The Sullivan Ballou Letter | Victorian History


Yankees head into battle at the reenactment of the 150th Anniversary of Battle of Manassas, July 2011

Lest we forget the struggles our Victorian men made, we are gently reminded of the beautiful language and everlasting love of our Civil War soldiers.

Meredith Sweetpea was present at the 150th Anniversary Reenactment of the Battle of Manassas, Virginia in July 2011, a battle in which, during the real Civil War in 1861 this dear soldier fell to the enemy.

He leaves behind the sweetest of love letters to his dear Sarah…

The Sullivan Ballou Letter

July 14, 1861

Camp Clark, Washington

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 again, I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.

Yankees felled at the reenactment of the Battle of Manassas/Bull Run, July 2011

I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not half or falter. I know how strongly American civilization now leans on the triumph of the government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and sufferings of the revolution. And I am willing–perfectly willing–to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this government, and to pay that debt.

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 comes over me like a strong wind and bears me unresistably 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 grown 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 prayers 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 often times been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness…

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and the unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the gladdest days and in the darkest nights…always, always, and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath, as 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 three, for we shall meet again.

Major Sullivan Ballou

note: Major Sullivan Ballou fell mortally wounded at First Bull Run. He was a major in the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteers.

note: the Battle of Manassas is also called the battle of First Bull Run. The Confederates called their battles after the name of the nearest city, and the Union called their battles after the name of the nearest river: Bull Run. There would be another battle at this same area later in the War.

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