Soon after the White family settled in Battle Creek, the Michigan Fair Association secured considerable acreage almost adjoining the White property, and built a racetrack for trotting horses. As the war came on, this proved to be an excellent training ground for recruits in the Union Army. The activities on the fairgrounds came to be of special interest to Edson and Henry White.
James and Ellen were distressed as they watched their teenage boys in 1862 and early 1863 becoming more and more fascinated with the war activities. So they decided to spend a year in the East at the Howland home in Topsham, Maine.