John G. Corman and his family originated from Canada; however, by 1860 John G., his wife Maria and their children, Isaac, Edward, John, Alice and Mary had settled in Allen County, Kansas. The Cormans established a farm near Humboldt, which the boys helped their father work before the war. John Jr., however, had a disability which limited the work he could do and restricted his enrollment in the Army.
James B. Young was member of a large family back in Ray, Morgan County, Indiana. Young had four brothers and four sisters, who all lived on their family farm helping their parents, Scott and Mary, harvest the land. James received a common, school education and also attended Depew University at Greencastle, Indiana. In 1857, he came to Humboldt, which was just being
The 9th Kansas Cavalry was organized at Fort Leavenworth through the consolidation of independent battalions, squadrons and detachments on March 27th, 1862. Isaac and Edward Corman and John B. Young joined the 9th Kansas Cavalry, and served in Company G. The regiment’s location on the western frontier offered a unique military career that was distinctive to the region. In July 1862, the Cormans and Yong received orders to Fort Lyon, Colorado to serve on escort duty and patrol Indian Territory. The Corman brothers wrote home describing their activities. In one letter Edward wrote, “Isaac going out on escort duty to Pueblo [Colorado Territory] about a hundred and thirty miles west on the Arkansas River & within a day’s march of Pikes Peak. A detail of ten commanded by Lieut. [Henry B.] Hall, went to escort some Mexican Prisoners who were arrested here for violating the military Law they were selling whiskey to the Indians.”
Rowdiness and excessive alcohol consumption led to many problems in the Army. As a result, a strong temperance movement grew to rid all military regiments of alcohol. “We play Cards, get drunk and play smash generally so we dare not go home you would be A shamed of us,” wrote Edward Corman to his sister. Corman was likely joking with his sister about these activities, as they were seen as stereotypical soldier behavior, yet social unacceptable. The frequency of alcohol related accidents was commonly documented in letters home. James Young noted in a letter to Alice, that the hospital was one of the last places men wanted to be, “it certainly is a place to be feared and avoided… there are about 2000 patients there now in every manner & stage of disease and death. I for one shall try to Keep away from there as a Patient.”
The 9th Kansas Cavalry returned to the Kansas in April 1863. They then were stationed at Harrisonville, Missouri scouting across Cass and Bates Counties. In April 1864, the regiment marched south and served in southern Arkansas until July 1865 when they were mustered out of the service. The Cormans and Young served in the Army for three year and although they were not engaged in heavy combat with Confederate soldiers, they did encounter substantial guerrilla warfare.
John B. Young and Isaac Corman wrote frequently to Alice about their lives in the military and their efforts to rid Missouri and Kansas of Bushwhackers. The roots of guerrilla warfare in the Ozarks can be traced to the 1850s. The passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 opened the territory of Kansas to settlement, and a popular vote on allowing slavery in the territory. Many Missouri residents believed they could influence the territorial elections in Kansas by crossing the border and casting pro-slavery votes. Hatred grew along the Missouri/Kansas line as Free-Staters arrived from the North to battle the Missourians. Both sides crossed the border, often committing depredations on the civilian population, in the bloody struggle over the entry of Kansas into the Union. Kansas ultimately became a free state, and the “Bleeding Kansas” era laid the foundation for an even more brutal and vicious guerrilla war in the 1860s.
The soldiers, while trying to stop guerrilla warfare, were not above using civilian resources for their own benefit. On a scout in Pleasant Hill, Missouri looking for William Quantrill the men ran out of rations so they stopped at an old man’s house and fed themselves and their horses.
he said he dident want to hurt anybody but was a friend to bushwhackers and soldiers to, so he had just killed his hogs the day before & had his spare ribs cut out very nice & was salting down his meat but we relieved of the trouble of salting The ribs the made fine saus in the camp fire. I took a nice ham for my share & two nice large fast chicken, & all the honey that was palatable to my tast both in the comb & canded, & then cleaned out the apple hole clean. The old woman, that we must leave her some to eat on but I guess she had to dig deep in the bottom of the pit if she found any for we worked on the apple hole like a lot of ants on an ant hill till they was all gone.
Edward Corman Letter to Corman Family, Feb 12, 1864
James B. Young wrote in one of his last letters to Alice about the impending Union victory of the Civil War and the failure of General Sterling Price’s Expedition to Missouri stating,
troops may have been sent here to catch Old Price as he returns from mo. – We have just learned that our forces have captured old Price and a large number of his demoralized army at Dardinell Ark. but it lacks confirmation yet, and I fear it is to good to be all true, though our forces are out watching for him. there was a large force went up in that region about 10 days ago, some 10 or 15000 men from here and Little Rock. Col. [Charles S.] Clark went along with a portion of the 9th Kas. & we also hear that he has “won renown” but we wait for confirmation, but I think there is no hopes for Old Price any more this winter.
James B Young letter to Alice Corman, Nov. 13, 1864
Price had returned to the Trans-Mississippi in hopes of regaining control of Missouri for the Confederacy. Authorization for the raid came on August 4, 1864. Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith’s orders made it clear St. Louis was the ultimate goal, but Price was also reminded about objectives more easily achieved. Above all else the Confederacy needed men. Even if he had to retreat from Missouri, the expedition would be successful if a sizable number of recruits were brought into the army. In many ways the outcome of the war was decided in the fall of 1864. Not only did the Confederates fail to capture Missouri, for all practical purposes, they lost the war. Sherman’s army captured Atlanta in early September. This victory strengthened Union morale, and combined with more victories later that fall in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, assured Lincoln’s reelection, and with it, Union victory.
Isaac, Edward, and James all survived the war and returned to Allen, Kansas once they were mustered out of service. This collection of letters is the culmination of the marriage of James B. Young and Alice Corman. The couple married in early 1865 and lived on a farm with their two sons, John and Charles, in Humboldt, Kansas for the rest of their lives. James passed away on February 18, 1918 at the age of 84. Alice was 85 years old when she died in 1925 and was buried next to her husband in the Highland Cemetery in Wichita, Kansas.
The Coleman-Young Family Papers display a rare relationship that has rarely been documented. In this collection there are three individuals primarily writing to one person, sharing their different encounters of war, even though all the men were enlisted in the same regiment. The correspondents reveal how Alice’s brothers experienced the war, compared to her future husband James B. Young.
Contributed by a Private Collector
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