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Letters from the Storm: The Intimate Civil War Letters of Lt. J.A.H. Foster, 155th Pa. Volunteers – Arden
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LETTERS FROM THE STORM: THE INTIMATE CIVIL WAR LETTERS OF LT. J.A.H. FOSTER, 155th PENNSYLVANIA VOLUNTEERS. 2010 by Linda Foster Arden; Edited by Dr. Walter L. Powell. LETTERS FROM THE STORM is based on a collection of 101 letters written by Lieutenant Foster, mostly to his wife Mary Jane, while serving with the 155th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Company K. Skillfully interspersed with Linda Arden's commentary about the events and situations of the era, these letters are a time capsule of the mid-nineteenth century. In many respects, Foster's letters mirror the comments made by soldiers on both sides: their efforts to seek comfort with news from home, their litany of complaints about the rigors of camp and battle, and their descriptions of men and events on the front lines. However, there is another dimension to Foster's letters that is much less common in Civil War correspondence;the intimate exchange of the couple's views on sex.
Throughout their long separation, the couple shares their passionate longing for each other, their fantasies, and their apprehensions about mutual faithfulness--expressions that certainly challenge the broad assumption that "Victorians" did not speak of these matters. Another important dimension to Foster's letters is that he had an especially keen eye for detail, reflected in occasional drawings of subjects as varied as pontoon boats across the Rappahannock or the new corps badges adopted by the Union Army, and a talent for colorful language in speaking of events or personalities. At his best, Foster's comments about the war as seen from a soldier in the field rival anything that has been published. The legacy of Lieutenant Foster's letters reveal a man who lived almost 150 years ago as a man of detail, purpose, and passion. To say the least, the Civil War had an immeasurable effect on Lieutenant Foster, his family, his wife. No readers of LETTERS FROM THE STORM can come away without a true sense of what life was during that time and not be affected themselves. Indexed, 53 illustrations and photos 365 pages, 7 x 10 soft cover Book Review: Excerpts from the May 2012 issue of the Civil War Courier, by Duane Benell, CWC Reviewer:
John Alexander Hastings Foster, a 28 year old from Armstrong Co., Pennsylvania enlisted August 7, 1862 into Co. K, 155th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment as 4th Sergeant, leaving behind a wife and a three-year-old son. This book is based upon 101 letters he wrote mainly to his wife from 1862 to 1865…..
Foster had a good vocabulary and wrote long detailed letters. He had the ability to describe what he saw and did, which makes the letters interesting.…some of the letters do have some intimate sexual writings, which I have not come across before in published letters or diaries of soldiers. He was no doubt expressing the thoughts and desires that most soldiers had….
There are good footnotes that help identify persons, places and events. The author, a great great granddaughter [of] Foster has done a fine job, as has the editor, in producing this excellent book. She was very fortunate to have these detailed and interesting letters still in the family. I do not hesitate to recommend this excellent book to all readers who enjoy reading first hand accounts of the Civil War by the ordinary soldier.
See other review: January 2011, CIVIL WAR NEWS: http://www.civilwarnews.com/reviews/2011br/jan/letters-b011117.html.
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