One of A.P.'s chief comforts during the War was the mail he received
from home. He craved bits of news from "the little house on the hill"
in Pennsylvania and scolded his sister when her letters grew too short
or left out important details. "There are thousands of things for
you to write about," he chided Emma. ". . . You don't say a
word about any of the neighbors what they are doing. [Hasent] Father planted
anything in the garden but beans? Why don't you tell me about every thing?
How much new fence has he made this spring. Have you got any pigs chickens
or goslings? . . . there when you write again you can answer these questions
. . . "
A.P. was guilty of omitting information in his own letters--but only because
he wanted to protect his younger sister from the grim details of war.
Even after the devastating Battle of the Wilderness
in 1864, he managed to write cheerfully about his meager dinner and the
coming of spring.
Hospital at Kenmore house
May 20th 1864
My Dear Sister
. . . I wish I could tell you the number of killed and wounded but I cannot
it would be a terrible list we have suffered severely. The last I heard
from our Company there were only eight men left . . .
I am safe and sound so far though I lost my knapsack and all that was
in it . . . I promised to tell you what I had for dinner well I had coffee
and bread and (for a wonder) I had butter to put on my bread and condensed
milk to put in my coffee so you see I fared very well.
The weather is extremely fine now after a long rain, roses are in bloom
here and snowballs and lots of other flowers, apples as large as robins'
eggs, cherries begin to turn red. It would be splendid down here if 'twas
not for this terrible war. . .
Give my love to all,
In one of his letters to Emma, A.P. enclosed a sprig of Virginia clover.
In another, a stone from a nearby river. He even sent her a sample of
hardtack , the tough biscuit-like
crackers that were rationed out regularly to soldiers. He also filled
his notes with brotherly reminders to pay closer attention to spelling
and schoolwork, and not rush through her studies. And in almost every
letter, he signed his name with the request that she write back to him