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Well-worn sentimental phrases and verses make Civil War love letters by soldiers no less poignantly heartfelt.

Detail of Civil War Valentine, via Kansas Historical Society

The letters of ordinary Civil War soldiers can be rough-cut: misspelled and unpunctuated, with tender sentiments amidst worries of money and conditions at home. To add a more romantic air to letters for sweethearts and wives, these unschooled men often “googled”  love words from their companions. The well-worn sentimental phrases and verses makes the letters no less poignantly heartfelt.

Camp Mangum / Wake County, N.C. / Jan. 2, 1862: I dont want to see nobody Els in the world but you and my little boy I got the print of his hand and the lock of his hair you Sent me When this you see Remember me though we be many miles apart I was very sorry to here that Everthing was so high there….

Goldsborough / 38th Regt. / April 5, 1862: Ellan I do want to See you so bad I don’t now what to do O my little boy Sweet little baby God bles its little Sole May God be with you both I want to kiss you both Elan do the best you can and I will do the same Shure as the grap groes on the vine I am yours if you are mine When this you see Remember me although I now not Where Ile be You rote to me that you was agoing to have a garden….

These extracts come from the Civil War love letters of Abner Stokes Haire, 38th NC Infantry Regiment, Company B. Haire’s regiment was badly hit on the second day of the Seven Day Battle.  From the US NPS:

…Brigadier General Dorsey Pender’s brigade strode toward the mill and felt the sting of more than a dozen Federal cannon and supporting infantry. Pender’s assault, like those before it, failed to dent the Federal line….Darkness closed upon the scene of suffering, ending the combat and initiating a night of torment for the hundreds of wounded men lying in the swamp….

Abner Stokes Haire may have been one of those unfortunates. He died of wounds received June 26, 1862, at Beaver Dam Creek / Ellerson’s Mill, Virginia. I carry a debt to this man’s death: his wife’s second husband was my ancestor.

Beaver Dam Creek battlefield, start of the Seven Days battles, US Civil War
Beaver Dam today. Photo by Leon Reed, whose ancestor, John Reed, fought there in the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves.

Read more on Civil War era American dialect

SOURCES: Letters of Abner Stokes Haire, p. 143 of The Heritage of Yadkin County, Frances Harding Casstevens, editor. 1981, Yadkin County Historical Society, NC. 38th NC history: Hal Sharpe’s 34th North Carolina Infantry Regiment page.  The Battles for Richmond, National Park Service History E-Library


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