Friday, May 16, 2008

"Twenty-thousand letters by the men who wore the blue"

Bell Irvin Wiley wrote in the introduction to his book Life of Billy Yank: The Common Soldier of the Union, that:

Twenty-eight years ago, when I had completed research for The Life of Billy Yank, I estimated that I had read twenty thousand letters by the men who wore the blue. These personal documents, along with the ten thousand Confederate letters that I had examined while preparing The Life of Johnny Reb (plus several hundred diaries of participants on both sides), while admittedly a small sampling, afford a more intimate and revealing insight into the mind and character of the American masses than any body of material treating of any other period in the nation's history.
Wiley's book, a departure from many written treatments of the Civil War detailing battle after battle and focusing on generals and strategies, instead looks at the experience of the common Union soldier: his purpose, his struggles and his day to day life in the field.

I am looking forward to reading more of Wiley's insights into the life of the Union soldier. And who knows, maybe I can start working my way through some of those twenty-thousand letters in my spare time...

Thanks to Jennifer of Rainy Day Genealogy Readings for suggesting Wiley's Life of Billy Yank in her post How Did That Civil War Soldier Really Die?

2 comments:

barbara said...

Hello Lisa,
How are you doing?
I can just imagine the emotion of each of those letters back to loved ones. I did not have any Civil war vets back in my family, but Grandad wrote to his wife & family when he was at sea( US Navy).

You take care,
P.S.
My first website update is posted at the Our Carroll Family blog .

Jennifer said...

Life of Billy Yank is a fabulous book... I think you'll really enjoy it. I have SUCH a better appreciation and understanding of what the war was like for my ancestors who served. Thanks for reading!

-Jennifer

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