Civil War

Letters From Soldiers, Families and Friends

The Union

Sullivan Ballou


"If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready…. My courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing—perfectly willing—to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt."


This text is from a letter written by Sullivan Ballou addressed to his wife, Sarah, on July 14, 1861. Ballou was born on March 28, 1829 in Smithfield Rhode Island and attended many prestigious universities. He devoted his life to public service, and in 1845 was elected as clerk of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, soon to be promoted to it's speaker. Ballou married Sarah Hart Shumway on October 15,1855. Soon, they had two sons, Edgar and William. War soon broke out, and Ballou quickly entered the military. He was killed a week after the completion of this letter at the first Battle of Bull Run. While he never actually mailed the letter, this text would be considered as one of the most famous of the Civil War.


In this letter, Ballou proclaimed his love for his wife and children. However, he would go on to say that he was willing to sacrifice his life for the union cause. Ballou said that he was willing to give everything to honor those that had fought before him to make the country he loved. This letter is important because it gave historians today an insight into the minds of soldiers fighting on the front lines. It showed just how much some people were willing to sacrifice for their side.

Rachel Cormany


"[W]hen they were informed of the impossibility, they deliberately went from house to house & fired it. The whole heart of the town is burned. They gave no time for people to get any thing out…. [E]ach had to escape for life & took only what they could first grab…. Some saved considerable….others only the clothes on their backs—& even some of those were taken off as they escaped from their burning dwellings. "


Born in 1836, Rachel Cormany was originally from Canada, but moved to Chambersburg when she married Samuel Cormany in 1860. Samuel was born and raised in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania with four older half-sisters, two older half-brothers and two younger sisters. The two met while attending Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio. After their marriage, the two went to Canada on their honey moon. The two decided to return to Chambersburg two years after the start of the war and after thei birth of their first son. Samuel enlisted as a second lieutenant in the 16th Pennsylvania Cavalry in September 1862. Rachel and their son moved to Samuels parent's farm just outside of Chambersburg.In late 1865, the Cormanys moved to a farm in Missouri to live in the house that Samuel had built for Rachel before the disruption and devastation of the war.


This letter is significant because it gives us a personal experience and how major events in the war effected real people in that time period. Like many other letters , this one gave us an insight to how families were ruined by this war. The destruction of Chambersburg was an extremely important event in the Civil War and this letter gives us a view on it that the history textbooks cannot.

The Confederates

Harvey Black


"The happy day of our marriage arrived and since then, hours, days, and years of time, confidence & happiness passed rapidly away, and only to make us feel that happy as were the hours of youthful days, they compare not with those of later years and perhaps even these may not be equal to that which is in reserve for us. I don't know how much pleasure it affords you to go over these days of the past, but to me they will ever be remembered as days of felicity. And how happy the thought that years increase the affection & esteem we have for each other to love & be loved. May it ever be so, and may I ever be a husband worthy of your warmest affections."


Harvey Black was born in 1827 in Virginia. He served in the Fourth Virginia Infantry Regiment as a surgeon, and then as surgeon in charge of the field hospital of the 2nd Corps, Army of Northern Virginia. Black was called upon to treat General Thomas J. Jackson after he was severely wounded at the Battle of Chancellorsville. Black was also a founder and sat on the first Board of Visitors of the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College, which is now called Virginia Tech.


This letter shows that not all the men fighting in the war were glad to be there. While many men were willing to lay their life on the line for their lifestyle, Black was more interested in forgetting the present and going back to the more pleasant times of the past. He longed for domestic bliss and relied on the joys of his past to get him thorough the war.

Anna Moffett


"Our State is fully prepared for the worst, not one dissenting voice, men & women, yes even women, are all agreed to conquer or die. We may suffer dreadfully & some, aye many, of our most brave & good men fall if we are forced to war; but conquered & forced to return to the Union as it now is, dishonored, debased, sold to Black Republicans & Abolitionists we never will. How sad the thought that this once Glorious Republic should be shooked to its foundations & destroyed by demagogues & others who are urged on by mad fanaticism, but tis done. We wished to withdraw peaceably, but no, we were indispensable to their wealth though we were a blot on their fair Escutcheon & Murderers, Blasphemers & every other sinner would enter Heaven before us slaveholders, forgetting that was never denounced a sin by our God, but when a people set up a law higher than the Holy Word & Law of Jehovah, the wonder ceases at any wished deed they commit."


Anna Moffett's letter showed that the soldiers were not the only ones passionate about winning the war and keeping a lifestyle. This letter shows that the men and women of the confederacy were willing to risk everything for their way of life. All of the people in her state were prepared to die for the cause. The letter exhibits the love that the men and women who weren't fighting were capable to contain.


Woodworth, Steven E. Diaries and Letters from Home. Detroit: Cengage Learning, 2008. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 6 May 2013.

Woodworth, Steven E. Diaries and Letters from Soldiers. Detroit: Cengage Learning, 2008. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 6 May 2013.

"Historical Document: Sullivan Ballou Letter." The Civil War. PBS, n.d. Web. 6 May 2013.

"Samuel and Rachel Cormany." Valley of Shadows. Full Valley Archive, n.d. Web. 6 May 2013.

"Guide to the Civil War Manuscript Collections." Special Collections. Virginia Tech University Libraries, n.d. Web. 6 May 2013.

"Novels and Novellas." Great Writing, 29 Oct. 2011. Web. 6 May 2013.