I’m Masud Olufani for the Atlanta History Center.
It is a muggy day in early June 1864.
Union soldier Gilmer Watts takes time to write his wife, Clara: “Dearest – I wrote you a few words yesterday and a sentence or two the day before.”
Watts is a thirty-five year old teacher from Illinois.
“There will probably be a great battle here before long in which we will have a part.”
The overwhelming majority of soldiers on both sides of the conflict are literate – and letters are their lifeline home.
Watts’s letter joins hundreds from his regiment – nearly 600 a month.
“I will try to fill another sheet – but my paper is nearly gone.”
Postal services, north and south, deliver to the troops – 8 million letters a month for the union – but in war, they aren’t always delivered on time.
“The mails are so liable to interruption that you may fail to receive my letters.”
The letters are filled with testaments of love, shared memories, and a deep, heartfelt wish to be remembered.
“I may be killed or wounded…”Watts tells his wife,
“Should I be called away, I know you will grieve deeply.
I would not have it otherwise.”
Gilmer Watts is 25 miles from Atlanta.
I’m Masud Olufani and this is week eight