In case you were wondering what they looked like. First picture is Burnside, second is McClellan.
So it turns out that Whipperwill was not a person, it was the name of the section of town James lived in – it may actually be the name of their house. I was thinking that was kind of an odd name for a person. As a mentioned earlier, Robert, who was also a soldier, was James’s brother. The “Aunt Chas” written about in earlier letters is actually “Aunt Char” as in Charlotte Lay. After her husband died, she had a dream that he came to her and told her to get remarried so that she would have someone to take care of her on earth while he looked after her from beyond. According to my grandmother, some of the family members were a little skeptical about this and thought it may have just been her way of justifying getting remarried. I’m less skeptical – there’s a long list of supernatural occurrences experienced by people in the family, and no generation has escaped it yet. One other interesting fact: Starvation Hill was the actual name of a place, and apparently it was a pretty horrible spot. Maybe they should have named it something more optimistic.
For some time now I have been the caretaker of my family’s old letters, photographs, and various trinkets, all of which were given to me by my paternal grandmother who knows a startling amount about our family’s history stretching back quite a ways. Over the past few years, I have been working on archiving and digitizing the gigantic collection, but like everyone else on the face of the planet I’ve also been incredibly busy, so I haven’t been nearly as productive or expedient as I had hoped to be when first taking on the project. Recently I got the idea to set up this blog. It seems like this could potentially be a good motivator, and it’ll allow me to share what I’ve been archiving with any family and friends who might be interested.
The stories contained in these letters are pretty incredible. Some are humorous while many others are horribly depressing, as one might expect of any writing produced during wartime. Not all of the letters I’ll be posting here will be from the Civil War, but I figured that this period in American history would be a good place to start.
Oh, perhaps I should address the matter of the title I’ve chosen for this blog. It’s a recurring line from a poem written by my great great great aunt Katie Peckham to her husband (I’m not sure if they were married yet though) James who went on to be a soldier in the war. I thought it was appropriate for the theme. I’ll be sure to post the full poem eventually.