The Sullivan Ballou Film Project
THE Original SULLIVAN BALLOU LETTER
Camp Clark, Washington
July 14th, 1861
My Dear Sarah,
The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days perhaps tomorrow.
Lest I shall not be able to write to you again. I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.
Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure, and it
may be one of sever 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 suffering 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, but my dear wife when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows, when after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself I must offer it as the only sustenance to my dear little children, is it weak or dishonorable that while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze underneath my unbounded love for you my darling wife and children, I shall struggle in fierce though useless contest with my love of Country.
I cannot describe to you my feelings on this calm summer Sabbath night when two thousand men are sleeping around me many of them enjoying the last perhaps before that of death; and I am suspicious that death is creeping behind me with his fatal dart while I am communing with God, My Country and Thee. I have sought most closely and diligently and often in my breast for a wrong motive in thus hazarding the happiness of all those I loved and I could find now. A pure love of my Country and the principles I have often advocated before the people another name of honor that I love more than I fear death has called upon me and I have obeyed.
Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me in mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break and my love of country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.
The memories of all the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me and I feel most deeply grateful to God and you that I have enjoyed them so long and how hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years when God Willing we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us.
I know I have but few and small claims upon Divine Providence but something
whispers to me perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar that I shall
return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not my dear Sarah never forget how
much I love you and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield I shall
whisper your name. Forgive my many faults and the many pains I have caused
you how thoughtless how foolish I have often times been. How gladly would
I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness and struggle
with all the misfortunes of this world to shield you and my dear children
from harm but I cannot I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near
you while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight and wait
with sad patience till we meet to part no more. But Oh Sarah if the dead can
come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they love, I shall always
be near you in the gladdest day and in the darkest night amidst your happiest
scenes and gloomiest hours always, always and if there be a soft breeze upon
your cheeks it shall be my breath or the cool air cools your throbbing temple,
it shall be my spirit passing by.
Sarah, do not mourn me dead, think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall
As for my little boys, they will grow up as I have grown and never know a
father's love and care, little Willie is too young to remember me long and
my blue-eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories
of his childhood.
Sarah, I have unbounded confidence in your maternal care and your development of their character and feel that God will bless you in your holy work.
Tell my two mothers I call God's blessing upon them.
Oh Sarah I want for you there come to me and lead thither my children.