James Sykes was born in Adams County, Illinois, on May 22, 1844. He was the son of William and Eliza Raymond Sykes. The elder Sykes, a native of England, was a prominent member of the community, serving long terms as Justice of the Peace and Township Treasurer. After graduating from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Keokuk, Iowa, in 1864, James Sykes joined the army. Sykes served as an assistant surgeon in the 56th United States Colored Troops. The regiment was originally organized as the 3rd Arkansas Infantry, African Descent. It spent most of the war on garrison duty in Arkansas. Sykes remained in the army for a few years after the war, serving at various posts throughout the West.
From the description of James Sykes Civil War letters, 1865. (Central Arkansas Library System). WorldCat record id: 212802063