WWI Letters: “The U-boat Ordered Us To Stop”

Earlier this year when I was in Virginia, a smart salesperson convinced me to make a sizeable investment in a sizeable book called “A History of Shenandoah Country, Virginia.” I thought I was buying the book for Civil War history (and indeed I have used it in my new manuscript), but I also found a treasury of letters from World War I printed in the book! It appears that some of the letters were publicly published in local newspapers or later collected for the volume.

The letter I’m sharing today details the sinking of an American passenger ship by a German U-boat. Check out the letter, and I’ve included a few historical footnotes at the end… Continue reading

1863: “Oh, If I Could Just Come Out Of This Charge Safely”

(Spelling and emphasis is original)

July 3, 1863

Our artillery has now ceased to roar and the enemy have checked their fury, too. The time appointed for our charge has come.

I tell you, there is no romance in making one of these charges. You might think so from reading “Charlie O’Mallery,” that prodigy of valour, or in reading of any other gallant knight who would as little think of riding over gunners and sich like as they would of eating a dozen oysters. But when you rise to your feet as we did today, I tell you the enthusiasm of ardent breasts in many cases ain’t there, and instead of burning to avenge the insults of our country, families and altars and firesides, the thought is most frequently, Oh, if I could just come out of this charge safely how thankful would I be! Continue reading

1863: “We Are Still Tunneling Away”

Double post Monday! This is the second and final post for today…

[Spelling is original]

In Camp, Siege of Vicksburg, June 9, 1863

Dear wife,

We are still tunneling away at the rebel works around the city and in the same position as we were when I last wrote to you, with a fair prospect of remaining so for several days to come, but we will go into the city of Vicksburgh after awhile, that is shure, for we can live outside of their works longer than they can inside of them, that is certain, for we can get everything we want, and they can get nothing atall. We hear all kinds of rumors of how they are suffering fro want of water and provision, but we can’t tell which tale is the true one, and so we let them pass for what they will fitch. Continue reading

1863: “At Such A Price”

General Orders, No. 61

[Headquarters] Army of Northern Virginia,

May 11, 1863.

With deep grief the commanding general announces to the army the death of Lieut. Gen. T.J. Jackson, who expired on the 10th instant, at 3:15 p.m. The daring skill, and energy of this great and good soldier, by the decree of an all-wise Providence, are now lost to us. But while we mourn his death, we feel that his spirit still lives, and will inspire the whole army with his indomitable courage and unshaken confidence in God as our hope and strength. Let his name be a watchword to his corps, who have followed him to victory on so many fields. Let officers and soldiers emulate his invincible determination to do everything in defense of our beloved country. Continue reading

1863: “I Wish I Was Home…”

[spelling is original]

Fort Ripley, Mariland 

April 18, 1863

Dear Mother

I received your letter to night and was glad to hear from you and to hear that you are all well. I am tuff and harty as a buck. I have not hearn from the boys for a long time. I wrote to them some time ago but have not got one yet, but I am looking for one every night. I wish that the boyes was here with me for we are in a better place than they are. Continue reading

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. Continue reading