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Home > Bookstore > Book Excerpts

Letters from the Storm: The Intimate Civil War Letters
of Lt. J.A.H. Foster, 155th Pennsylvania Volunteers

By Linda Foster Arden

Read a sample of the Lieutenant’s actual words…

“We passed an awful night, it rained all the time, our clothes were all wet, and our feet I can assure you were in no enviable condition. We had to lie down just as we were, we had no chance to dry anything for it was raining and blowing so much that to stay out of the tent we would be nearly frozen. And to stay in we were nearly as bad, it kept the wind off us but there we had to stay, four of us in about six feet square….I hear this morning that the citizens of Pittsburgh have furnished 800 Gum Blankets for the Reg’t. I wish they were here we could keep ourselves a little more comfortable, we could keep ourselves something dryer at any rate. We dare not even take straw to lay in the bottom of our tents…. I have carried four or five armsfull of cedar boughs and spread in the bottom of ours, but still I can feel the water under me when I lie down. The boys are trying to start some fires this morning but as yet they are very small and don’t do a great deal of good. Everything is so wet that it will not burn, and there is no rails near or any other kind of wood that will burn that can be got.”

Remember Me: Letters Home from a Hospital Steward
during the Civil War 1862-1864, Daniel McKinley Martin

By Alan I. West

[Daniel Martin’s letter to wife] “I have been to the field where the first fight took place and to tell you of all the horrors of the place is more than I can do. The dead are still unburied and so disfigured that you can scarcely recognize the features as those of human beings. I counted 52 dead in one place and 18 in another, and here and there for two miles or more they can be seen by the threes and fours and more sometimes together. A truce has been agreed upon between the commanding generals for the purpose of burying the dead and carrying off the wounded. All the ambulances of the army are busy at the work of bringing off our wounded who have been on the field since the fight on Saturday. What they have suffered in these two days can be imagined but not described.”. . .

[Author] Attitudes towards death during the Civil War differ significantly from those of today. In the 1860s, life expectancy was 38.7 years for men and 40.9 years for women. Death frequently touched every family….Daniel had good reason to fear for his children whenever they came down with a cold or fever. In the late 19th Century, infant mortality was a common experience that nearly every family faced. . . . Daniel frequently frets over the health of his children in his letters….

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