As you are no doubt aware, tomorrow marks the 233rd anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in that sweltering Philadelphia heat. I thought that today, to take a moment to reflect on what that means, I would review some scans I made a couple of years back. My Grandmother gave to me a binder full of beautifully scripted and yellowed letters written during the Civil War. The correspondence was largely from James Damon, my Great Great Great Great Grandfather. He served in the 124th Regiment from Ohio until his death.
What is remarkable about these letters is not that they reveal anything history buffs didn't already know, but that they are proof that my ancestors served and struggled and fought for this country in its' most precarious hour. Here are a few sentiments from Gramps;
"We can see the rebels from a hill one mile from here. They have been reinforced and are strong" - From summer of 1863; Cumberland Gap
"All we think of... is the girls we left behind... which is talked a good deal among some of the boys." - Before a rumored march into Virginia
"Tell Cora I'm glad she is a good girl. Tell her I want her to learn to write so she can write me a letter" - In letter to wife, regarding his young daughter, Cora, my Great Great Great Grandmother
"We're waiting for reinforcements. We will have one of the largest fights there has ever been in Kentucky" - Serving under General Marshall at Cumberland Gap, preparing for a battle there that never came, though the garrison there changed hands four times during the war.
"Mrs. Damon, I take this opportunity to inform you that your husband is very sick with the typhoid fever and there are some doubts entertained as to his recovery" - Letter from Lt. Stedman, informing his wife of James' impending death. He would die shortly thereafter. Interestingly, records indicate that he is buried in three places; Franklin, TN (where this letter was written in 1863), in rural Pennsylvania, and in Chatham, Ohio, his home town.
From talk of everything from boredom and cold, to battles and Generals that would go down in history, this family record is something I treasure, and especially revere on days like this. This country is truly the greatest in history because of the service, sacrifice, and hard work of our predecessors, our ancestors, our own families. Happy Fourth of July, everyone.