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Romance during the Civil War

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I said on Friday that in a surprisingly large number of ads from the 1860s you don't see references to the Civil War. But some not only mention it, but are in fact from Civil War soldiers themselves.

The text is here:

Should this come under the notice of some lady of respectable parentage, not to exceed in age 23, possessing a pair of black eyes, dark hair, healthy complexion and not afraid to work, if necessary; who wishes to open a correspondence with one who loves his country and who has nearly finished his two years of service in the field, was wounded at Bull run, stands five feet nine, good and comely personal appearance, fair complexion, dark blue eyes, dark hair and aged 23, with a view to matrimonial alliance, can find attention and obtain farther [sic] particulars by addressing Lieut. S.B. Newcomb, Twenty-third New York, Volunteers, Washington, D.C.


That was one sentence. Seriously.

This ad I find fascinating for a lot of reasons, even without the Civil War part. I love how specific he is, somewhat like H.M.C., although not quite so romantic. On the other hand, I appreciate how he takes the trouble to describe himself as well as his desired spouse (he also thinks quite well of his own appearance; most people put little qualifiers like, "my friends say I'm attractive," but he clearly doesn't feel that modest). It's also rare that you'll see a man state that he wants to meet someone who is "not afraid to work, if necessary," although not completely out of the ordinary. I don't think he's expecting her to get a job; I think he means not having hired help. Someone who's a lieutenant is probably not from a working-class family, though that's speculation on my part.

In any event, the Civil War stuff is also pretty interesting. He makes a point of stating he loves his country (patriotism was red-hot in the North - and South, for that matter - during the war), but also mentions that he was injured at Bull Run. I don't know why he makes a point of bringing it up, but I have a few theories. First, I think it's to let readers know he was in the army from the beginning, as Bull Run was very early on, so this is proof of his patriotism. Second, I believe he saw the wound as a badge of pride (as in The Red Badge of Courage) - even though the Union lost that battle.

So it's always intriguing to me what people find worth mentioning about themselves in these ads. I also think that this is a case where the legitimacy is a little less questionable. In order to get a reply, he'd have had to give his real name, address, and rank so letters could find him. That doesn't mean he couldn't have had bad intentions, but it makes it a little more difficult to steal without getting caught.

Oh! I almost forgot: "Sadda Rang and Lalla Rang promenaded in Fifth avenue in the morning and were admired later on in the Park."


Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2009 Pam Epstein

6 comments:

Breukellen June 16, 2009 at 11:18 AM  

I found this ad so fascinating that I did a preliminary google search on his name. Unfortunately, the only direct hit that came up was this page.

Breukellen June 16, 2009 at 11:25 AM  

Pam, it's really too early to be thinking these thoughts, about how easy it is to be completely lost to history.

Pam June 16, 2009 at 11:33 AM  

Haha. You know, I bitch about being in school, but secretly I really love this stuff for that exact reason.

Danny Foskey June 16, 2009 at 12:56 PM  

Pam your blog is cool, very interesting and fascinating stuff. People seemed very, very confident in themselves and their abilities back then.

Pam June 16, 2009 at 1:40 PM  

Thanks Danny! I'm glad you're enjoying it.

Anonymous April 18, 2013 at 10:29 AM  

Like the term "respectable parentage". It really seems old-fashioned as I have't heard it from anyone nowadays. I must be really funy speak certain way at past especially in posh places. wypadek w pracy uk

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