The Life of James Harvey Baker Jr.

James Harvey Baker Jr. was born on September 21, 1846, in Morgan County, Indiana. He was the youngest child of James H. Baker Sr., and his wife Nancy Kemper. James grew up on his father's farm along with his sister Susan, and older brothers Isaac, Andrew Jackson, and Jesse. When James was a boy his mother died and his father married Susan Farr, a widow with a son Uriah, who was the same age as James Jr.

When the Civil War erupted in April 1861, the older Baker boys were quick to enlist. Jesse joined Co. H, 79th Indiana Volunteer Infantry, while Andrew and Isaac enlisted in Co. H, 33rd Indiana Volunteer Infantry. James was only 14 at the time and must have wanted to join his brothers very badly. In April 1862, when only 15 years old, he lied about his age, saying he was 18, and enlisted in Co. H, of the 33rd Indiana, joining his brothers Andrew and Isaac who were in the same company. James' step-brother, Uriah Farr, also enlisted in 1862. He would serve three years with the 70th Indiana Volunteer Infantry.

At the time James joined the 33rd Indiana, the regiment was stationed in the Cumberland Gap area of Tennessee and Kentucky. It was part of a brigade known as "Coburn's Brigade" since the commander was Colonel John Coburn, who had been the first commander of the 33rd Indiana. Coburn's Brigade consisted of the 85th Indiana, 33rd Indiana, 22nd Wisconsin, and 19th Michigan Infantry regiments. The brigade remained at Cumberland Gap until the summer of 1862 when the Union forces there retreated back into Kentucky. From June 1862 until March 1863, the 33rd Indiana was stationed at various points in Kentucky and Tennessee. Then on March 4, 1863, the brigade was surprised by Confederate forces led by Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn. Nearly the entire brigade was captured, including Pvt. James Baker. The prisoners were sent to Richmond, Virginia, for several weeks before being paroled at City Point, VA, to be returned to Indianapolis for exchange. By May 1863, Pvt. Baker was back with his regiment.

For the next year James Baker and the 33rd Indiana were stationed at various points in Tennessee performing guard duty at various cities and along the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad. In April 1864, Coburn's Brigade was assigned to the 20th Army Corps which was going to be part of General Sherman's massive army that was moving into Georgia. For the next 100 days, Pvt. James Baker would see almost constant fighting in the series of bloody battles that would be known as the Atlanta Campaign. James' service records show that he was present for duty the entire time, and saw action at Rocky Face Ridge, New Hope Church, Kennesaw Mountain, and Peach Tree Creek.

After Atlanta was taken, Sherman's Army began their famous "March to the Sea", and again James was there. He would continue with his regiment to Savannah and into the Carolinas. He participated in the last major battle of the Civil War at Bentonville, NC, on March 19-21, 1865. On April 12, 1865, while his regiment was stationed at Raleigh, NC, Pvt. James Baker was mustered out of service, having completed his three year enlistment. During his three years of arduous service, this boy who had enlisted at only 15 years of age, had seen much hardship, starvation, death, the unspeakable carnage of battle, and been a prisoner of war. His records show that with the exception of his time in captivity, he was present for duty for his entire enlistment. As he made his way back home to Morgan County, Indiana, he was still only 18 years old.

On May 7, 1868, James married Sarah Elston in Toto, Starke County, Indiana. By 1870 they had a daughter, Cora Belle. James was working in a saw mill. Between 1870 and 1883 the James worked as a farmer in several different counties in Indiana. They also added four more children to their family; William L., Charles F., Rosalie, and Oscar. In 1883, James followed thousands of his fellow Civil War veterans and moved west, to Burt County, Nebraska. Thanks to the Nebraska Homestead Act, James' Civil War service had allowed him to obtain a parcel of land in Nebraska at little or no cost. After settling in Burt County, a sixth child, Omer, was born to James and Sarah in 1885. (Family Photo)

In 1893 James moved his family to Stanton. In 1897 he joined Kendall Post #190, Grand Army of the Republic, located in Stanton. James' wife Sarah died on November 3, 1903. She was 64 years old. By 1910 several of James' children had married and were moving to South Dakota to work in the gold and lead mines. James moved with them and soon after applied for residence and was admitted into the South Dakota State Soldiers Home in Hot Springs. He applied for a veteran's pension several times between 1898 and 1912. He eventually was awarded the pension and at the time of his death he was receiving $72.00 per month. A tidy sum in those days. James lived out the rest of his days at the Soldier's Home and died there of heart failure on Dec. 4, 1928. He was 82 years old. His remains were returned to Stanton to be buried next to his beloved wife Sarah.

Text provided by Vince Barker

New Headstone to be Dedicated During Celebration of Stanton, NE, 125 Year Anniversary June 2007

Photo Courtesy of Vince Barker

James Harvey Baker

Photo courtesy Carolyn Wells and Rick Bloom

Sarah Elston Baker, wife of James

Photo courtesy Carolyn Wells and Rick Bloom

James and Sarah were married 7 May 1868, in Toto, Starke County, Indiana.

Family of James and Sarah Baker

Front, L-R: Cora Belle Baker Moorhead, Sarah Elston Baker,
 James H. Baker, Rosalie Baker Moorhead
Rear, L-R: William Baker, Oscar Baker, Charles Baker, Omar Baker

Photo courtesy Carolyn Wells and Rick Bloom