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War Letters : Extraordinary Correspondence from American Wars



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In 1998, Andrew Carroll founded the Legacy Project with the goal of remembering Americans who have served this nation and preserving their letters for posterity. Since then, more than 50,000 war letters discovered in basements, attics, scrapbooks, and old trunks have poured in from around the country. The best of these letters are assembled in this extraordinary collection, offering unprecedented insight into the Civil War, World Wars I and II, Vietnam, Korea, the Cold War, the Persian Gulf, and even the fighting in Somalia and the Balkans.

Featured here are dramatic accounts of combat written immediately after the most ferocious battles American troops have ever faced; poignant expressions of love by homesick husbands and sweethearts; humorous anecdotes and gripes about insufferable conditions; thoughtful reflections on the nature of warfare; and perhaps most devastating, a startling number of last letters, heartfelt messages penned just hours before the sender was killed.

War Letters is a testament to the heroic contributions and astonishing literary voices of common soldiers, marines, airmen, and sailors, as well as war nurses, journalists, spies, and chaplains. There are also previously unpublished letters by such legendary figures as William T. Sherman, Clara Barton, Theodore Roosevelt, Ernie Pyle, Helen Keller, Douglas MacArthur, Julia Child, Dwight Eisenhower, Norman Schwarzkopf, and America's first black general, Benjamin O. Davis Sr.

"Individually, the war letters collected here are distinct, finely cut works of art, some more polished, some rougher around the edges, but each one exquisite in its own right. Together, they create a larger narrative: the story of Americans at war against themselves and other nations," observes Carroll in his introduction. These historic letters capture the full fury and intensity of warfare, and they reveal in vivid detail what the servicemen and -women of this nation have experienced and sacrificed on the front lines. War Letters is a lasting tribute to those who have fought for this country, and a celebration of the enduring power and lyricism of personal letters.

Author Biography

Andrew Carroll, thirty-one, is the editor of the national bestseller Letters of a Nation. He is also the executive director of the American Poetry & Literacy Project, a nonprofit organization he cofounded with the late Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky, that distributes free books in public places throughout the country to promote literacy.

Table of Contents

Foreword 21(10)
Douglas Brinkley
Introduction: Behind the Lines 31(12)
The Civil War
Abolitionist Aaron Stevens, Writing to His Brother in 1858, Warns That Slavery Will Only Be Done Away with ``By the Sword''
Stevens Bids Farewell to His Brother from Jail Before Being Hanged for Participating in John Brown's Raid at Harpers Ferry
Marcus Morton Sends Fort Sumter's Maj. Robert Anderson a Message of Support in His ``Hour of Imminent Peril''
P. Burns in Tennessee, Observing the ``Spirit of War'' Overtaking the Country, Laments to a Friend the Misery to Come
Lt. Ai Thompson Writes to His Father After the U.S. Army's ``Disgraceful'' Loss at Manassas (Bull Run)
Imprisoned Confederate Spy Rose O'Neal Greenhow Excoriates U.S. Secretary of State William Seward for the ``Military Dictatorship'' He and President Lincoln Have Established
Lt. James Trathen of the MS Bark Describes to a Friend a Burial at Sea and Several Encounters with the Confederates
Patience Black Sends Her Husband, James, News from the Homefront and a Reminder of How Much He Is Missed
Sgt. Maj. James Black, Writing from ``Lone Some Camp,'' Vows to Patience That His Love for Her Will ``Burn Forever''
Union Soldier William Mayberry Scolds His Wife After Hearing Rumors That She Has Been Unfaithful
Twenty-Two-Year-Old 2nd Lt. George A. Custer Tells His Sister Ann of a Memorable Scouting Mission Near Rebel Troops
Union Soldier Columbus Huddle Writes to His Father After Nearly Being Killed at the Battle of Shiloh
A Union Soldier Unleashes a Fury of Insults on the Officers, Doctors, and ``Rebbles'' Making His Life Unbearable
Francis Christiance Assures His Wife That, Despite a Newspaper Story to the Contrary, He Is Certain He Has Not Been Shot for Desertion
Charles E. Bingham Describes to His Wife the Execution of a Deserter
In the Aftermath of the Bloodshed at Antietam, an Anguished Maj. William Child Asks His Wife, ``Who Permits It?''
Nurse Clara Barton Portrays to Her Cousin Vira a Hushed, Moonlit Camp, ``Still as Death,'' on the Eve of the Battle of Fredericksburg
Dr. Calvin Fisher Reports to His Brother Alfred the ``Awful Scene'' at Chancellorsville and the Fate of Several Civilians Caught in the Crossfire
Samuel Cabble, an African-American Private in the Union Army, Promises His Wife That Slavery, the ``Curse of This Land,'' Will Be Crushed
Capt. Francisco Rice Assures His Wife That ``Although the Day May Be Dark as Ever,'' Their ``Sacrifices Have Not Been Made in Vain''
Capt. William T. House Writes Under the ``Whistling Bullet'' to His Fiancee, Linda Brigham, During the Siege of Vicksburg
Captain House Expresses to Linda How Thrilled He Is by the ``Grand Sight'' of the Defeated Rebels
Pvt. John H. Burrill Sends His Fiancee, Ell, a Brief but Graphic Description of the Battlefield at Gettysburg
Capt. David Embree, a Veteran of Numerous Battles, Reflects in a Letter to His Sister, Rose, on the Horror---and Exhilaration---of Combat
Martha Liggan Tells the Mother of a Confederate Soldier of Her Son's Last Moments and Denounces the ``Vile'' Yankees Who Let Him Die
Sgt. Thomas Bowen Provides His Mother with an Eyewitness Account of the Disastrous Battle of the Crater at Petersburg
Lt. Col. William Pegram, with the Confederate Army, Describes for His Wife an Account of the Same Battle, and Justifies the Massacre of Surrendering Black Troops
Extended Correspondence
Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman Defends Himself Against Those in the South Who Call Him a ``Barbarin,'' Denounces Unsupportive Northerners, and, After Conquering Atlanta, Asserts That the ``People of Georgia [Now] See We Are in Earnest''
James Paxton Relates to His Friend Val Giles the Torments He Endured While a Prisoner in a Union POW Camp
Union Soldier Charles George Sends His Wife, Ellen, a Letter from Appromattox, Announcing That ``General Lee Has Surrendered!!!!''
Mary Custis Lee, Wife of Robert E., Tells Her Cousin That the North ``Achieved by Starvation What They Could Never Win by Their Valor''
Maj. William Child Exclaims in a Letter to His Wife: ``I Have Seen the Murder of the President of the United States''
In the Bitter Aftermath of the Civil War, Union Soldier William Byron Tries to Win the Heart of Caroline Tally, an Attractive Young Confederate Woman
Joshua Chamberlain Returns to the Field Where He Was Shot and Recalls, in a Letter to His Sister, the ``Horrible Carnage'' That Took Place That Day
World War I
Social Activist Jane Addams Warns President Woodrow Wilson of the Consequences of Preparing for War Instead of Advocating for Peace
Mrs. M. Denkert Implores Jane Addams to Continue Her Antiwar Efforts on Behalf of ``Poor Stricken'' Mothers Everywhere
Pvt. Lester Hensler, Heading Overseas, Assures His Parents He Is Excited to Be Off to War---``a Man's Game''
Kate Gordon Sends a Letter to One of Her Three Sons on His Way to Europe, Telling Him to ``Live---or, if God's Will, Die with Courage''
Ship's Cook 3/C Hugh Alexander Leslie Writes Home After Surviving the Sinking of the USS President Lincoln from a Submarine Attack
Ambulance Corps Driver George Ruckle Describes to His Family a Failed German Offensive and the Skills American Soldiers Brought to the Fight
Maj. Edward B. Cole Provides His Two Young Sons with a Lighthearted Account of His Experiences in France
In a Cable to Gen. Peyton March, Gen. John ``Black Jack'' Pershing Praises the ``Colored Soldiers'' Serving with the AEF
Writing to His Nine-Year-Old Son, Warren, Gen. John Pershing Explains Why He and His Troops Are Fighting in France
John E. Bott Tells His Son Harry, in France with the AEF, Joyful News of a Recent ``Arrival'' to the Family---Followed by a Devastating Loss
Pvt. Walter Bromwich, Writing to His Pastor, Begins to Question the Role of God in War
Theodore Roosevelt Sends a Letter of Deep Gratitude to Mrs. H. L. Freeland, Who Consoled Him After a Heartbreaking Loss
On the Eve of the First Major U.S. Offensive at Saint-Mihiel, Lt. David Ker Tells His Mother What He Wants Her to Remember in the Event of His Death
Col. George S. Patton Writes to His Father After Saint-Mihiel, Which Was ``Not Half So Exciting'' as He Had Hoped
In an Impassioned Letter to His Wife, Gertrude, 2nd Lt. Francis M. Tracy Declares That Their Separation Has Only Intensified His Love for Her
Goldie Marcellus Mails Her Husband, Edward, a Love Letter---Which He Promptly Returns with Commentary
Extended Correspondence
1st Lt. Edward Lukert Promises His Wife, Mabel, He Has No Interest in Dying for His Country, Shares His Thoughts After Watching Men Get Killed, and, After Being Wounded Himself at Saint-Mihiel, Assures His Wife There Are Young Soldiers in More ``Terrible Shape'' Than He
A Soldier Sends a Dramatic ``Yarn'' to His Friend Elmer J. Sutters About the Meuse-Argonne Battle---the Final, Major Clash of the First World War
After Peace Is Declared, Lt. Lewis Plush Reflects in a Letter to His Parents on the Haunting Images of War He Will Never Forget
American Red Cross Nurse Maude B. Fisher Writes to the Mother of a Young Soldier About Her Son's Tragic Fate After the War
Col. Robert T. Oliver Shares a Poignant Story with Veteran Frank Cashin About a Memorable Encounter with an Elderly Frenchman in Chateau-Thierry
World War II
Alexander Goode, an American Jew, Writes a Prophetic Letter in 1933 to His Beloved, Theresa Flax, About Adolf Hitler
Rabbi Goode, a Month Before His Legendary Act of Heroism, Reminds His Wife, Theresa, How Much He Loves Her
Ned Black, Visiting England in 1939, Relates to His Family in the United States How Anxious Londoners Are Bracing for War
Lt. Cdr. Paul E. Spangler Gives His Old Friends Back Home an Eyewitness Account of the Bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941
World War I Veteran Dwight Fee Offers Some Fatherly Advice to His Son, William, ``Off on the Great Adventure''
President Roosevelt Receives an Extraordinary Appeal from a Half-German Immigrant Who Wants to Join the War Effort
Sgt. J. M. Smith, Before Being Forced on the ``Bataan Death March,'' Tells His Wife to Have Faith He Will Return Home Alive
Capt. James Sadler, Smith's Brother-in-Law, Adds a Brief Note at the Bottom of the Letter, Sending His Love as Well
Lt. Tommie Kennedy, Captured at Corregidor and Imprisoned on a Japanese ``Hell Ship,'' Scribbles Two Short, Last Letters to His Parents
Pvt. Morton D. Elevitch, in Basic Training, Informs His Mother He Is Learning How to Shoot, Beat, Stomp, and Bayonet Another Human Being
Pfc. Edgar Shepard Promises the Parents of Pfc. Russell Whittlesey, Who Saved His Life at Guadalcanal, That He Will ``Avenge'' Russell's Death
Capt. Ed Land, an American Pilot Flying with the Royal Air Force, Express to His Brother Frank the Exhilaration---and Risks---of His Job
1st Lt. Charles S. ``Bubba'' Young Chronicles for His Family a Dramatic Bombing Raid on Ploesti, Romania
Maxine Meyers, Workings as a Welder, Describes to Her Husband, Nove, a Historic Explosion Near Their Home in California
Journalist Ernie Pyle Sends an Explicit, Profanity-Laced Letter from North Africa to His Lifelong Friend Paige Cavanaugh
1st Lt. Paul Skogsberg Flirts with a Beautiful War Nurse Named Vera ``Sheaf'' Sheaffer Through a Series of Letters
Seaman Sylvan ``Sol'' Summers Receives an Unexpected, Crushing Letter from His Fiancee
1st Lt. John David Hench Expresses His Disappointment to His Wife, Barbara, Over Her ``Nocturnal Adventures''
Hench, Writing Three Days Later, Assures His Wife She Is Forgiven
Extended Correspondence
Fifteen-Year-Old Pvt. Bill Lynn Implores His Mother to Send His Birth Certificate and ``Get [Him] Out'' of Boot Camp, But Then Later Tells Her Not to Worry About Him
Mrs. Lynn Mails a Series of Short Letters to Bill Asking Where He Is and Updating Him on His Brother Bob, Also in Combat
Shizuko Horiuchi, an American Citizen Detained for Being Japanese, Depicts for Her Friend Henriette Von Blon Life in an Internment Camp
Pfc. Ernest Uno, with the Famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Explains to His Sister Mae in an Internment Camp About Why He is Fighting
Lt. Walter Schuette Sends His Newborn Daughter, Anna Mary, a Letter to Be Read to Her in the Event He Does Not Come Home Alive
After Learning That His First Child Has Just Been Born, Capt. George Rarey Exclaims to His Wife, June: ``I'm a Father---I Have a Son! Thank You, Junie!''
Army Nurse Vera Rieck Writes to Her Family About a Deadly German Attack on Her Ship in the Gulf of Salerno
Pvt. Paul Curtis, Fighting at Anzio, Responds to a Letter from His Younger Brother, Mitchell, Asking What Combat Is Like
Pfc. Dom Bart Provides His Wife, Mildred, with a Moment-by-Moment Account of Going Ashore at Normandy on the Morning of June 6, 1944
S. Sgt. Eugene Lawton Shares with His Parents What Was Going Through His Mind Before, During, and After the D-Day Invasion
Gen. George S. Patton Jr., Removed from the Main Action on D-Day, Offers Some Fatherly Advice to His Son George
Shaken by the ``Terror'' of Battle, Capt. George Montgomery with the Eighty-second Airborne Tells His Fiancee, Arline, He Loves Her More Than Ever
Pfc. Charles McCallister, with the 101st Airborne, Describes to His Aunt Mimi Her Son Jim's Heroic Last Moments Before Being Killed
2nd Lt. Jack Lundberg Assures His Parents That, If He Should Die in Combat, Sacrificing His Life for the United States Is More Than Worth It
Extended Correspondence
Combat Nurse June Wandrey Describes to Her Family the Challenges of Working in a Field Hospital, Receives a ``Dear June'' Letter from Her Beau in the U.S., Writes to an Old Friend About a Memorable Visit to the Vatican, and Grieves Over the Fate of a Young Patient
Lt. jg. George Bush Updates His Parents on His Recovery After Being Shot Down and Nearly Killed During a Bombing Mission in the South Pacific
1st Lt. George S. McGovern Shares with His Friend Bob Pennington a Few (Surprising) Comments on the 1944 Presidential Race
CPhM Fritz Houser Describes to His Parents the Critically Wounded Patients He Treated During the Invasion of the Philippines
Lt. Cdr. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and John Steinbeck Offer Words of Condolence to the Widow of Their Friend, John Kremer, Killed in a Kamikaze Attack
Pfc. Richard Cowan, Just Before the Battle of the Bulge, Writes a Profound Letter to His Mother About Ethics and Morality
Pfc. DeWitt ``Chick'' Gephart Informs His Parents He Has Been Seriously Wounded in the Battle But, Nevertheless, Is in Very Good Spirits
Warrant Officer Frank J. Conwell, Having Survived the Battle of the Bulge, Sends His Family a Poetic Reflection on War and What He Has Seen
1st Lt. James Carroll Jordan, in a Letter to His Wife, Details the Atrocities Committed in the Buchenwald Concentration Camp
1st Lt. Fritz Schnaittacher, a German-Born Jew Serving in the U.S. Army, Writes to His Wife After the Liberation of the Dachau Concentration Camp
S. Sgt. Horace Evers, in Adolf Hitler's Munich Apartment, Uses Hitler's Personal Stationery to Describe to His Family the Horrors of Dachau
2nd Lt. Richard Wellbrock Chronicles His Remaining Days as a Prisoner of War in a Letter/Diary to His Wife, Mary
1st Lt. William Lee Preston Characterizes for His Brother, John, a Parade of German Soldiers---Once the ``Terror of Europe''---Now Defeated and Powerless
Seaman Robert Black, Aboard the USS Swenson, Berates His Father for Embarrassing Him in Front of His Crewmates
Extended Correspondence
2nd Lt. Sidney Diamond Expresses to His Fiancee, Estelle Spero, to Remind Her How Much He Loves Her, Shares His Fears About How Veterans Will Be Treated After the War, Reflects on His Fellow Soldiers Who Have ``Departed,'' and Describes the Melancholy Among the Soldiers on Christmas Day 1944
Estelle, During the Final Months of the War, Tells Her Fiance She Is Thinking of Him Always and Loves Him Dearly
Pfc. Bill Madden, Wounded Twice in Combat, Describes to His Father Coming in with the First Wave at Iwo Jima
Pfc. Richard King Recalls the Fighting on Saipan and Okinawa in a Graphic Letter to His Parents
A Survivor of the USS Indianapolis Disaster, RT 2/C Herbert J. Miner II Assures His Parents He Is Alive and Recuperating After Being Lost at Sea for Four Days
Fireman Keith Lynch Describes to His Parents the ``Dead City'' of Nagasaki, Japan
Cpl. Richard S. Easterbrook Writes to His Parents from the Hospital Beside of Ex-Premier of Japan, Hideki Tojo, After Tojo's Failed Suicide Attempt
Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Sr. Reports to His Wife, Sadie, His Efforts to Promote Racial Equality and Understanding in a Postwar Era
Stationed in Japan, Sgt. Richard Leonard Explains to His Friend Arlene Bahr Why, Despite All That Has Happened to Him, He Does Not Hate the Japanese
The Korean War & The Cold War
Shot During One of the U.S. Army's First Major Defeats in Korea, Pfc. Donald Luedtke Tells His Mother His Fate Could Have Been Much Worse
In a Letter Home, Sgt. John Wheeler Harshly Condemns the Communists Fighting in Korea and Their Sympathizers in the States
Wounded Twice in Action, Sergeant Wheeler Assures His Father He Will Not Be Sent Back Into Combat
Sgt. Gordon Madson Provides Sergeant Wheeler's Father with a Firsthand Account of His Son's Fate
Writing from the Osaka Army Hospital, Pvt. Bob Hammond Describes to His Father the Brutal Fighting at the Chosin Reservoir
In a Letter to Carlos P. Romulo, Gen. Douglas MacArthur Defends Himself Against the ``Radical Fringe'' Maligning His Leadership
A Young Officer, Feeling Ignored, Implores His Wife to Send More Letters---and to Stay True to Him Back Home
A Nineteen-Year-Old Soldier Replies to His Sweetheart After She Rejects Him for Another Man
Extended Correspondence
World War II Veteran S. Sgt. Joe Sammarco Bids His Wife, Bobbie, Farewell as He Embarks for Korea, Tells Her He Has Survived the Battle of Chipyong-ni and Other Close Calls, and, After Witnessing the Accidental Killing of Two Korean Children, Pleads with Bobbie to Take Extra Care of Their Little Girls
Sgt. Don Gore Informs His Girlfriend, Onda Napier, That, If Ordered to Korea, ``[He] Ain't Goin'''
Capt. H. Richard Hornberger, M.D., Shares with His Parents the Antics of His Fellow MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) Doctors
Capt. Molton A. Shuler Jr. Describes to His Wife, Helen, the Makeshift Church He and His Friends Have Created in the Midst of Battle
Ardith Morrisseau Gently Chastises Her Former Boyfriend, Lt. jg. Carroll Briggs, for ``Getting Himself in Such Messes'' with Other Women
Briggs Confesses to Morrisseau That He Has Fallen in Love with Her
Hardly Able to Contain Himself, Briggs Declares He Has Come to a Decision He Is ``Just Dying to Tell [Her]''
Demoralized by His Experiences in Korea, Pfc. Jack Train Jr. Instructs His Friend, Kathie, to Tell Her Younger Brother the Realities of War Before He Enlists
Julia Child Admonishes Aloise B. Heath for Questioning the Patriotism of Smith College Professors with Alleged Communist Connections
In a Letter to Reverend G. A. Zema, Helen Keller Denies That She Is a Communist Sympathizer
Lt. Jack Sweeney Sends a Letter to His Future Wife, Beebe Matthewson, After a Disastrous, ``Trans-Oceanic'' Phone Call
Cdr. Sweeney Assures Beebe That Even if He Should Die on One of His Missions, He Considers Himself ``One of the Luckiest People'' to Have Lived
Convicted Spy Alger Hiss, Writing from Prison, Advises His Young Son Tony on What Is Required for an Individual to Be Truly Happy
In a Letter to the Writer James Rorty, Whittaker Chambers Reflects on the Explosive ``Hiss-Chambers Case'' Twelve Years After It Was First Reported
Writing from Moscow, Francis Gary Powers Sends His First Letter to His Parents After Being Shot Down Over the Soviet Union
Former President Dwight Eisenhower Tells His Friend Jock Whitney That All Americans Must Be ``Unified'' Behind President Kennedy After the Bay of Pigs Disaster
The Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, Somalia, & Bosnia
The Sister of an Army Specialist Killed in Vietnam Asks President John F. Kennedy ``If a War Is Worth Fighting---Isn't It Worth Fighting to Win?''
President Kennedy Responds
Lt. Roy Boehm, ``Father'' of the U.S. Navy SEALs, Wishes His Mom a Happy Valentine's Day from Vietnam---the ``Damndest Crazyiest War'' Ever
Cpl. Mike Jeffords Offers His Parents His First Impressions of Vietnam and Describes the Experience as ``Something of a Vacation''
In a Private Letter to Lt. Col. Lewis L. Millet, Gen. William C. Westmoreland Articulates the Difficulties American Forces Are Up Against
Airman 3/C Robert Zwerlein Sends a High-Spirited Letter to a Friend Back in the States Only Days Before the Fatal USS Forrestal Fire
Pvt. Brice E. Gross Offers His Younger Brother, Jerry, Words of Advice and Encouragement After the Death of Their Father
In a Letter to His Wife, Joyce, 1st Lt. Dean Allen Reflects on the Physical and Emotional Challenges of Leading a Platoon
Chaplain Ray W. Stubbe Writes to His Parents from the Marine Base at Khe Sanh on the First Day of What Was to Become a Lengthy and Terrifying Siege
Lt. Col. Gerald W. Massy III Offers His Daughter Lynn a Firsthand Report of the Tet Offensive as It Unfolds Around Him
In a Letter to His Parents, L. Cpl. Stephen Daniel Laments the Death of a Close Friend ``in a Damn Country Not Worth Fighting for''
Spc. 4/C Richard Baltzegar Shares with His Friend Mike Sullivan His Disgust for the U.S. Army ``and the Country It Represents''
Extended Correspondence
Pfc. Timothy Robinson Chronicles His Combat Experiences in Vietnam in a Series of Short, Descriptive Letters to Anxious Family Members Back in the States
Spc. 4/C Bob Leahy Explains to His Family Why One of the Worst U.S. Atrocities of the War Was No Surprise
Another Army Specialist 4th Class Describes to His Parents the Extent to Which Accidents, Friendly Fire, and Fragging Are Killing U.S. Troops
The Parents of Sandy Scheuer Receive a Series of Letters, Including One from President Richard Nixon, After Their Daughter Is Shot Dead at Kent State
2nd Lt. Scott Alwin Shares, in a Letter to His Father, a Secret He Has Been Keeping from Him for Some Time
Tom McCabe, Writing to His Parents from the Hospital, Reflects on Being Back in the States After Fighting in Vietnam
Shaken After an Attack at Fire Base Mary Ann, an Anguished Young Sergeant Tells His Mom He Wants to ``Get the Hell Out of Here''
Ambassador Graham A. Martin Dispatches Three Urgent Telegrams from the American Embassy in Saigon Pleading for More Helicopters
Maj. Michael O'Donnell Sends His Friend Marcus Sullivan a Poem That, Decades Later, Would Be Read and Cherished by Thousands of Vietnam Veterans and Their Families
Gold Star Mother Theresa O. Davis Writes to Her Son Richard, Killed in Vietnam, Thirty Years After His Death
Richard Luttrell Leaves a Heartfelt Letter of Reconciliation at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Bill Hunt Shares with Fellow Vietnam Veteran David H. Hackworth His Concerns About an Impending U.S. War with Iraq
Sgt. Tom Shaffer Jokes with His Friend Kathleen Williams About the Precautions They Have Been Given in the Event of a Chemical Weapons Attack
S. Sgt. Frank Evans Describes to His Mother and Stepfather the Anxious First Hours of the Air Campaign Against Iraq
Writing to His Wife and Sons, Maj. Bob Munson Downplays a Scud Attack and Relates Some Lighter Moments on the Base
Capt. Samuel G. Putnam III Chronicles for His Wife and Family His Participation in the Ground War
S. Sgt. Dan Welch Reflects in a Letter Home How Strange the War Seemed and Expresses His Regrets the Allies ``Didn't Go Far Enough''
Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf and Gen. Colin Powell Console the Families of Two Men Killed in the Persian Gulf
General Powell Responds to a Withering Onslaught of Questions---from a Class of First Graders
Photojournalist Dan Eldon Sends a Short Note to His Girlfriend from Mogadishu About the Plight of Somalia
Black Hawk Pilot Michael Durant Writes from Captivity in Somalia to Assure His Wife and One-Year-Old Son That, Although Injured, He Is Still Alive
1st Lt. Erin Shuler Writes an E-mail from Bosnia to Her Family Back in the States Detailing Serbian Atrocities
Maj. Thomas O'Sullivan Sends His Son, Conor, a Special Gift from Bosnia for His Seventh Birthday
Editor's Note and Acknowledgments 473(10)
Permissions 483(6)
Index 489


Excerpt from The Civil War Griping about insufferable conditions was not uncommon, but a number of soldiers took a more drastic step: they deserted. During the Civil War an estimated 280,000 Union and 104,000 Confederate soldiers were classified as deserters -- to date, the highest rates recorded in American wartime history. (At the height of the Vietnam War the numbers peaked at 7.4 percent, compared with an average of about 11 percent in the Civil War.) Punishments for desertion varied from receiving a mere reprimand to being flogged, imprisoned, branded on the face with a "D," or, in the most serious cases, shot. The latter was rare; executions could have a counterproductive effect on troops, and the vastly outnumbered Confederacy could hardly spare the men. Newspapers were quick to report when executions were carried out, serving as cautionary reminders to those tempted to flee. But these reports were not always accurate, as a mortified young Union private named Francis Christiance discovered one day while reading the paper. Alexandra Heights, Oct. 7, 1861. Dear Wife,I this day received an issue of the Star and Times containing the following paragraphs which no doubt overwhelmed me as much as it certainly must have done you. "To be shot: Francis Christaince deserter from the ranks of Capt. Truax'es Company, one which we have known for a long time was sentenced to be shot and perhaps met his faith at noon to-day. We have not given this fact publicity before, we did hope for and do not yet despair of a reprieve for the misguided soldier though the fact that this terrible punishment is meted for a second offense seems to abide it: -- "I simply deny in to each and every specification contained in the above.1st. I am not shot.2nd. I am not sentenced to be shot.3rd. There has not been here the slightest supposition among the men or myself that I was to be shot.4th. I never deserted from Capt. Truax'es Company nor have I ever been tried for any charge for desertion. From whence these false assertions could have originated I cannot surmise. But if he has feeling for a kind and loving wife, a household of children, not to say of the grief that fills your heart at this report, he certainly would not be humanity to contradict it.This afternoon Col. Jackson has received a letter requesting the transmission of my dead body to my wife, my feeling may better be imagined than described. The editor of the Star certainly should bare a great deal of the blame for publishing a rumor leaving a whole family on the foundation of what must have been a mere rumor, but this is not the first nor I suppose the last kindness we will receive from those we left behind. Truly your loving and yet living husband, Francis Christiance. Another Union soldier, Charles Bingham, wrote to his wife, Sarah, to describe in chilling detail the execution of a deserter, whose death he witnessed firsthand. August 9 1863Same old camp 6 miles from Rebbys My dear wifei seat myself again to pen a few lines to you again as it is Sunday and did not think that i could let the day pas without a little conversation with you and it may be that you are engaged at the same business at this moment i would like to know if you are out but i supose that the day will be spent in visiting with happy friends and neighbors and i would not wonder if you had a quite a good time at it i hope that you willi tell you what it is it is so hot here that it aint comfortable a setting in the shade and do nothing i had a letter from mother two or three days ago she was well at the time she is to work out there for ten shillings per week and she says that this fall she is a coming out to see you if she livesthe day before yesterday the execution of a m

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