Note: Cory’s discharge for disability finally came through in June 1862. His war wasn’t over, however. In August 1863 he enlisted in the U.S. Navy as a “landsman,” and was assigned to the gunboat USS Signal.
The USS Signal was a 190-ton steamship acquired by the US Navy in St Louis, Missouri on September 22, 1862. She was a wooden-hulled, stern-wheel steamer equipped as a gunboat, or “tinclad.” After the fall of Vicksburg in July 1863, the Signal served as a dispatch vessel patrolling the Mississippi River to interdict Confederate shipping.
In this last letter of the series, he writes home about life on board ship and the relative beauty of the shores of the Mississippi River around Island No. 10 and Fort Pillow.
On Board the Gun Boat
Signal Sept 12th 1863
We left Cairo Thursday and are on our way to New Orleans. I thought I should not write untill I got there but as it is a good ways yet I will write you a note any way. The ship is in motion, the men are busy cleaning guns filing saws too. I am sitting so close to the engine that I can feel it in my back it is the only place that I can find sit-down. I will not attempt to describe the scenery along the Mississippi, let it suffice that it is the most deserted looking country that ever I have seen. Log cabins will average one in five miles. We came through from Chicago to Cairo on the Ill. Central R.R. & I had a pretty good chance to see that portion of the state that is termed beautifull. Bah. Give me my own clean native land, as someone name forgotten once wishes remarked.
I have had two different Billets since I came aboard. I expect a better one still. First I was Purser’s steward or Paymasters clerk. I am now acting as yeoman, I have charge of all ships stores, the magazine & co. I do not have to stand guard nor do work of any kind excepting keeping accts. We passed Island No.10 & are now approaching Fort Pillow. It is getting pretty much hot here & I will wind up by sending much love to all everyone.
James H. Cory
U.S. Gun Boat Signal
Aftermath: James apparently continued to have issues with his arm, because he was discharged again “in accordance with a medical survey” on December 15, 1863 from the receiving ship “Clara Dotson.”
His discharge may have been fortunate, for the USS Signal was burned and her entire crew captured while supporting the Red River Expedition on May 4, 1864. The crew was held as prisoners of war at Camp Ford, near Tyler, Texas, until they were exchanged.
Sadly, the war ended tragically for the Cory family. George Cory never returned home to Michigan. He was killed in Chicago, Illinois on August 28, 1865. His brother Nathan Cory enlisted in Company G, 3rd NY Infantry as a private in Albany, New York on May 14, 1861. He died on Hilton Head, South Carolina on October 27, 1863.