, Illinois Census living with his new wife Sarah and four of his new stepchildren on a farm he apparently owned.  This Census was enumerated on June 22.  Just a couple of weeks later on July 6 and 7 the Census was enumerated in Stevens County, Washington State.  James is found in that enumeration with all three of his natural Children on a 160 acre farm owned by his youngest son, John.  According to an affidavit filed by  Sarah, James was induced to deed his property to his children, regretted the decision, and went west to convince them to make him an allowance.  He was then going to send for her.  She claimed this trip west took place in 1903 and they had lived together up until then.  Many inaccuracies and contradictions are found among her many sworn statements in attempts to collect James’ pension after the death of her last husband.  They include at least three different dates for their marriage and the claim they were living together when the Census proves he was in Washington State. She was eventually successful in getting James’ “widow’s pension” after Mr. Swiger’s death in 1913.  Sarah died in 1929 still in Illinois.  Among the confusions was her claim that James William went by the name William.  The war department could not find a William Hawkins.  There is some other testimony that James did use his middle name, although only an occasional official document used his middle name or initial and none exclude his first name.  The official correspondence took years to resolve various questions and is a classic example of a frustrating bureaucratic process fed by a widow who could not get her facts in order.

James was at his son’s farm near Gray, Stevens County, Washington when he died on July 9, 1903 at the age of 59.  The cause of death was “heart disease with dropsy”.  His son Oliver prepared his obituary.  It states that James was buried under the auspices of the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union Army Civil War Veterans).  It also states that he was buried in the Springdale (Stevens County, Washington State) Cemetery.  In 2006 inquiries were made to verify the location of the grave.  Cemetery records were lost in a fire and no tombstone exists at the Cemetery although no other cemetery meets the description of a “Springdale Cemetery”.   The actual bill of sale for a doctor’s services, new burial clothing, and casket have been located.  No receipt was found from the cemetery, however.

No picture has been found of James.  The only picture of a sibling is of Lettie Jane Hawkins Aulgar in a Schuyler County Genealogy publication called the Schuylerite.  There are descriptions of James from his Army physical examination and various pension related examinations.  James was described as anywhere from 5 foot nine inches to 5 foot 5 inches tall and 160 to 139 pounds with fair hair, fair complexion and blue eyes.  He seems to have grown shorter and lighter over the years and as his ailments progressed.

James eldest son Oliver, spent the remainder of his life in small eastern Washington towns starting newspapers, finally settling in Hillyard, a railroad town later annexed by Spokane.  He and his wife Lieuvenia Hopper had nine children, only five of which survived to adulthood.  Our grandfather, Harold P., was the second of these offspring.  Oliver died in 1928 in Spokane.

Some of “Miss” Emmaletta’s life have recently been found.  She seems to be living alone at the time of the 1910 Census in Horse Heaven, Benton Co., Washington.  She was a farmer and the head of household without any other household members but claimed to be a bit younger than her actual 40 years.   In 1914 she was married in Cheney, Spokane Co., Washington at age 44 to a widower named Sylvester Russell Mock, a descendent of German immigrants.  Mr. Mock had at least 5 children by the previous marriage and Emma is found living with Mr. Mock and some of the children in Cheney, Washington in the 1920 Census and in Portland, Oregon in the 1930 Census. It does not appear she had any children of her own.  Death records in Oregon state that Emma Lettie Mock died in Portland, Clackamas Co., Oregon  on February 5, 1945.  She was 75 years old.

Youngest son, John Alexander Hawkins apparently never married. After farming 160 acres about one mile south of Gray near Springdale, Stevens Co., Washington he become a real estate agent in Washington and then California.  John died in Kern, California at age 66.

Work continues to identify missing aspects of James’ life and to confirm his final burial site.  It is hoped that a military tombstone can be provided. 

At the date of this writing my e-mail address is dennislamb@msn.com <mailto:dennislamb@msn.com>.  Comments are welcome and any additional information would be gratefully appreciated.




Back to bios

© 1999- 2009 Sara Hemp
Copyright © 1999-2009 to Genealogy Trails' Schuyler County, Illinois host & each Contributor
All rights reserved