Letter to Sarah Ballou by Sullivan Ballou
July the 14th, 1861
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