Tuesday, May 11, 2010

From Jack Reeves


Augusta, Georgia
May 26, 1861

My Dearest Andrew,

I watched you yesterday from my window as your company marched by. You looked so handsome in your uniform. Though my hand could not, my heart reached out to touch you. If the light of the morning sun was warm about you, you felt my embrace; if a gentle breeze lingered a moment upon your cheek, it was my kiss.

I closed my eyes and in my mind brought you near. I beheld your face. The moment summoned remembrance of the first time you spoke to me. I thought my heart would verily burst from my breast! So often I watched you and listened to your voice.

I love your love of life. I have drawn from you strengths I never had. I have known through my love a depth of feeling and selflessness that transcends self-pity; you have lightened the burden of my distress. For through you I have known joy in living I never thought could be mine.

The hour is late. As I sleep, having asked God you to safely keep, my last thoughts will be of you. And as sleep enfolds me in its arms, I will hold you close in mine, until morn when I awaken to the touch of your hand, softly against my face.

Yours eternally,

June 3, 1861

My Dearest Andrew,

From my window today I saw a robin building a nest in the mulberry tree. Each time it brought a new thing--a piece of dry grass, leaves, moss, anything that Nature’s miraculous fingers could weave into a perfect pattern. And I thought how life, like the robin’s, goes on--even though the world is threatened by this dreadful darkness.

Even midst this menace the creation heralds its renaissance: leaves decorate the trees, the sky is painted a brilliant blue, flowers bloom like living rainbows, and the songs of birds fill the space in-between. I know this is a false sensation, for over the horizon the forces of destruction gather, and Eden may yet become Armageddon.

Surely God does not will that brother fight against brother, and that He will reconcile our families without the spilling of one drop of blood.

I pray that as the word reaches Washington that our brave men approach, that they will see the futility of war, and by God’s grace not one shot will be fired or one sword drawn. And then you will soon walk again upon the land you love, among those you love, and here the union of our lives will be complete.

May God bless and keep you safe for me.

Your loving,

June 9, 1861

My Dearest Andrew,

I hasten to tell you about the parade today. It was given to honor those holding the front lines. It seemed as if all the city turned out, lining the street in front of the house, to see the bands and banners and gay carriages carrying many so smartly dressed, all cheering victory. My window open, from the second floor I had a splendid view.

I dreamed one night you came to me, to tell me that you were well and that my worry shouldbe laid to rest. We talked for awhile; you told me how thoughts of me always were in your mind, my name upon your lips.

I reached for your hand. As I did, you suddenly were shrouded in a mist, and I could see you no more. I cried out for you, but you did not answer. I awoke weeping.

I determined then to be stronger. I love you deeply. I take courage that we will, by God’s grace, be together again and share this love that passeth understanding.

Your beloved,

June 12, 1861

My Dearest Andrew,

The newspaper brings us hope today that this war could end in a day’s battle. It is said that even the sight of our forces before the gates of Washington could bring the peace. I realize that you are one of those outside those portals awaiting that verdict of history. May it be thus.

I wonder how the Lord views this struggle. He is the God of both the North and the South; he listens to the prayers and petitions of all. Does one side have a moral advantage before Him? Is one cause more worthy, or the other one less just than the other? We claim He blesses our crusade; I am sure Mr. Lincoln seeks blessing on his.

How are we to understand that even in our thorough and profound persuasion of the rectitude of our effort that God may view our cause as contrary to His will? Can we accept that all, even the faithful, stand before His judgment? Are we prepared, yea are we able, to accept this within the context of our faith?

Dearest Andrew, draw strength from my faith that God is watching over you.

Your Sarah

June 18, 1861

My Dearest Andrew,

It rained two days ago. It was a lovely spring shower. It washed the world clean and stilled, gratefully, the powdery dust on the streets. When it stopped, the sun burst forth again; everywhere pearl droplets clung like goblets of liquid glass to leaf and limb. I love the smell of the air after the rain and the renewed presentation of the world to the senses.

I try to see the beauty in the world. Yet there are times I find it difficulty to understand life: there is the good; in its shadow, evil. We are exhilarated by joy; we are destroyed by tragedy. “The Lord giveth; the Lord taketh away.” Side by side stands light and dark.

But midst this scourge I do find much joy in life. I find it not so much in what there is now but in the expectation of what life will be, God willing, with you in the future.

Oh Dearest Andrew, send me a message of your love. It will find me, for there is no power that can thwart the aspirations of love. Love is divine. There is nothing that we experience--whether suffering, pain, or death--that is not lessened, even saved, by the touch of love’s hand.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” “Perfect love casts out all fear.”

Your beloved,

June 28, 1861

My Dearest Andrew,

I dare to distress you with the reason for my silence these days. An illness came upon me suddenly. It has left me weak, but mercifully I am improved. And during this painful time I was aware of how important others are in our life.

Midst my struggle with this alien thing, my thoughts were ever with you. I thought, too, how blessed I was to have someone care for me; I imagined that you would have no loving hands to touch you should illness befall you. It troubled me that even in my travail I should be so favored; and you, who are so far from those who love you, l would have to bear your suffering among strangers on foreign soil.

It encourages us that there is no rush to engage in battle. Is it that they do not believe that they are able to defend against our army? Still, with each passing day I wonder if the specter of war grows less, or does it merely mean that the hour of its outbreak draws ever nearer?

Do not fret about me. I am on the way to health. All your thoughts must be on carrying out your duty and, once completed, returning safely to us. I live each day through my faith in God and my faith in the future. Without our dreams, we perish. My dearest dream is that we shall soon together lift our cup of life and drain it of the last drop of its splendid content.

Your beloved,

July 6, 1861

My Dearest Andrew,

I must share with you, before I extinguish the lamp, this dream. “Joseph was a dreamer;” he saw the future and so, perhaps, have I. Perhaps God gave me a glimpse of His plan.

I saw two great armies opposing each other over a stream. Thousands were lined on each side, muskets in hand, bayonets fixed, ready for battle. And on the hills above, overlooking the plain, many people dressed in their best, even their Sunday finery, had come to watch the contest. Entire families, gentle ladies and even the aged, bearing baskets of food and wine, gathered to celebrate some anticipated triumph. Expectation filled the air. Yet, as I watched, I wondered for whom them came.

Then a massive barrage of gun fire cracked and the cannons thundered, expelling great clouds of black, blinding smoke, hurling their cold projectiles of destruction across the field. Line after line of men on both sides fell before the assault.

As the battle raged, the tide of battle began to flow in one direction. The defending army was sent into retreat, pursued by the onslaught of the attackers, following their flag. Dare I believe that I saw the apocalypse? Will it all so suddenly end? Please, dear God!

I read the Scripture daily. “God is my refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

Goodnight, my love. I meet you in my dreams.

Your beloved,

July 18, 1861

My Dearest Andrew,

I could not bear eternity without love. Had I to choose between this transient world, filled with its sorrows, suffering, and pain, or to live eternally, never to know the rapture of love, I would decry that hell called heaven. Love is the redeemer of life; it is the only salvation. Of all things we mortals share, it alone is eternal.


Even as Sarah Fisher scribed these words, outside Washington, at a place called Bull Run, the armies of the North and South met for the first major engagement of the War Between the States. It was a war that has the distinction of being the first modern war. Not necessarily because of novel weaponry, but because its hell was inflicted deliberately on civilians as well as soldiers.

This skirmish was expected to end the South’s rebellion. A near-circus atmosphere existed among hundreds gathered on the high points around the battlefield. Wages were made as to how long it would take before Jefferson Davis’ rag-tag, renegade rebels were sent, tails tucked, back South. As history would have it, confusion was the order of the day, as the Army of the Potomac itself was soon in fast withdrawal to Washington.

In the riot, as many as 12,000 soldiers could be seen wandering about in the daze and haze of battle. In the panicky retreat, soldiers and civilians alike mixed in confusion as the Army of Virginia severely and surprisingly crushed the vaunted Union forces.

Andrew Joseph Wilson, of Augusta, Georgia, was bayoneted to death in the first charge at Bull Run.

Sarah Fisher did not know of his death until six days later. Andrew’s mother had received the tragic news by a wire from the War Department.

An invalid since five, her spirit now as wounded as her body, she mourned her lost love until her death less than a year later. Her gentle soul slipped away as she slept one afternoon. She died, according to the belief of many, of profound grief. She would have been twenty-two the next day.

It seemed that with death, and the loss of the object of her fervent love, she lost her will to live. There was no longer a love to live for.

From the day she learned of his death, she never wrote again in her journal which, kept always beside her bed, contained the ‘letters’ she so lovingly penned to her Dearest Andrew.

Jack Reeves

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