George James enlisted 11 May 1861 from Exeter at age 23 as a Wagoner in Company D, 3rdInfantry. He was promoted to Quartermaster-Sergeant 19 May 1864. Previous to this, he re-enlisted, and went home with the others on furlough.
He continued as Quartermaster-Sergeant till 24 Jan 1865, when he was commissioned as 2d Lieutenant, Company I. Although the promotion wasn’t effective of 1 March, it bore the Commission date of 24 Jan. He was mustered for the unexpired term of the regiment, and served with Co. I until the end of the war. During a part of June and July he was Acting Quartermaster at Goldsborough, N. C. He received a 1st lieutenant’s commission 15 May 1865 at the very end of the war, but was never mustered into the new grade.
Prior to receiving his commission, while the regiment was at Botany Bay Island, he remained at Hilton Head, in charge of the horses. Mustered Out Company D, 3rd Infantry Regiment New Hampshire on 20 Jul 1865 at Goldsboro, NC.
He was born at Hampton, N. H., 1836, married Elisa (Chesley Batchelder). Census records show in 1880 he was a teamster living in Lynn, MA, and he was in Newmarket in 1890 when he filed for a pension.
In 1895 he entered Tilton Soldiers home and died there at age 60, on 7 Sep 1897. His wife filed for a widow’s pension in 1903, and was still living in Newmarket by 1906. They had a son George F. James.
A Wagoner was a teamster who drove the wagons that either carried supplies (food, equipment) or the regimental baggage. Like the signal corps or hospital nurse, you get detached from your regular service to become a wagoner.
What does the job require?
“The answer likely lies in your imagination. You have charge of at least two of the most incredibly stupid beasts ever created.
You don’t just ride a wagon, you have to take care of the horses. You have to feed them and curry them and try to not work them overmuch. And you have to take care of the tack and the wagon and you don’t get all that much time to grab a beer with the guys. You have to know when the horses need a break; when you’re pushing them too hard; when they’re not working together; when the axles need greasing and about how far you can get without greasing them.
“Being a teamster or wagoner was not a cushy job. He was not ordinarily expected to man the ramparts or fix bayonets, but one of the primary objectives of an opposing force was to cut the line and capture the wagons. It did take a special skill-set to be a wagoner. It was not an assignment for the slacker.”
General Sherman writes in his memoirs:
“An ordinary army-wagon drawn by six mules may be counted on to carry three thousand pounds net, equal to the food of a full regiment for one day.”
The Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman , Vol. II., Part 4; by William T. Sherman
(photo: Ambulance train line up, during Battle of Gettysburg)