Grand Army of the Republic
James William Willett was born in Mercer County, Illinois on March 8, 1846. As a youth he lived in Keithsburg, Illinois, on the banks of the Mississippi River.
When the Civil War began, young Willett attempted to enlist in the Union Army, but failed because of his youth and size. In the spring of 1863, however, he obtained employment on a transport vessel as an ordinary seaman. In the fall of that year by passing the examination, he was enabled to enlist in the United States Navy as an able seaman, and was assigned to the United States Gunboat Springfield of the Mississippi Squadron, where he served as botswain's mate.
At the close of the war, Comrade Willlett continued his work on rivers and lakes until 1871, when he gave up the seafaring life, came to Iowa, and began the study of law. Having been admitted to the bar, he opened offices at Toledo and Tama. He has practiced law in Tama County for many years, and for more than 12 years he was Judge of the District Court.
Comrade Willett was a charter member of Thomas F. Bradford Post of the Grand Army of the Republic, organized at Tama in 1883, and after more than 50 years he is still a member of that Post. At the Annual Encampment at Burlington in 1913, he was elected Department Commander. He has also held the office of Judge Advocate General, and in 1922, he had a high distinction of being unanimously elected Commander-in-Chief.
Article submitted by:
Camp Commander, Col. Noah W. Mills #45
Department Council, Webmaster and Signals Officer
Department of Iowa
Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War
Photograh submitted by:
George G. Kane
Swisher, J.A. 1936. The Iowa Department of the Grand Army of the Republic. State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa.