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1913Re: [TalkAntietam] Re: Suggestions for Antietam historian? part II

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  • richard@rcroker.com
    Apr 14 1:47 PM
      Purely by coincidence, I got this today.....It has some links that might be helpful.

      The Enduring Poignancy of Civil War Correspondence
      By Linda Wheeler
      Washington Post
      April 14, 2005 Thursday

      Holding a letter written by a soldier during the Civil War is a thrill for me. I recently purchased one written by a young Virginia soldier whose graceful penmanship filled the lined rag paper from edge to edge, top to bottom. Only the message detracted from its beauty. The man was writing about the death of his father at the hands of rebel soldiers.

      I bought it at an auction because the Nov. 14, 1864, letter hinted at larger stories. Why would Confederate soldiers kill a Virginia man? Did his son witness the shooting death?

      Although it may take me many months, I feel a deep obligation to find out what happened.

      It is one of countless letters that were written during the war as the 2.6 million soldiers sent news home. They wrote from the field, winter camps, hospitals, prisoner-of-war sites, and while touring Washington and Richmond. They often wrote of the weather, the boredom of the constant drills and the terrible food.

      Many of the letters they received also spoke of the weather. The health of children and the difficulties in getting along without men to work the farms were topics as well. As the war entered the third and fourth years, letters from women on both sides often spoke of financial hardships that left children hungry, fields unplanted and rents unpaid.

      The wartime economy hurt families in the North and the South, and everyday necessities such as flour and sugar were in short supply. Even a family lucky enough to have a man at home struggled to pay bills.

      But whatever direction the letters were headed, some are still painful to read.

      "I would like to see you -- I want you to come and see to getting places to put the children -- I can't keep them -- I have no money -- I would like to see you once more," Susanah Hart of Harrisburg, Pa., told her soldier husband in a Feb. 23, 1865, letter, which is now at the National Archives.

      Another woman pleads with her son to come home after his father, who had been ill for three months, dies. A letter from Cincinnati resident Rebbeca Barrett to her son William is also at the National Archives. "You say you will send money -- do so for God's sake for I am needy at this time -- the doctors are so dear that it takes all you can make to pay their bill -- I work when I am able, but that is so seldom. God only knows what I will do this winter."

      Mike Musick, recently retired from the National Archives, where he was an acknowledged expert on Civil War records, said there are many Civil War letters written between families that historians have yet to read.

      The pool is so large, he said, there is little reason to anticipate fraud when purchasing original letters -- as long as they are not purported to be the work of Abraham Lincoln or Robert E. Lee.

      "Letters vary considerably in quality," Musick said. "You have to look at a lot of them before knowing what to buy. They still show up regularly at flea markets and Civil War shows."

      At a show sponsored by the Northern Virginia Relic Hunters Association this month, original letters were priced between $40 and $1,000, depending on the content and author.

      There are plenty of interesting wartime letters to read online for free. Virginia Tech University Libraries, at spec.lib.vt.edu/civwar, and the University of Virginia's American Civil War Collections at the Electronic Text Center, at etext.virginia.edu/civilwar, offer letters and diaries from Union and Confederate soldiers.

      The Virginia Military Institute Archives, at www.vmi.edu/archives/Manuscripts/msguide2.html, has letters from VMI cadets who served in the war.

      The University of Virginia also has the Valley of the Shadow site, at valley.vcdh.virginia.edu/usingvalley/valleyguide.html. This archive of primary sources documents the lives of people in Augusta County, Va., and Franklin County, Pa., and is an extraordinary source of information. Included are thousands of letters, diaries, maps and images that offer a comparison of life during the war in similar counties with different loyalties.

      Alexander Street Press, at www.alexanderstreet.com/products/cwld.htm, has organized 100,000 pages of Civil War papers, primarily letters and diaries, into an accessible format. The private company's customers are libraries and other academic institutions.

      As for the letter I bought, I still don't know the answers to its questions, but finding them promises to be an adventure.

      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "Brian Downey" <bdowney@...>
      To: <TalkAntietam@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Thursday, April 14, 2005 2:10 PM
      Subject: [TalkAntietam] Re: Suggestions for Antietam historian? part II


      >
      >
      > Hi Darin,
      >
      > I think you're on the right track and I'd enciourage you in this
      > direction, FWIW.
      >
      > There's lots of first-had source material out there. Quite a bit is
      > online (try Google). I've had people send me transcribed letters and
      > diaries for AotW (see http://aotw.org/exhibit.php?exhibit_id=365 for
      > example). There have been numerous collections of first hand accounts
      > in print as well.
      >
      > You could also put out appeals for material to the big Civil War lists
      > and geneology groups on the internet - probably lots of folks out
      > there who could help.
      >
      > Best to you on your project, I really enjoy your photos. "Sunken
      > Road, looking east" is a cover shot, if ever I've seen one. No
      > question about where that was taken! A timeless image.
      >
      > Brian
      >
      > Darin Boville <darin@d...> wrote:
      > > <snipped>
      > >
      > > So, my question is, does this material (that is, the diaries) exist? Is
      > > it accessible? Is there enough of it? I've seen scattered quotes in
      > > various books, but not enough to give mer a sense of how much good
      > > stuff might still be out there.
      > >
      > > My goal with this portion of the text is to provide a little context
      > > for the images ...
      > >
      > > --Darin
      > >
      > > www.darinboville.com
      >
      >
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      >
      >
      > Yahoo! Groups Links
      >
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