Thursday, February 2, 2012



I still love hand-written notes and letters.  I'm not sure what it is about them, but I will always prefer something written by hand to emails, texts,  and other such forms of communication.  I'm also quite fascinated by collections of letters written by those who have gone before.  Maybe my favorite letter of all time is the now famous one written by Sullivan Ballou to his beloved wife Sarah during the Civil War.  If' you've never read it before, you are in for a treat.  And when I say you're in for a treat, I mean that you will probably need some kleenex to wipe away the tears you most definitely will shed.  I cry everytime I read it.   

My very dear Sarah:

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days - perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more....

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

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me - perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar -- that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.

Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have oftentimes been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night -- amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours - always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.

Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.…

O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.


FYI: Sullivan was the judge advocate of the Rhode Island militia during the Civil War. He died at the first Battle of Bull Run just a week after writing this letter, which he never mailed. It was found among his personal effects after his death. Even though Sarah was only 24 years old when her husband died, she never remarried. She lived to be 80 years old.

Sullivan and Sarah Ballou are buried next to each other at the Swan Point Cemetery in Rhode Island. Everytime I think of their story, which I only know of through this letter, I choke up. Oh, how they must have loved!

Click here to read the letter in its entirety.

1 comment:

Kim said...

What a touching, beautiful letter! So sweet. It reminds us of those who sacrificed so much and had such love and faith!