Friday, April 10, 2015

Civil War Love Letters

Civil War Love Letters
Saturday, April 11, 2:00 pm
Library of Michigan Auditorium
702 W. Kalamazoo St. - Lansing, MI

On Saturday, April 11 at 2 pm in the Library of Michigan auditorium Erik Nelson, manager of the English Inn, and his spouse Kristin will do a dramatic reading of the Civil War letters sent by Michigan Union Soldier Nathan Adams to Emily Parsons between 1861 and 1865.  The letters are held in the Library of Michigan's Rare Book Room where they will be displayed along with other Civil War era items.

The event, which is cohosted by the Library of Michigan, draws attention to the importance of preserving letters and other family history, said Valerie Marvin, President of the Society.

These Few Lines
by Nathan Adams

(you must excuse all mistakes and bad writing and except these few lines from your absent friend)

O vain the question none can tell
I only know we love to well
Since first we met
When first my hand clasped in thine
When first those conquering eyes met mine
Our heart were laid upon loves shrine
But ah for us now light may shine
Hopes star has set
Our love was sinless free from stain
And should we never meet again
My heart will sing this sweet refrain
Thou lovest me yet.

It was March 12, 1862 when the Union Civil War soldier Nathan Adams, member of the 11th Michigan Volunteer Infantry sent this poem to his 'girl' back home.  Adams included the poem in one of his regular letters to Emily Parsons, who was clearly the love of his life.  Life was not always poetry for Adams who faced not only death from Rebel bullets but from serious illness while serving in the 11th Michigan Infantry.  The Regiment was organized in White Pigeon, Michigan and consisted of 950 members.  By the end of the war 112 men were killed in action and another 196 died from disease.

Adams's letters, which are held by the Library of Michigan in the Rare Book room provide a soldier's viewpoint from enlistment through three years of marching, waiting, bravado, fear, and fighting.  The collection holds 63 of Adams's letter to Emily who, when the war started, was still in school.  Emily's letters did not survive battlefield conditions.

The letters reveal not only his growing love for Emily, but a sense of dread that he may not see her again.  He describes in detail horrible conditions and the death of his comrades.  In one letter he describes the execution by hanging of a Union soldier soldier for killing a farmer.

His letters are often witty with a sense of cold irony as he faces death at Missionary Ridge, Chattanooga, Chickamauga, and the Siege of Atlanta.  A few of the letters from the 'soldier boy' reflect a jealous lover as he chastises Emily for going to dances back home.

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