American Civil War in the News is a edited review of American Civil War related news and articles, providing collection of hand-picked 1861-1865 era history.

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Civil War Letters

Latest hand-picked Civil War news and articles.

Digitized collection of general John T. Wilder's letters
Civil War letters of Union General John T. Wilder reveal a husband nervous about being away from home, a soldier feeling a bit put upon, an entrepreneur looking for mineral prospects and an American disbelieving the destruction he has seen. Military historians don`t have to go the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga`s Lupton Library and wait for the 145-year-old letters to be dug out of the stacks to read them. The collection of letters is now available in the Special Collections section of the library`s Web site (

Oshkosh museum buys area Civil War soldier's artifacts, collection of letters   (Article no longer available from the original source)
Jennie Reardon saved every letter her husband sent from the Civil War front lines. Colonel John Hancock fought for the Union with Company E of the Second Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry of Oshkosh. He told that it "made him sick at heart to see the country torn in two" and it was his patriotic duty to preserve the country. The Oshkosh Public Museum declared that it acquired the letters and other militaria of the Oshkosh soldier. These letters are historically valuable because it is a complete account of a soldier's life. The Oshkosh Public Museum spent its entire collections budget for the year.

New York university to share its Abraham Lincoln letters online   (Article no longer available from the original source)
Only a year into the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln proposed purchasing slaves for $400 apiece under a "gradual emancipation" plan that would bring peace at less cost than hostilities. The proposal was drafted in one of 72 letters by Lincoln in the University of Rochester's archives. The correspondence will be posted online, with the 215 letters sent to Lincoln by political and military leaders. On March 14, 1862, Lincoln laid out the cost to the nation's coffers of his "emancipation with compensation" proposal. Paying slave-holders $400 for each of the 1,798 slaves in Delaware, would come to $719,200 at a time when the war was comsuming $2 million a day.

Collection of Civil War-era letters worth $2.4 million to be auctioned off
A batch of Civil War-era letters will go up for auction in Columbia, 3 years after Thomas Willcox was drawn into a battle with the state of South Carolina over ownership. One of the more notable documents is a 5-page letter by Robert E. Lee to the state's wartime governor on how to defend Charleston. The U.S. Supreme Court in April rejected South Carolina's bid to argue who owned the 444 documents, clearing the way for Willcox to go forward with the sale. "We're going to go and do now what we tried to do 3 years ago," Willcox's attorney Kenny Krawcheck said. The estimated value of the collection is $2.4 million.

Civil War letters rescued from a trash pile and put on display
Eli Pinson Landers, 16th Georgia Infantry, would be astonished to learn that letters he wrote to his mother would be rescued a century later from an Atlanta trash pile and published in a book that would make him one of the 13 "Soldier Comrades," an exhibit at the Pamplin Historical Park and National Museum of the Civil War Soldier. After the first battle, he wrote: "I get sort of ticklish when the bullets whistle around my head." After a bloody battle, his humor dissolved into a realization of war's horrors: "I have saw the wounded hauled off in 4-horse wagons, just throwed in like hogs, some with their legs off, some with their arms off, in terrible condition..."

How Civil War soldiers saw slavery - What This Cruel War Was Over
It wasn't until later in the Civil War, in the Gettysburg Address and his second inaugural speech, that Abraham Lincoln began describing the sacrifices of the war as nation's necessary atonement for the sins of slavery. But in doing so Lincoln was simply reflecting views that Union soldiers had already developed, according to historian Chandra Manning. "Ordinary Union and Confederate soldiers recognized slavery as the reason for the war" right from the beginning. She spent years sifting through letters, diaries, and regimental newspapers in order to develop a "bottom up" historical understanding of how Civil War soldiers regarded slavery.

Soldiers' lives depicted in Civil War letters
In the letters they wrote home, two Civil War soldiers from York told as much about life on the front as they did about living in the mid-19th century. "To history, these men are virtually unknown except that their letters survived," Scott Stevens said. "Yet their correspondence is as much a window into life in York at the time as into the war." In the letters, the men tell of their experiences after enlisting in the First Maine Cavalry Regiment in 1864, nearly 3 years after the Civil War's start.

Confederate letters not public documents
A federal appeals court ruled that Thomas Willcox, a descendent of a Confederate officer, not the state of South Carolina, owns more than 440 original Civil War letters valued at $2.4 million. The documents that have been in his family for more than 140 years. The papers - including correspondence from Gen. Robert E. Lee - were gathered by Confederate Maj. Gen. Evander McIver Law during the 1865 attack on the South Carolina capital by Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman. Law was Willcox's great-great-uncle. South Carolina obtained a temporary restraining order the day before Willcox planned to sell the papers.

Letters offer window into Civil War life
Researchers of the Civil War usually find only a one-way conversations. Letters from soldiers were precious, and folks at home often saved them. Letters to soldiers were equally precious but seldom preserved. Because of a remarkable archive at the Sandwich Historical Society, Alan Fraser Houston doesn't have this problem. In Keep Up Good Courage, he chronicles the war experience of Lewis Q. Smith, a corporal in the 14th New Hampshire Volunteers. In one letter Lucy complained of defeatism in the North. Many people, she wrote, believed that "this can never be settled by fighting."

Letters believed lost sheds light on madness of Mary Lincoln
In August 1875, after spending 3 months in a sanitarium, put there by her son against her will, Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of the martyred President, wrote: "It does not appear that God is good, to have placed me here..." This letter, along with 24 others, completely unknown and unpublished, was discovered in a steamer trunk owned by the children of Robert Todd Lincoln`s attorney. They are known as the "lost" insanity letters of Mary Lincoln, and their discovery will forever rewrite this famous—and infamous—chapter in the Lincoln-family history.