James Reeves was born in 1835 in England.
James’ family left England and immigrated to America in 1836 and settled in Michigan by 1860 when he was a sawyer living with and/or working for Ebenezer Lamoreux in Manluis, Allegan County.
He stood 5’7’’ with blue eyes, brown hair and a light complexion and was 26 years old and was still living in Allegan County when he enlisted in Company I on May 7, 1861. In fact it was later reported that James lived in the area of Fennville and walked to Grand Rapids in order to enlist.
James was reportedly wounded at the end of June, 1862, near the close of the Seven Days’ Battle and was sent to Harrison’s Landing on the James River. He was reported as deserter on July 1 or 12, 1862, at Malvern Hill or Harrison’s Landing (respectively), Virginia, in fact was admitted to Chesapeake hospital at Fortress Monroe, Virginia on July 1 with a gunshot wound. He was transferred on July 4 to Annapolis, Maryland and was still a patient in Annapolis by early August.
Although he supposedly returned to duty on August 4, in fact he never rejoined his company and was discharged for physical disability on August 7, 1862, at Washington, DC. According to a postwar source, on the day he was to be discharged, August 7, while waiting at the mustering office in Washington, DC, he was “sunstruck” and taken to a doctor. “Consequently he was not at the mustering office when his name was called, and it is supposed the clerk of the mustering office reported him as a deserter.” James subsequently “found himself in a bewildered state of mind in Detroit.”
James returned to Allegan County, and, after recovering from his sunstroke, went to New York City where he reentered the service in the United States Navy for one year. He was a Second class fireman and served aboard the ships Albatross, North Carolina, Seminole and Savannah and was in the battle of Mobile Bay of August 5, 1864. According to one story told many years after the war, “When he enlisted in the navy,” wrote the Herald in 1921, “he intended to serve only one year, but was offered an increase in pay if he would stay. “This,” he often said, ‘was the luckiest decision I ever made in my life as it gave me an opportunity to serve with Admiral Farragut and few men were so fortunate as that.’” After serving about 15 months he was discharged from the Navy.
James eventually returned to Michigan where he reentered the service a second time as a draftee on October 22, 1864, at Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo County in Company F, Fifteenth Michigan infantry, crediting Clyde, Allegan County and listing his occupation as a sailor.
He may have joined the regiment just before it left to participate in the March to the Sea November 15-December 10; it was also involved in the siege of Savannah December 10-21, the campaign in the Carolinas, January to April, 1865, the battle of Bentonville, North Carolina, March 19-20 and the advance on and occupation of Raleigh, North Carolina, as well as the surrender of Johnson’s forces, the march to Washington and the Grand Review on May 24. James was a Sergeant on April 20, 1865, and he later claimed to have been promoted to Duty Sergeant,” by the time the regiment was moved to Louisville, Kentucky June 1-6 and on to Little Rock, Arkansas, on June 28. James however, did not leave with the regiment but on June 25 was sent to the hospital at Louisville, Kentucky. He remained absent sick until he was discharged on July 26, 1865, at Louisville, Kentucky.
After the war James returned to Allegan County.
He married Connecticut native Irene (1844-1926), and they had at least five children: Leon, Hattie (b. 1862, Mrs. Crane), Nellie (b. 1869, Mrs. N. A. Herbert), Mrs. Eda Mulder, Mrs. Mamie Bender and Daisy (b. 1871).
By 1870 James was working as a farmer and living with his wife and two daughters in Clyde, Allegan County. He eventually moved his family to Holland, Ottawa County where he worked as a fireman. He was back in Allegan County by 1890 and was living in Fennville. By 1920 James was living in Grand Rapids with his wife and daughters Daisy and Nellie.
He was a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association, a Protestant and he received pension no. 534,510.
He was admitted to the Michigan Soldiers’ Home (no. 5141) on April 7, 1908, was discharged on September 23, and readmitted to the home on July 10, 1911 and discharged July 21, 1919.
James died at 4:45 p.m. on March 29, 1921, at his home 530 Lafayette Street in Grand Rapids, and the funeral service was held at Spring’s chapel. He was buried in Greenwood cemetery: section S lot 46.