This home front letter was written by 21 year-old Martha Ann (Howard) Enslow (1843-1938), the wife of Charles Calvin Enslow (1836-1900) — a private in Co. C, 77th Illinois Infantry from Linn, Woodford County, Illinois. Martha was the daughter of Tilton Howard (1814-1878) and Temperance Sweet (1815-1875) of Cazenovia, Woodford County, Illinois.
Charles was a plaster mason when he enlisted in August 1862, just 8 months after his marriage to Martha Ann. He remained in the service for nearly three years. He was mustered out on 10 July 1865. After the war, Charles and Martha Ann moves to McLean County, Illinois where Charles became a dry goods merchant. By 1880, they were residing in Alexandria, Thayer County, Nebraska, where Charles was employed as a furniture dealer.
Several of Charles’ letters to his wife were edited by his daughter Maud Enslow Dunn (1867-1940) and are among the Charles Calvin Enslow papers at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. They pertain primarily to the Vicksburg Campaign and the Battle of Mobile Bay and include comments on the occupation of Forts Morgan, Gaines, and Powell (Alabama), camp life, the treatment of prisoners of war at Ship Island, Miss., and New Orleans, La., problems confronting blacks, relations between Union soldiers and noncombatants in the South, and an explosion aboard the City of Madison.
In this letter, Martha shares a concern with her husband that there is a growing “rebellious” anti-war sentiment in the North threatening to undermine the efforts of the “brave defenders of our land.”
Addressed to Charles C. Enslow, Co. C, 77th Regt. Illinois Infantry, via Cairo
Sunday, August 7th 1864
[Woodford County, Illinois]
My Dear Charlie,
The first thing I’m going to tell you this morning is the Baptist Choir met here last night. The parlor was filled completely. I will tell you the names of those I remember. Mr. Gray (the Choirist) his wife (they have a baby but left it at home. His wife is curly headed and looks like Lydia Lavinson). Young Patten and wife. Mr. & Miss Rumbold, Miss Patton, and Vandorn to play the instrument. There were others but as they were all strangers I don’t remember all their names. This much I do know, I haven’t sung as much at one time since you left home as I did last night and they insist on my singing in the choir and I’m going to today. Thank fortune I’m not ashamed to sing with any of the women for I can sing as well as any of them.
This Miss Humbold has an unmarried sister younger than herself and they are living with this married brother that came with her last night. Both the girls and their sister-in-law have been here before and I never saw persons that I thought so much of before on so short an acquaintance. They are English but very intelligent, nice appearing girls. You rather take Mollie Hedgerwood to be a model but these girls excel her, I think. Lizzie belongs to the Baptist Church. Annie [the youngest] and their brother and sister-in-law belong to the Presbyterian Church. Everyone speaks highly of the family.
I tell you, our Melodian done its part last night. Don’t you think I am proud of it though. I should have felt more proud could I have played on it myself and had you here to have heard me. But I will try to be a pretty good player by the time you get home. And with our domestic part, we shall be supplied with music, ha, ha. The Melodian is five octave and in a rosewood case, I think.
It is now time for me to be getting ready for meeting. I shall wear my black silk dress. Made short sleeves and low in the neck with a white garibaldi and black girdle. Would you like to go with me? Bless your dear heart — I know you would. But that is impossible. It cannot be now, and to look forward to the close of another year seems awfully long, don’t it. How can we endure the thought of being separated still another long year. But stop: why should I repine. “Heaven which has hitherto been your shield will, I hope, still continue to guard your life.” Though you are now, doubtless, going where danger will entirely surround you, perhaps more so than ever before, and these thoughts almost chill my blood, and every hour for me will be laden with anxiety, yet God is merciful and just, and we must look upon what He doeth as just and right for our lives and all are in His hands and He can shield as well in war and danger as He can when all is peace and quiet, and let out trust in Him be unshaken.
And what can I say concerning war in our own loved State. Is it so: and must we admit it? I fear it is too true. That rebellious spirit that started in the South has been widening and deepening until those in the North whose hearts have been depraved (or always have been) are willing — yes eager — to catch it up and hurl war even to the doors of those who are now standing as brave defenders of our land. The cloud that now overshadows us is indeed black and I fail to see the silver lining. But we have trusted in this man and that man, and this and that way, until the time has come when we as a nation must know that there is a God and one that rules — one that will do as it seemeth good to Him. And until this nation is willing to acknowledge that hand, sorrow will continue to fill our hearts, woe and desolation our land. O how I hate to think of….[end of letter missing]