My very dear Sarah,
The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days–perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write again, I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more. Our movements may be of a few days’ duration and full of pleasure–and it may be one of some conflict and death to me. “Not my will, but thine, O God, be done”. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my Country, I am ready.
I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans on the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and sufferings of the Revolution. And I am willing–perfectly willing–to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government and to pay that debt…
Sarah, my love for you is deathless. It seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break…The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. If I do not return, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name. Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again…
Major Sullivan Ballou , of the Second Rhode Island Volunteers, died at the Battle of Bull Run, along with over 4000 Southern and Northern soldiers. This was the first major clash of the war and took place just twenty five miles from the White House. Civilians came to watch the battle with binoculars and picnic baskets. Many soldiers, well aware that this might be their first and last battle, wrote letters to their loved ones. I have edited this letter, as it was quite long.
Click here to hear a more complete version of the original letter.
Brenda & Maggie