Small Archive of Letters to a Soldier in the 15th Iowa Volunteer Infantry, 1864-1865. CIVIL WAR.

Small Archive of Letters to a Soldier in the 15th Iowa Volunteer Infantry, 1864-1865

Six complete letters and one partial letter, totaling 15 easily legible pages on lined paper measuring 4.75 x 7.75 inches; approximately 3,000 words in all. Fine condition.

Born and raised in New York State, Harlow Linzel Erskine (1837-1913) married and moved to Iowa to seek his fortune in 1856, at the age of 19. Drafted into the Union Army, he became a private in Company I of the 15th Iowa Infantry Regiment on February 29, 1864. These letters—three from his mother, two from his father, and one complete and one partial letter from his brother—speak eloquently of the deep anxiety and uncertainty experienced by soldiers’ family members as they waited for news. They write of their fears (“it is over two months since you wrote, we have been to the post office several times for a letter and I begin to think the Rebels have got you”) and of the hardships experienced by Harlow’s wife, Julia, who has “suffered much since you left her” alone to care for their two small sons. Ernest Erskine scolds his son for being too reticent in his letters: You should have stated why you are in the hospital, the state of your health; no reserve now will suit us. We have had a world of trouble about you and now that you can write tell us all the Company, Regiment, Brigade Division and Corps, so that when we read the movement of Sherman’s army we can know where you are….I hope you will live to see the conclusion of the war and not be disabled or broken down, or taken prisoner. I know that is asking much." Mother Marinda Erskine does not hesitate to lay on the guilt, telling her son to “just think of your Pa and I poor old cripples here alone, must work sick or well, the chores must be done.” The solution, of course, is for him to “write us as often as you can,” for “when I have been sick three days to get a letter from you I get up go to work. It is better than a quart of medicine.”.

Item #20049

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