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A sad soldier

Friday, February 19, 2010

Most of the Civil War soldiers I've blogged about have been in perfect health (or at least so they claimed), but the truth is that a pretty large percentage of men were seriously injured at one point or another. So it's really, really intriguing to finally run across a soldier's ad which reflects the reality of how the war affected men on a very personal level:

In consequence of a gunshot wound (received while in the service of his country) which deprived the advertiser of one of those charms considered as indispensable to a loving union, he takes this means - although repugnant to his tastes - to invite correspondence that may lead to a matrimonial connection. Although deprived of (what some would call) facial beauty, he possesses a well adorned mind, cultivated tastes, amiability of temper, health and youth (if 28 years can be so called). To place him above all danger of dependence, he is in receipt of an ample income amply sufficient for a comfortable, if not luxurious, family of ordinary numbers. Proposals can be addressed to Capt. George Young, Company G, Ninth regiment, N.Y.S.M., via Washington, D.C. All communications treated with honor, and returned if desired. Cartes de visite can be enclosed, and returned if desired. The advertiser will shortly visit New York (his native city), but no interview can take place until the advertiser is fully assured of the honorable intention of his correspondent, and has in his turn convinced her of his sincerity and affluence.

Okay, first of all, admit it: when you saw the line about how the advertiser was deprived "of one of those charms considered as indispensable to a loving union," you weren't thinking of facial beauty. You were? Really? So I'm the only one whose mind went a little further, er, south? Alrighty then, moving on!

I feel incredible sympathy for this guy. He went to war to fight for his country, and it left him maimed. But he's pretty bitter, and this hardly seems like the right way to handle your anger - especially if you're trying to find a wife. Even if I was the most patriotic woman in the world, and wanted to marry a soldier, I'd think twice (or three times!) about answering this - not because of the scar, but because I'd be wondering if his temper is as amiable as he claims.

My theory: while he was stationed near Washington, DC, he had some leave time and went out on the town (since he was an officer, this is likely) with some friends. High society threw lots of balls and so-forth, and officers all got invited, so George got to go along. But while all the young ladies were swooning over his fellow officers, he was left out in the cold because of his terrible facial scar. You know, I suppose that is enough to make a man feel legitimately hurt. He probably figured he made a bigger sacrifice than most of the men there (those that were still alive, this ad being written approximately halfway through the war), yet the ladies shunned him.

Still, saying in your ad that you find using matrimonials repugnant isn't necessarily the best route. I know what he is trying to say is that he considers himself a true gentleman and would never resort to such means if not entirely necessary. But if you find matrimonials so repugnant, what are you going to think of the women who answer them? Now, let's face it, by this time the death toll was so high that most women had to be aware that if they wanted to get married they couldn't be too picky. So maybe a lot of women who found personals "repugnant" would also be more inclined to answer one. But it's one thing to marry a guy with a big scar on his face and another to marry someone who has frankly said that he finds the method of meeting his wife disgusting.

And you know George, I do truly sympathize with how awful it must be to be so dreadfully maimed - maybe he was really handsome before. I'd be miserable too. Really, really miserable. But let's have some perspective here. You (apparently) didn't lose any vital limbs, so you have the use of both arms and legs, and you're not dead, which is saying something. It sucks, I hear you, I do. But try to be thankful for what you've got.

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2010 Pam Epstein


Unknown February 19, 2010 at 2:12 PM  

I have to wonder, though, Pam whether he couldn't attract the attention of the fairer sex because he wasn't worth being around. As you speculate, maybe he was angry, or bitter. Or maybe he just hated himself.

That line "he takes this means - although repugnant to his tastes - to invite correspondence" really got to me. That's kind of like going into a job interview and starting by saying, "I really hate the idea of working here, but all of the employers I wanted have all turned me down." Aww... Ain't that just what a girl wants to hear? (NOT!)

Even though I know some women can be as superficial as some men, I have a hard time believing that even an ugly facial scar could keep him from finding love, if he were really open to it. Isn't is usually our own perceived inadequacies that keep us from finding our own happiness?

BTW, I too at first didn't think he was talking about facial lacerations.


Grob February 20, 2010 at 2:50 PM  

I doubt that the guy is talking only about a scar. I'm guessing he's missing a set of lips or a tongue or something like that. Nobody with just a bad scar was going to assume he'd get rejected in Civil War times. And a missing mouth -- or a hole in place of a mouth -- would make "one of those charms considered as indispensable to a loving union" make sense, since the guy would be unable to kiss. Otherwise maybe it's the left side of his face that's gone, or that kind of thing -- something big. People walked around with injuries from that war that were truly horrific.

Pam February 20, 2010 at 4:36 PM  

I suspect that whatever the wound was it was pretty disfiguring. Grob is right that there were some pretty horrible injuries during the CW. But I'm not sure it had to be so awful as a missing side of the face - there's a lot of middle ground between a minor scar and a missing tongue! If he was very vain about his looks before, even something not quite that dramatic could convince him that his chances of marriage were ruined.

And yeah, the man was really bitter. Maybe deservedly, but he's not really making himself all that appealing.

Unknown February 24, 2010 at 11:33 PM  

Well he does sound bitter but I don't think the repugnant comment is necessarily a negative. Afterall the personals were a touch titillating. He might simply be implying that he would ordinarily rely on personal introductions as "real gentleman" rather than the slightly vulgar forum of public solicitation.

I wonder about the extent of injury, whether there was family/lover freaked out by it. In some cases, I imagine it would be hard to walk down the street, meet strangers. Could he speak--guess so if he was still commissioned? Was he missing a nose/jaw? Wonder if old army hospital records are available still and how detailed. Be interesting to see...

Why only a brief trip to NY? If the injury was horrific I guess I would expect a discharge... Now I am really curious.

Pam February 25, 2010 at 7:45 AM  

Daphne - You may be right, but "repugnant" is a pretty strong word. And even if he didn't mean it to be entirely negative, I can't imagine it would have come off any other way to readers - which is just as important.

Good point about the extent of the injury! If it were so terrible, he certainly would have been discharged. I hadn't thought of that.

Anonymous March 17, 2010 at 11:25 AM  

Hi Pam...

I have a genealogist friend who is trying to identify your young man. Can you tell us where you obtained this clipping? Do you know what paper it came from, and the date of publication? We would be grateful for any information.

Pam March 17, 2010 at 11:36 AM  

Someone just emailed me about this yesterday, perhaps it was the same person? Could you contact me via email? pam at advertisingforlove dot com

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