1863: “Who Can Count The Cost Of War?”

Providence La.

March 16th 1863

My Dear Jennie,

Another bright beam has come to cheer the darksome way of the wandering soldier boy, another happy moment calls me to thy side while I would gladly peruse thy dear message of the 28th ult, that came on the 24th inst, would that I could lay aside this tardy medium. Oh how cruel! Yes cruel that I cannot greet thee as two months ago, but perhaps tis well life cannot all be sunshine. Yet I should not complain when the recipient of such a dear letter as yours of the 28th ult. But dearest Jennie there is no substitute, without thee all is void – this dear missive – that precious miniature all point to the one dearest original[.] Perhaps I speak too strongly yet it is only a partial sketch of daily experience. It brings me joy beyond measure to live over the happy hours spent with thee in times gone by. How much dearer would the reality be? But Jennie you will consider me selfish unless I cease speaking of my own personal feelings. Of course there is another to be consulted, and right gladly would I do so did the joyous moment offer, the sooner the better. Well dear lady perhaps you will say of me as you have of Maggie i.e. that I am “very foolish” well if she was justifiable, and I know you wont deny that, how much more am I & Oh a great deal more, I think so at least.

I was glad to hear of your good health and that your visit was having the desired effect of improving your health, no Jennie you must not get sick any more for you don’t know how much I was concerned for you when I was up there tho it gave me much pleasure to see a decided improvement before I left. Yet I think your photograph is not as healthy looking as your other picture of a year ago, however I think that if you stay awhile with Maggie she will cure you she seems so cheerful but she must give you more than “a minute” to “write” else some person else will get sick. You must tell her that I cannot allow her to have all your time, wouldn’t that be pretty work? Well my dear Jennie as it was late when I commenced this letter I guess I shall not finish it to night. Sweet sweet dreams good night good night.

J.M.

Just now I hear a cheer the levee is opened and I hear the old Mississippi rushing madly through the crevasse. What the end will be God only knows. For over two months the water will keep rising, already hundreds of families white and black are surrounded on all sides and cannot escape the raging flood, we may not have to more camp for several days, who can count the cost of war?

Josiah Moore

Courtship & War

By 1863, Josiah Moore – an Irish immigrant and Union captain in the 17th Illinois Regiment – was definitely in love with Miss Jennie Lindsay from Peoria, Illinois. Separated by war, the couple wrote numerous letters which – fortunately – have been preserved and published in the 2016 volume A Civil War Captain and His Lady: Love, Courtship, and Combat from Fort Donelson through the Vicksburg Campaign, edited by Gene Barr and published by Savas Beatie Publishers.

In this particular letter, Josiah writes effusively, remembering happy days with Jennie and saying how happy she makes him. He was slightly concerned about her health, encouraging her to stay with friends who kept her well and cheerful. Though relatively happy, his letter closes with a dark note as military action called his attention back to the field. How long would the war last? And what effects did it have on the civilians?

I find it interesting that he particularly notes the plight of white and black families in Louisiana by the flooding caused by the Union army in their attempts to reach Vicksburg, Mississippi. Sometimes, soldiers didn’t take time to think of the war’s effects on civilians, but Josiah Moore noticed and seemed slightly worried about their plight.

A map and illustration of Vicksburg

The Opened Levee

The Union army tried various methods and routes to reach the city of Vicksburg. The strong batteries and defenses created many challenges. One of the attempts was breaking levees in the area to open possible water routes toward the city. For example, on February 3, 1863, Union engineers blew up part of a levee, separating the Mississippi River from the Coldwater River, trying to create a passage which was eventually used to ferry 4,500 troops by water. Later in February, General Grant ordered the XVII Corps to work on a passage to the Red River via Lake Providence.

In March more attempts to reach or encircle Vicksburg by water routes and bayous continued. The particular incident Josiah Moore mentions probably occurred on March 18th (which would make sense since it’s in the postscript). On that day, a levee near Lake Providence was broken and a channel was created, deep enough for boats to pass through; however, this success and route was later bypassed as the movements toward Vicksburg continued. Even though the expedition successfully bypassed some of Vicksburg’s defenses, the Lake Providence Expedition was ultimately unsuccessful in its ultimate goals.

Historical Musings

Who can count the cost of war?

Often, war’s cost is seen in the casualty numbers, but the costs go farther. War affects civilians in many ways, often depending on their proximity to the conflict. It boosts or depresses the economy. It affects politics. These considerations should not diminish the soldiers’ sacrifices, but it should be remember that the cost of war is not borne only by the military.

I think Josiah Moore realized that – at least to some extent – when he penned the postscript to Miss Jennie.

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

About Sarah Kay Bierle

I’m Sarah Kay Bierle, historian, editor, and historical fiction writer. When sharing history, I try to keep the facts interesting and understandable. History is about real people, real actions, real effects and it should inspire us today.
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One Response to 1863: “Who Can Count The Cost Of War?”

  1. Pingback: 1863: “Next Day We Went…To Look At The Camps” | Gazette665

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