Friday, February 8, 2013

My very dear Sarah,

At the onset of the Civil War when the men went off to fight letters to home came with frequency. Both sides figured the war would last a few months at most, not the four long years that it did. Men would write their wives and sweethearts about the harrows of battle to the serene beauty of places they had never seen. One letter that resonates through history is that of Sullivan Ballou.

Sullivan was born March 28, 1829. He was 32 when the south fired on Fort Sumter and starting the war. (While skirmishes like the slave uprising led by John Brown happened prior to Ft. Sumter, the attack is considered the season opener war) Sullivan was an educated man who dedicated his life to public service having been elected as clerk of the Rhode Island House of Representatives as well as passing the Rhode Island bar.

When the war started in 1861, Sullivan immediately enlisted to be part of the Union Cause.
He wrote a letter to his wife Sarah on July 14, 1861. Ballou's letter is filled with love and longing, pathos and fierce pride in his country.

"Sarah my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country come over me like a strong wind and bears me unresistibly on with all these chains to the battle field"

Ballou seemed to know his death was coming but I doubted he knew it was coming so quickly. Sullivan Ballou died at the first Battle of Bull Run July21, 1861. A mere 7 days after writing his letter to Sarah. He never had a chance to mail it. Sarah would ultimately receive the letter, along with other more upbeat ones, at a later date. This particular letter was among the personal affects Governor William Sprague, The Boy Governor of Rhode Island, traveled to Virginia to retrieve.

 "Oh Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you..."

In fact, Sullivan Ballou will be with us all forever more.

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