Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Letters of John and Susan Morgan: A Story of Everyday Life, Love and Loss in the Civil War Years Paperback – October 11, 2008
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
About the Author
Harry resides with his wife, Ingrid, near Adrian, Michigan. He is a history buff with particular interest in the Old West and the War Between the States. He is a graduate of Ohio University and a veteran of Vietnam. Harry has ancestral ties to the Jackson family of Clarksburg, West Virginia, where Thomas Jonathan (Stonewall) Jackson was born. He has written articles for the Tombstone Epitaph (Tombstone, Arizona) and has compiled an article on his other Civil War ancestors from Virginia and West Virginia, and has done research and compiled an article on the McNeer-Jackson-Lurty family heritage which has also been published. Harry continues to do research on the "true" history of the Old West and The War Between the States.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Author, Harry McNeer gives us important insights into the lives of two of his ancestors, a husband and wife, John and Susan Morgan, tragically parted by his death in the Civil War after only a few years of marriage. A lovely well-preserved photo of them has survived for 163 years, and appears in the book, showing two remarkably good-looking people.
The form McNeer chose for is book is perfect - a series of personal letters between husband and wife, presented in chronological order.
The first is a love letter from John while courting and is dated August 14, 1855. It is a model of the flowery, but sincere, courting language of the era; also a model of good writing, which speaks for the more than adequate quality of schooling then, even in backwoods districts. John started his letter:
"Buoyed upon the pinions of hope from your sweet
promise, I take the liberty of writing these few lines. Hope, ah sweet hope, a mere blank would this world be to me were it not for the hope of one day sitting beneath the smiles of that sweet girl to whom I am writing, the hope that there is yet one that I may love and live for, one by whose interest and welfare every action of my life may be guided.
* * * * *
"Though I have not golden treasure to lay at your feet, yet I bring you what gold cannot purchase - a heart that will love you while it beats in this breast.
"Your humble servant
Jno. E. W. Morgan"
Saccharine, moderns may snort? Even sappy? What girl today wouldn't love a similar letter from as suitor as honest and earnest?
These two lovers had so few happy years before them. From their Dec. 18, 1855 marriage to his Sept. 10, 1862 death at the small skirmish at Fayetteville, W.Va. (today - it was then still in Virginia). John was killed instantly by a shot through his head below the left ear, from the rifle of a sharpshooter, while he was serving a cannon in Chapman's Battery of Virginia artillery. He had served only since May.
Lest readers today miss the significance of the photos of author, Harry, at the gravestone of Susan Morgan, his great, great, grandmother, and the three photos of the children orphaned by her death a year after her husband's, it is this: I have found over and over that the precious grassroots history that takes us back into the hearts and hopes of ancestors, is preserved by the ladies. It is they who hoard precious ancient letters, tied by an equally ancient ribbon and protected in trunks in musty garrets. We owe them all a great debt in bringing us, for at least a few moments, closer to the ancestors to whom we owe our existence. The lady on the left in the photo with the strong face showing the survival lines placed there by a hard life, is Harry's great grandmother, Lillie.
This trend today, illustrated by such heart warming recollections as this one which McNeer has brought down to us, represents something new that has been needed. It parallels the company histories of Civil War units now being published, whereas previously we never heard of anything but generals and their brigades and divisions and armies. I, for one, have had enough of hearing about generals and congressman and presidents. The individual memoirs of common soldiers are now being published more and more too. It is a great way to sort out the generals, by the way. Enlisted men can smell a fathead wearing stars in their first battle with him, or maybe even their first training camp.
Harry can't escape generals entirely since Stonewall Jackson was his cousin removed a time or two. Nobody ever called Stonewall a fathead. We can forgive Harry for being somewhat prejudiced, such as shows a little in such terms for the Civil War or War Between the States, as The War of Northern Aggression. Well, I guess it sure looked that way down South. It didn't go entirely unpunished, though. My great grandfather ate off the mantle for a few years after he came home and used two cushions in his rocking chair.
As a final word of praise for this work, premier Civil War (or should I say War of Northern Aggression?) historian, James M. McPherson put it well and succinctly as only he can: "What a poignant story!"
Bring three hankies, ladies. Susan died only a year after her husband - they said of a broken heart - and left three orphans, one a babe in arms born after her father's death.
A major strength of this production is the appearance of the hand-written letters themselves, along with typewritten versions for ease of reading. In that Harry has the originals, it would be of interest to have a handwriting analysis of these two lovers; perhaps in a revision someday.
As you read through these letters, you know there will be the very last letter that Susan would ever see from her beloved husband, John. The plans that John had made for his family were shattered in an instant by a yankee sniper. The tragedy continues when Susan has a child who never knew her father, nor the father getting to embrace and love his third child. More tragedy, barely a year later, Susan dies they say from a broken heart leaving behind three orphans. The picture in the book of Susan and John, long before the war you can see the contentment of this loving couple joined in marriage. Then the picture of the three orphans, aged women, with no smiles. Looking at the detail of each line on their faces shows a hard life endured with no plans and love from their dear parents.
I look forward to more reading from this author who has shared what it was like for every day people living through what still many of us can relate to today.
One of the final communications shows the ultimate sacrifice this family made. "I am sorry to say your husband fell victim to the enemy. We are this morning making preparations to bury him as circumstances will allow," states Lt. F.G. Thrasher of Chapman's Battery. John E. W. Morgan left behind a wife and three daughters, one who he never met. This story is not an anomaly to this era, but common.
This publication is an easy read suitable for men and women both, as well as middle and high school students and adults. The scanned original letters follow the transcribed ones allowing the reader to actually view the script. These letter "are a documentary and descriptive time trip through a short period..., the American Civil War."