James Augustine Thorp was born on October 5, 1841 in Delaware County, Ohio. On January 19, 1864 he enlisted at Chicago’s 14th Ward, though he gave his post office as Henry, Illinois. At the time of his enlistment, Thorp had auburn hair, a light complexion, stood 5’11” tall, had grey eyes, and listed his occupation as a farmer. He was mustered out with the rest of the Battery in September of 1865.
His official military records make no mention of his actions at the Battle of Nashville in December of 1864, when he came to the aid of Cpl. Samuel Churchill, who was manning a cannon singlehandedly and pouring a devestating fire upon the enemy. Churchill would later write of Thorp’s actions and petitioned Congress to award him the Medal of Honor, but because Thorp’s name was not mentioned in the formal battle reports, Churchill’s efforts for his friend were in vain.
Thorp married Jane Irwin – either in 1863 or, more likely, on May 3, 1866 [sources conflict] at Sandusky, Erie County, Ohio. Together they had three children: Captolia “Cappie” (b. Sept. 17, 1868) who later married a Mr. Betts; Walter A. Thorp (b. Feb. 8, 1873); and Louella Gertrude Thorp (b. Jan. 16, 1882).
After the war, James, like most veterans, was plagued with health problems contracted during the war. He had sunstroke during his service, and he claimed it left his face partially paralyzed. He also had heart trouble and pain in his back – both of these he also blamed on his episode of sunstroke. One doctor in 1894 also found that he was suffering from a nervous condition, described as “general nervous prostration and excitability producing periodical melancholia and despondency.”
Soon after the war, James and his family lived at Castalia, Delaware County, Ohio until 1866 or 1867; moved to Marshall County, Illinois until 1883; and finally settled in Jewell County, Kansas in the vicinity of Washington Township and the town of Mankato. He died at Mankato on April 18, 1923, and is buried there in Mt. Hope Cemetery.
SOURCES: James Thorp military and pension records, National Archives; Samuel J. Churchill, Genealogy and Biography of the Connecticut Branch of the Churchill Family in America (Lawrence, KS: Journal Publishing, 1901), pp. 77-79.