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Love of a travelin' soldier

Friday, September 11, 2009

What? I like the Dixie Chicks.

I overslept this morning, but wanted to put up a post before the weekend - better late than never, I guess. In any event, as I'm now teaching a course on the Civil War and Reconstruction, it felt right to put up a few more ads from Civil War soldiers. I put one up back in June, but there were quite a few, so here are two more.

They read:

A Frenchman, an officer in the Army of the Potomac, aged twenty-eight, of unexceptionable character, without lady acquaintances, wishes to open a correspondence with some young lady with a view to matrimony. No carte de visite or money required. All he asks is amiability. Address Captain Louis Allard, Sixty-second regiment, N.Y.S.V., Washington, D.C., or elsewhere.

A young solider, having served in the Army of the Potomac since it was first organized, and now in camp near Falmouth, desires to open a correspondence with a young lady of intelligence, with a view to matrimony on his return home. No trifling. Address C.H. de Arty, Second United States infantry, Gen. Sykes' division, Army of the Potomac, Va.

I don't want to spend too much time reciting Civil War history, but there are so many interesting things here. Both of these men are in the Union Army, and the Army of the Potomac was very famous, so when they mention that they are in it, they're really emphasizing their patriotism as well as bragging a little. C.H. de Arty especially wants it known that he's been with the Potomac since its inception. This says two things: one is that he's been a proud unionist from day one, and the second is that he's such a patriot that he didn't resign his commission when he had a chance (originally soldiers only signed up for 90 days, because everyone thought the war would be over by then - HA! - this is several years later). Louis Allard was also quite patriotic, since he's in a volunteer division (N.Y.S.V. = New York State Volunteers).

So both these men are rightfully proud of themselves for their service and want that known, which I think says a lot about national attitudes toward the war. Which is to say, they're appealing to women based on their patriotism. I like it. But what's also interesting is that when these ads were published, the war was far from over. There was absolutely no surety at this point the Union would win, and in fact the Army of the Potomac had just suffered a pretty devastating defeat only two months earlier. Perhaps Allard and de Arty had had enough and were ready and able to go home. More likely they were terribly lonely and wanted someone to correspond with (mail from home was a big, big deal).

What's sad, however, is that the Army of the Potomac was about to engage in several battles where it suffered massive casualties; if these men stayed with the army, there's a very good chance neither of them survived. (Tidbit: the number of American deaths in the Civil War was larger than that of all other wars America has ever been in combined.)

But maybe they got lucky. I hope so.

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2009 Pam Epstein


Matt September 11, 2009 at 6:48 PM  

I think there's another really interesting story here. Louis Allard was an extremely common Quebecois name at the time (still is, actually). He is, after all a "Frenchman." In fact several thousand Quebec men served in the Union Army during the Civil War. Most were younger sons who went south looking for adventure and fortune. I suspect Allard was probably one of them.

What I find particularly interesting is that he is an officer -- a Captain, no less. That means either that he was a very educated man (possibly a former Canadian militia officer) and entered the army as an officer, or that he was promoted from the ranks, most likely for a series of acts of conspicuous heroism.

And he's lonely, poor guy.

Unknown September 11, 2009 at 8:17 PM  

Pam - do you know anything about the presence of prostitutes at the camps of these armies? I'm just curious as to why your first advertiser feels the need to so strenously emphasise that he has no connection to women and is of 'unexceptionable character', i.e. not a party animal. Is this polite code for 'I am not infected with the clap'?

Pam September 11, 2009 at 10:48 PM  

Matt - I don't know much about how people got promoted - but so many people died during the CW, I'm sure anyone who stayed alive long enough, and was remotely talented, probably moved up the ranks.

Liz - you know, it's funny, I never even thought about that. Prostitutes were around - but I wonder if a man trying to meet a nice respectable lady would even hint at such a thing? I doubt many people were talking about it too openly away from the field.

HCG September 23, 2009 at 4:54 PM  

There's not a record of either of these men at the VA's Nationwide Gravesite Locator (which tries to list both veterans and those who died in battle if the latter are in known cemeteries). So indeed it may be that both these men died in battle and then were buried in mass graves.


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