Captain Frederick Ranger of the 22nd New York Infantry sat down on November 30, 1862, and wrote, “It is so lonesome nowadays that although I wrote you a letter yesterday I can find nothing so pleasant as spending the time with you & this afternoon have again taken pencil in hand to commence a letter.” That refrain was echoed in camps North and South as soldiers wrote letters to loved ones back home and filled the pages of innumerable diaries. We can all be thankful they did, for in so doing, they documented thousands of wartime experiences. No two soldiers saw a battle or ration issue the same way; some hated their officers, some loved them. Their often colorful tales of engagements and camp life can breathe new life into history.
In the 1970s, Civil War Times published a segment called “The War in Words” that featured first-person accounts. Since then, hundreds, maybe even thousands, of fascinating new documents have come to light that have added to our knowledge of the war. Beginning with this issue, we are resurrecting The War in Words to showcase some of those reports—and as Private Dick Simpson of the 3rd South Carolina put it, let the soldiers tell their stories when they were “In the land of danger, far, far from home….”
Originally published in the February 2014 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.