"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some people have entertained angels without knowing it." - Hebrews 13:2

Monday, November 7, 2011

Romance and War – Yesterday’s Tomorrow Blog Tour—and the History Corner

Loree on Little Round Top - Gettysburg, PA
Photo by Eric Huebner

Veteran’s Day is this Friday—11/11/11.
In honor of Veteran’s Day, I wanted to talk about romance and war.
Many of you know that I write historical fiction and historical romance that takes place during war time. I love writing about the Civil War era the most.
There’s something about living life with war as a backdrop that stirs my soul. I can’t explain it…so I write it.  
I am one who always looks for God’s blessings in the midst of crisis or disaster, and for this reason I adore wartime romance, especially the wars of our country’s past. I’m particularly drawn to the eras that spiral around the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, WWI, WWII, and Vietnam. I believe that a person’s faith, hope, and especially love, is surly tested to the limits during the trying times of any war. This remains the same today as it did yesterday. Words and images of family love and intimate devotion during wartime hold the most precious place in the soldier’s heart, and in the hearts of those left behind. It sees them through—it is his strength…it is her glory—all the makings of a good story.
I collect war-time love letters. The correspondence between loved ones separated by war is some of the most emotional, poignant, and loving writing that I have ever read.
I would like to share a famous one with you…it was written by Sullivan Ballou, and is affectionately known as Dear Sarah. The letter was composed one week before Sullivan fought and was mortally wounded at the First Battle of Bull Run during the Civil War. The man was a politician, a lawyer, and a major in the United States Army. He died July 28th 1861, just 14 days after he wrote the letter.

His precious letter was never mailed. It was found in his belongings after he died, and was delivered to his widow. They say that the original letter is gone, but there are several versions in existence that are close to the actual letter that he wrote to his wife, Sarah. You may have heard this letter read before. It was featured in the Ken Burn’s series—The Civil War. I think you will find it a very moving piece. He writes as if he knew that he would not survive the impending battle. The paragraph that I’ve highlighted in blue gets me with a shiver and a tear every time I read it.
July the 14th, 1861
Washington D.C.
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.
Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure—and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine O God, be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering 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.
But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows—when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children—is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country.
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 often 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 brightest 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 me, for we shall meet again.
As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father's love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue-eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters. Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God's blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.

This week I am also honored to be a part of Catherine West’s Blog Tour for her book, Yesterday’s Tomorrow. Her novel was released earlier this year.
I read her book last April and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a story that takes place during the Vietam war.

Yesterday's Tomorrow

"She's after the story that might get her the Pulitzer. He's determined to keep his secrets to himself. Vietnam, 1967. Independent, career-driven journalist Kristin Taylor wants two things: to honor her father's memory by becoming an award-winning overseas correspondent and to keep tabs on her only brother, Teddy, who signed up for the war against their mother's wishes. Brilliant photographer Luke Maddox, silent and brooding, exudes mystery. Kristin is convinced he's hiding something. Willing to risk it all for what they believe in, Kristin and Luke engage in their own tumultuous battle until, in an unexpected twist, they're forced to work together. Ambushed by love, they must decide whether or not to set aside their own private agendas for the hope of tomorrow that has captured their hearts." 

I loved Kristin. You could feel everything that she carried on her shoulders. Luke was the same way. Two different people...very much alike. I could sense the chemistry between them from the start. Romance, action, and war…Catherine West captured it all.

You can find out more about Catherine West, or her book, Yesterday’s Tomorrow, at her website : http://www.catherinejwest.com
or head on over and visit her blog : http://www.catherinewestblog.blogspot.com/
She’s got some great posts lined up for this week in honor of Veteran’s Day.

Between you, me and the gatepost,


And now:
THE HISTORY CORNER with Eric Huebner
150 years ago—on November 6, 1861, some 3,100 men embarked on 6 transports from Cairo, Illinois escorted by the Gunboats USS Lexington and USS Tyler. The movement was a diversion that resulted in the indecisive November 7 battle at Belmont, Missouri. The Federal forces occupied the Rebel camps for a while, but they were driven off after the arrival of Confederate reinforcements. Casualties were fairly even and this affair would be little noted except for the fact that it was the first battle commanded by then Brigadier General Ulysses S Grant. At Belmont, Grant gained experience and employed river transport tactics that would be highly successful in the later captures of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson.
More important was the November 7, 1861 capture of Port Royal Sound between Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia. Flag Officer Dupont brought the South Atlantic Squadron to attack Fort Walker and Fort Beauregard. The fleet of 77 vessels was the largest naval force yet assembled by the United States. By keeping the ships constantly in motion, Dupont was able to offset the problems of fighting Forts with wooden ships. With the capture, the Navy acquired an important base for use in the Blockade of Southern ports.
November 11 is Veterans Day, also known as Armistice Day, the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice ending World War I on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year. As we honor our veterans, it is easier to appreciate the service of more recent veterans from Iraq, Afghanistan, and even Vietnam. We know and see these veterans every day. Older fellows who fought in World War II and Korea are still around, though in ever diminishing numbers. I even had the privilege to know a few veterans of World War I - their stories of Mustard Gas attacks were very disturbing to me as a boy. There are excellent film documentaries available, providing powerful visual images of all the more recent conflicts.
The Civil War is more remote. As photography was in its infancy, there are grainy photographs from that era, strangely bearded men posed stiffly for posterity. We must rely on paintings, like the tremendous Gettysburg Cyclorama, or our imagination to create mental images. There are, however, interesting films showing Civil War Veterans at the 50th and 75th Anniversary Reunions of Gettysburg in 1913 and 1938. The men look similar to our grandfathers that fought in World War II. They are ordinary men who answered the call—fighting at the Railroad Cut, Barlow’s Knoll, Little Round Top, the Wheatfield, Cemetery Hill, Culp’s Hill, and Pickett’s Charge.
Freedom isn't free. We must be prepared to jealously protect the freedoms for which our Veterans fought, due process of law, our civil rights, our right to vote, our right to assemble, freedom of speech, protection from unreasonable search and seizure, and so on. These apply whether we are from the right wing and protesting excessive taxation or left wingers protesting the increasing concentration of wealth and power by the top 1 per cent. The old saying remains true - "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."
With one foot in the past,

Words by H.S. Washburn Music by George F. Root (1820-1895)
We shall meet, but we shall miss him.
There will be one vacant chair.
We shall linger to caress him
While we breathe our ev'ning prayer.
When one year ago we gathered, joy was in his mild blue eye.
Now the golden cord is severed, and our hopes in ruin lie.
We shall meet, but we shall miss him.
There will be one vacant chair.
We shall linger to caress him
While we breathe our ev'ning prayer.
At our fireside, sad and lonely,
Often will the bosom swell
At remembrance of the story
How our noble Willie fell.
How he strove to bear the banner
Thro' the thickest of the fight
And uphold our country's honor
In the strength of manhood's might.
True, they tell us wreaths of glory
Evermore will deck his brow,
But this soothes the anguish only,
Sweeping o'er our heartstrings now.
Sleep today, O early fallen,
In thy green and narrow bed.
Dirges from the pine and cypress
Mingle with the tears we shed.


Sandra Orchard said...

Oh, Loree, what a powerful letter. I've never read a wartime love letter. How poignant. I'm looking forward to reading Cathy's book. I've interviewed Kristen (the heroine) for Friday's blog and am intrigued.

troutbirder said...

I remember Sullivans letter very well from watching Burns documentary several times. Right now I'm just starting to read Richard Kroms newly published published THE 1ST MN - Second To None based upon Private Edward Bassett hundreds of letters sent home to his family in Minnesota during the Civil War

Terri Tiffany said...

His letter was beautifully written--like a poet! I watched a story on the Battle of the Bulge yesterday on TV where the men from the battle returned 60 years later. It was heartbreaking and eye opening that many of these men suffered and went on without the help that we give soldiers today.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Oh my goodness, that letter numbed me. How heart wrenching!!

Okay, now I need to go and sulk a little while.

Gwendolyn Gage said...

Wow, what a powerful, moving love letter! I've never read it before, thanks for sharing it, Loree! Again, wow. I can only imagine how Sarah and their children cherished it. I'm getting teary eyed just thinking about it.

Yesterday's Tomorrow does sound like an intriguing book. I'll have to add it to my "to-read" list! :-)

Jeanette Levellie said...

Oh, that letter! What a tear and heart jerker! But thanks for sharing. Civil War is my favorite era of our history, as well. I loved to teach that unit when I taught jr. high History.

Brandi said...

That is a beautiful and powerful letter! Thank you for showing us the human, relational side of the Civil War.

I also wanted to tell you that I awarded you the Tell Me About Yourself Blog award. I'll be posting it tomorrow. No pressure to participate, though. All in good fun. Congrats!

Marji Laine - Unravel the Mystery said...

I'm with Eileen. Sullivan's letter spilled tears. I can see how the stories of the past draw you!

Julie Musil said...

Wow, what an amazing post. That letter is beautiful...I've never read it before. Such love and longing in those words. And I absolutely loved the historical nuggets at the end...thanks so much!

Anonymous said...

My gracious, Loree (and Eric), what a moving post! The letter and the views from war time were bittersweet and heartbreaking. Thank you so much for sharing all of this in such a thought-provoking way!

Loree Huebner said...

Hi everyone! Isn't that letter just awesome?!?! Glad you liked it.

Sandra: Look forward to your Friday blog post!

trout: that books sounds interesting. Let us know how it is. I love reading the personal letters that give us a first hand account of the war.

Terri: It's painful for the soldiers to go back sometimes. They saw so much...

Eileen: No sulking. Read it again and just sit back and feel his love for her. Awesome.

Gwen: Cathy's book is good. I recommend the read.

Jeanette: I LOVE that you taught the Civil War to the Jr High kids! Congrats on your contribution to Chapman's book!

Brandi: Thanks for the award! I'll just have to get another frame for my sidebar!

Marji: Reading those war-time love letters is one way I truly get inspiration from the past.

Julie: Glad you enjoyed the letter. It really makes me think how fragile life is, and how important it is to tell people how much we love them.

Cynthia: Thanks for your kind words. Glad you enjoyed the post.

Sandra, trout, Terri, Eileen, Gwen, Jeanette, Brandi, Marji, Julie, and Cynthia, thank you all for stopping in and leaving your comments.

Sarah Forgrave said...

What a beautiful tribute to our veterans, Loree. Breathtaking.

Jayne said...

Loree- I know that letter well, because the man who wrote it was from Rhode Island. Ballou is still a prominent name here. I remember the first time a read that letter--got teary-eyed myself. It is so beautiful and heartfelt. Can you imagine how his wife felt when she read it after his death?

Great post. This kids are happy about the 11th. They've the day off from school!

Loree Huebner said...

Sarah: Thanks. I'm still excited over winning Erica's book over at your blog! Thank you!

Jayne: Yes - Sullivan Ballou was in the the 2nd Rhode Island Infantry.

As for his wife, Sarah, knew she was well-loved.

Enjoy Veteran's Day!

Sarah and Jayne, thanks for popping in!

Ron aka TheOldGeezer said...

A wonder Veteran's Day post. Thank you!

Take care and have a nice week :-)

And thanks for your recent comment on My Blog

Loree Huebner said...

Geez: Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for stopping in!

Stacy Henrie said...

What a beautiful, touching letter! Thanks for sharing that, Loree.

p.s. I left you an award on my blog today. :)

Jessica Nelson said...

That letter was very romantic. :-)

Deana said...

Oh that letter! That really means even more to me with all these war time stories I've been watching on tv and reading about this week. Thanks for sharing that bit:)

Loree Huebner said...

Stacy, Jessica, and Deana, glad you liked the letter and thanks for stopping in!

Carol Riggs said...

That's neat that you collect war-time love letters! Yes, definitely powerful. And neat that it's closing in on 11/11/11--that'll never happen again!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Touching letter!

I recently finished Sarah Sundin's book, Blue Skies Tomorrow, which is romance set during WWII. There's something compelling about that combination.

Loree Huebner said...

Carol: That is something - 11/11/11
There's a lot of weddings going on today too. Glad you liked the letter.

Susan: I've been following Sarah's blog and have her book on my TBR list. It sounds good.

Carol and Susan, thanks for popping on in and leaving a comment.

Anonymous said...

What a heartfelt piece of article! Thank you for sharing.

Loree Huebner said...

DickyTo:Thanks for stopping in and welcome here! I enjoyed learning about the Christmas shoeboxes for kids at your blog. Thanks for posting that. You've inspired me. I'm going to stuff a shoebox this year.

Elizabeth said...

GREAT POST...nice blog.

Stopping by to take a look around.




Loree Huebner said...

Elizabeth: Thank you. Welcome here! So nice of you to stop in and comment.

Wanton Redhead Writing said...

What a tear jerker.
Glad I found your blog, I think.

Loree Huebner said...

Wanton: Welcome here! Glad you stopped in! That letter is a real tear jerker for sure.