James was the son of Martha Betsy Martin and Samuel Wilson. In 1853 his family moved to Iowa, locating about 4 miles north of Sidney. On 5 Apr 1860, he married Susannah Martin, daughter of Isaac Martin and Mary Irwin. About 1870 James and Susanna moved to their farm home in the Nishna Valley neighborhood northwest of Farragut, Iowa.
James enlisted in the Southern Border Brigade Co A 4th Batallion on 17 Sept 1862. He mustered out on 18 Oct 1862. James had two brothers who served with Co A Iowa Cavalry, Joseph M Wilson and Josiah B Wilson.
James had been an invalid for a number of years prior to his death. He died at his home at the age of 67 years 1 month 26 days.
James and Susannah had nine children. Two years after the death of her husband, Susannah moved to Colorado with her two younger sons. She lived in Colorado until her death in 1932.
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