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My dear soldiers

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I totally lied about Wednesday. Oops! I'm telling you, the last two weeks have been total madness.

I have the biggest soft spot in the world for Civil War soldiers, and at the moment it is increased by the fact that I'm teaching that class again and we've just started the war. So it's no surprise that when I ran across these two ads, my heart just melted. Don't you just want to reach out and give them a hug? By the way, if anyone can make out that word at the end of the first ad, I'd be much obliged.

A young soldier, stationed at Fortress Monroe, Va., wishes to correspond with some young lady to relieve the tedium of camp life; also with a view for matrimony, if the fortunes of war should prove [??]. Address Augusts B. St. Lawrence, Old Point Comfort, Va.

An officer who is suffering from a wound, and who has recently been released from Richmond, is desirous of forming a correspondence with some lady for the purpose of cheering his drooping spirits. Address Lieut. H.V.A., Fortress Monroe, Va.

OMG! I can just imagine some young (or hey, not so young!) patriotic girl up North just burning to contribute to the war effort seeing these ads and taking it upon herself to write these soldiers. Especially Lieutenant H.V.A., whose drooping spirits are still poignant 150 years later. And you know what the crazy thing is? These ads worked! There's a book that I haven't had the chance to read yet - but will - called Wanted - Correspondence, which is a collection of letters written to a lonely Civil War soldier who had printed an ad much like these. (Oh man, I can't wait to add that Civil War chapter to my book!) I haven't had the chance to read it yet, as it just came out recently, but I have it and from what I've seen so far, it looks fascinating.

Okay, but back to me. Ahem. So, these were definitely both Northern soldiers as Fort Monroe was under Union control throughout the war. And it would have been pretty hard for the poor boys in blue to be far, far away from home and friends, recovering from war wounds, waiting around in camp for months on end with nothing to do. How sad that they had to put ads in the paper to find correspondents! Every time I see these I wonder: where are their sisters or mothers or aunts? Or childhood sweethearts? Or anyone at all from their hometowns? Why isn't anyone sending these boys any letters??

I suppose it's possible that just getting letters from your mom isn't enough when you're really bored and lonely (not that letters from Mom aren't wonderful - hi Mom! - but I could imagine without much else to do you'd want new letters every day to keep your drooping spirits up). I mean, if you put an ad like that in one of the most widely read papers in the country, all those patriotic girls up North - who are full of romantic notions about military men - would probably send letters by the dozen. You could get flooded! Just imagine how much pleasure it would bring a sad, lonely, wounded soldier to get all these funny, cheerful letters from all over the country.

I wonder if one of those dozens and dozens of letter writers became Augustus B.'s wife? I wish I could read that word - "should the fortunes of war prove..." what? I can't help thinking that he's probably saying, "if I survive." Wouldn't that be so awesome? (I mean, awesome if he met his wife this way, though it would also be great if he survived.)

Aaahhh...I see my best-selling romance novel taking shape now...forget publishing the book of my dissertation, I'm gonna write this novel instead!

©2010 Pam Epstein


Mimi October 8, 2010 at 12:05 AM  


Pam October 8, 2010 at 7:23 AM  

I thought of that but who calls a war "prosperous"?? I also thought, and someone on Open Salon said this too, that maybe it was propitious. The word didn't look long enough - and seems an odd choice - but it makes as much sense as anything.

Jennifer October 9, 2010 at 7:45 PM  

I thought it looked a little like progressive, except that doesn't really make sense.

Breanna October 10, 2010 at 3:38 PM  

I think the last word is "propitious."

Pam October 11, 2010 at 8:10 PM  

The general consensus seems to be "propitious." Seems like an odd word for a personal ad, but then again, it was the 1860s! People spoke differently then...

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