In the midst of the chaos of today’s society, it is sometimes hard to imagine the type of devotion that plays out in my Civil War novel Shades of Gray. One would not expect, after all, to hear sweet murmurings of love from those great soldiers we have come to know as hardened warriors.
Yet written letters reveal that fact to be true.
General George Pickett, known for his courageous, if not foolish, charge at Gettysburg, was a perfect lamb when writing to his future wife LaSalle Corbett.
In a letter in April 1863, he pleads with Sally to come marry him in camp, despite the social improprieties of a woman doing so.
“You know that I love you with a devotion that absorbs all else — a devotion so divine that when in dreams I see you it is as something too pure and sacred for mortal touch.”
Can you imagine a man writing such thoughts today? (Or speaking them for that matter).
He continues in the same letter: “If I am spared, my dear, all my life shall be devoted to making you happy, to keeping all that would hurt you far from you, to making all that is good come near you.”
Unfortunately, poor Pickett was destined for disappointment. Sally writes in a postscript to this letter in the book “The Heart of a Soldier” that she turned “her soldier” down.
“So, though my heart responded to the call, what could I do but adhere to the social laws, more formidable than were ever the majestic canons of the Ecclesiastes? My Soldier admitted that I was right, and we agreed to await a more favorable time.”
There are so many beautiful stories of everlasting love revealed through the letters of Civil War husbands and wives — and even those who were not yet husbands and wives. General John Reynolds, who was killed on the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, left behind a fiance. Though very young, she never married. She had pledged her life to him.
It’s refreshing to look back and know with certainty that such a thing as everlasting love and steadfast devotion did once exist.