Monday, March 22, 2010
I can only begin to imagine what George Young would have thought of this man. I don't think it would have been anything good.
A patriotic and wealthy young batchelor, being very desirous of serving his country in some way, would be pleased to correspond with an amiable young widow, who has been deprived of her companion by the existing war, with a view to matrimony. No objection to one or two children. To such a one all the comforts of this world are offered. Please enclose photograph and full particulars regarding husband's death, which will be treated with perfect confidence. Address for one week T.H. Lennox, box 1,494 New York Post office.
Oh my dear, where to begin!? T.H. Lennox, what manner of man are you? First, the misspelling of "bachelor" is in the ad, not my mistake. Probably a typo, given the rest of the ad, which is all proper and everything, though of course who knows.
Okay, that aside. So halfway through the Civil War, T.H. Lennox, who despite being young apparently never joined the army or plans to, decides that his way of contributing to the effort is to...marry someone else's widow? I have no words. First, seriously, this is your idea of patriotism? How about putting on a uniform and going to serve your country for real, if you're so in favor of the war effort? Ugh! Maybe he has some kind of physical impairment that would make his enlistment impossible, but you'd think he'd mention that as the reason why he's taking this step to help out rather than actually fighting (if he had fought but mustered out, he'd have mentioned that for sure). After all, a widow who has lost her husband in the war is probably not going to think too highly of T.H. Plus, if she loved her husband, is she in a rush to get married? Since this was 1863, she can't have been widowed more than two years before, which is not that long a time to get over a spouse's death. Really gross. I don't know how this guy could possibly so naive.
That's not to say no woman would answer, however. A lot of women were left destitute when their husbands died, and lots and lots and lots of men died during the Civil War. Even if you felt a bit of contempt for such an offer, if you're desperate, you might try and take it anyway. But at the same time, if this guy was as rich as he claimed, he's not going to be particularly interested in the women who were in really dire straits. Those were usually the widows of farmers and likely were not in the social class a wealthy man would consider marrying.
And there's another much more unsavory possibility of what was really going on here. The Union passed the first pension law in the United States about a year before this ad was published. It was in fact incredibly generous and at its peak consumed 45 percent of the federal government's revenue and was the largest branch of the government except the army. Seriously. It went to disabled soldiers, veterans, widows, orphans, mothers if the soldier was unmarried, and widows got extra money for each child. So, I wouldn't be entirely surprised if this guy was not going to provide all the comforts of the world to his widow but was rather hoping to get a little bit of cash from her. After all, how many men are like, "I absolutely want to adopt and support your children," and he does want specific proof how the husband actually died. It's not like if she claimed she was a widow but wasn't he couldn't find out pretty easily. But, at the same time, the pensions weren't that big. I'm not sure whether or not the amount of money a widow, even with one or two children, would get would make such a big difference in T.H.'s life that he would marry her just for that reason.
Ultimately, although it seems like it could be deceitful, I do think he's for real. Foolish and perhaps a little dense, but sincere. I sure hope so. There's nothing lower than ripping off a war widow.
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©2010 Pam Epstein