Academic journal article Military Review

Love and Valor: Intimate Civil War Letters between Captain Jacob and Emeline Ritner

Academic journal article Military Review

Love and Valor: Intimate Civil War Letters between Captain Jacob and Emeline Ritner

Article excerpt

LOVE AND VALOR: Intimate Civil War Letters Between Captain Jacob and Emeline Ritner, Charles F. Larimer, ed., Sigourney Press, Western Springs, IL, 2000,472 pages, $19.95.

Collections of letters from Civil War soldiers are not uncommon. What sets this collection apart is that it also contains letters from the soldier's wife and family. One can only imagine the difficulties a soldier would encounter attempting to save letters while on campaign. Retention of letters would have been extremely difficult given such conditions as adverse weather, limited space in his knapsack, and loss or theft of personal items. Nevertheless, Captain Jacob Ritner was able to save 44 letters from his wife Emeline-letters that provide insight into the trials of the women who had to manage the farms, take care of the children, and pay the bills while their husbands were away.

Jacob's letters provide ample details of soldier life. He describes food or the lack thereof, marches, equipment shortages, and disgust with paymasters. He gives accounts of winter quarters and the soldiers' attempts to make their rude dwellings comfortable. He inquires about his children, his wife's health, the condition of their cows, the weather in Iowa, and he expresses concern about not being able to provide her with his pay.

At times Jacob declares his dissatisfaction with Army leaders, especially his dislike for Northern democrats whom he believes are undermining President Abraham Lincoln's attempt to win the war. …

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