History is an intense thing.
History is not some dry and overwith experience found inside of a text book. Regardless of whether you think you’ve heard the story or not, there will always be another side. Not only that, but each side inevitably contains a wealth of emotions.
Never before have I been so thankful for the preservation of historical documents, as recently I began researching wartime correspondence. As it turns out, there are entire foundations whose sole purpose revolves around the preservation of documents created during our American wars.
The Legacy Project, established in 1998, seeks to preserve letters written by American servicemen throughout the years. Their website provides instructions on how to preserve documents of varying age and condition, and also encourages the owners of letters and e-mails to send copies to the foundation.
With the help of several thousand volunteers, The Legacy Project has been able to publish four books, each filled with letters covering a different aspect of life for the deployed servicemen. Letters and photos also go on to be featured in museums or memorials, where visitors can glimpse for themselves the words and sentiments of heroes long gone by.
The Love Letters Project, created by the Missouri History Museum, is another beautiful endeavor honoring a Union soldier and his wife. When James E. Love enlisted during the Civil War, he kept correspondence with his wife Molly. The Love Letters Project aims to publish each of James’ letters 150 years to the date he penned them.
Having come across these collections of letters has inspired me to include a similar endeavor here at Room for Patience. From this point on, Fridays will be reserved for excerpts and photos of wartime correspondence between service members and their loved ones at home.
How can there ever be enough recognition for this brand of communication? Living between each word is the sort of emotion that can only be found in a person who has discovered just how much they have to live for. Receiving such a letter injects its addressee with the sort of feeling that leaves them wondering if that unopened envelope can actually be real.
I consider it a gift that over 200 years after the first American war letters were written, that today we get to read them, preserve them, and we get to share them.
To end, please allow me to share an excerpt from James Love’s letter dated December 3 or 4, 1861.
I hope all is for the best. I wish to have a long conversation with you when I return. I’ve had many things to say for some time but in the unsettled not to say worse state in which I & all were in I could not begin did not know where to begin – while I seemed so much on the downward grade
My dearest girl I write in much haste & with sincerest love & esteem
James E. Love