This is where things start to get dark. Jamie still hasn’t found much work, but believes he has found a solution. You’ll notice if you look at the original letter that there’s a sense of urgency in Jamie’s writing, as he begins to scrawl notes in the margins and he even shoved in a little extra piece of paper with more writing that I almost didn’t find because it was still hidden inside the envelope.
Hartford Dec 8th 1861
My dear wife,
I received your kind letter Friday evening and was glad to hear you was well and all of my friends was well too. You must try to take good care of yourself fore I shall want to find you alive and in good health at the end of three long years fore I am going to enlist to go in the 12th Reg to go for three years or for the war with Uncle Horrace. He and I are going to enlist next week that is our determination now and I want your consent. I [promised] you that I would not enlist without your gave your consent but I have not got much work now. I got though work at Phelp’s last night but Friday morning I went in [search] of work I found a job down to Colts on the new factory for a few days but when that is done I [shall] not have any work and I think that it is the best thing that I can do is to go in the army to fight for my country. I shall be just as well off at the end as I should of if I [stayed] at home. You will draw six dollars from the State per month. I shall get ten dollars when I enlist extry and ten [dollars] from the State a month 13 [dollars] from the government a month and 30 (80?) [dollars] bounty a year from State. 100 from the government at the end of three years. Do you not think it best for me to do it. Say yes my dear wife and I will go.
Do not be [frightened] when you read this fore thousands have gone it is duty to go in war.
My dear wife
I hope this will not make you feel bad. It must not my [?] make you feel bad because I shall see you before I go if you are willing I should. You can come up here as soon as you want to and stay with me until I leave Hartford fore the [l__t?] of war. I will do the best with you that I can. I can lend my money home to you. You can use all of it that you want and put the rest of it in the Bank as do what you are a [mind] to with it. Katie I want to hear from you before enlisting. Uncle Horrace and I went out to the camps the 11th & 12th Reg. I saw Augerine Comstock and John Baley from Lyme. Bill and Charles Slate had gone home. I did not see them. John Handal Parker from Deep river and Joseph Rozzi from East Haddam they all like first rate and think that I shall like it [too]. What do you think about it Katie. You must not feel hard of me but I do want to go with the soldiers. I cannot see all of them in the war me a looking on I feel lazy to think they have all gone me to home. But I shall not enlist without you are willing fore me to do so. I want to do things as near right as possible if there is no work it is no use to stay at home.
Good by my Katie
Jamie’s reasons for joining the Union are strikingly similar to the reasons that many soldiers in our day and age decide to join the military. The Union was offering steady pay which he wasn’t able to find on his own, and he felt a sense of guilt when watching so many of those around him enlist while he remained a civilian. He knew Katie wouldn’t be crazy about the idea, that’s why he’s so apologetic, but his mind had clearly already been made up. I don’t know what Katie’s reaction to this letter was. What I can tell you is that Katie and Jamie were very genuinely in love, so I can’t imagine she felt lightly about his desire to enlist. When my grandmother was little, Katie used to talk to her about Jamie all the time, calling him “my Jamie” when she did, and that was in the 1920s, decades after the Civil War.
I’ve been debating how much to reveal about Katie and Jamie’s fate as I go along, and I think I’ve decided to leave out as many spoilers as possible as so to leave it up to the letters to tell the story. I’m just going to warn you now though – it gets rough.