James W. Salter was born in 1839 in Orleans County New York, the son of Susan (b. 1796).
In 1840 there was one Israel Salter living in Knowlesville, Orleans County, New York. By 1850 James and his mother were living with the Charles Mix (?) family on a farm in Barre, Orleans County, New York. James left New York and headed west, eventually settling in Detroit, Michigan by around 1860.
He soon moved on to Lyons, Ionia County where he married Canadian-born Mary Ann Taft (1838-1888) on May 10, 1860; they had one child, a daughter, Ida Eliza (b. 1861).
Interestingly, it appears that in late June of 1860 James was working as a farm laborer and living with the John and Eliza Taft (Mary’s parents) in Ionia, Ionia County; Mary was also living with her family as well but not listed as James’ wife though or even recently married. (She may be the same Mary A. Tifft, age 17 in 1860, who was working as a domestic for Joseph Rounds in Lyons, Ionia County; if so, she had a child William, age 1.)
James stood 5’8” with dark eyes, hair and complexion and was 22 years old and still living in Lyons when he enlisted in Company E on May 13, 1861. (Company E was composed in large part by men from Clinton and Ingham counties, as well as parts of Ionia County.) He allegedly deserted either January 17 or February 21, 1862, and returned to the Regiment on March 9. He was absent sick with dysentery on April 20, 1862, eventually returned to duty and was shot in the right hand and arm on August 29, 1862, at Second Bull Run, after which he was hospitalized for “vulvus sclopeticum” (wounds) in Washington Street hospital in Alexandria and reportedly “doing well” by the second week of September. He was discharged on November 15, 1862. at Third Division hospital, Alexandria, Virginia, for “contractions of extensors of right hand” resulting from being shot, and it is quite likely that he died soon afterwards, possibly in Alexandria. (There is no record of burial in Alexandria National Cemetery.)
James’ wife, who was living in Ionia, Ionia County, in the fall of 1862, presumed that James in fact died sometime in late 1862 in the hospital in Alexandria, Virginia, and by February of 1863 she was seeking a widow’s pension.
According to one report, Mary was having difficulty acquiring a widow’s pension form the government. “In the claim of Mary A. Salter,” wrote one A. H. heath to the Commissioner of Pensions, “(claim no. 13028) I can learn nothing definite. The impression of the party who made application for her is that she was married soon after making application in 1863.”
In fact, she remained James’ widow until March 21, 1871, when she married one Hiram Bishop, whom she left in 1875 and later divorced in Ionia. In January of 1880, Mary, who was living in Big Rapids, Mecosta County, testified that during the battle of Second Bull Run, Salter “received a wound in one of his arms, and also a wound in the side, at the hands of the enemy” and “from the effects of which said wounds, the said James W. Salter after being conveyed to Hospital in Alexandria, Virginia, departed this life, some two or three months after the date of said battle.”
In September of 1881 his widow swore that James had been hospitalized in Alexandria “until about the 15th day of November 1862 and was discharged therefrom by reason of his disability since which time [she] has never heard from him either directly or indirectly excepting having heard it stated by his comrades in his company that he died from his wounds within a few days from his discharge from hospital aforementioned.”
At the annual Old Third Michigan Infantry Association reunion held in mid-December of 1889, she was still trying to acquire a widow’s pension and sought to enlist the aid of the surviving members of the Regiment in her efforts. She eventually abandoned the claim. Although subsequently a pension application (no. 664454) was filed on behalf of a minor child but the certificate was never granted. By 1890 she was living at 51 Ottawa street in Muskegon, Muskegon County.