How the Civil War Taught Americans the Art of Letter Writing


I have always found Civil War Letters to be of particular interest. You may recall Sullivan Ballou's letter to his wife Sarah with its beautiful and moving language. An excerpt reads:

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grown up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me - perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar -- that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.

Not every soldier was as literate or well spoken as Sullivan Ballou but their letters to and from their loved ones were no less precious. Smithsonian Magazine has published an article exploring the role such letters had in keeping families connected. 

"Americans quickly had to learn the delicate art of recreating the comforts of physical presence using only the written word....Their world had been one of doing and touching rather than reading and writing, but now, by their ingenuity and resolve to hold their families together, they reshaped the culture of letter writing."

You can read the entire article here.

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