July 14, 1861
Camp Clark, Washington
My very dear Sarah:
The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few daysperhaps 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 . . .
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 willingperfectly willingto 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; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me unresistibly on with all these chains to the battle field.
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 for so long. And 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 grown up to honorable manhood, around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to meperhaps 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 battle field, it will whisper your name. Forgive my many faults and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have often times been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness . . .
But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the gladdest days and in the darkest nights . . . always, always, and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath, as the cool air fans 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 meet again . . .
Sullivan Ballou was killed a week later at the first Battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861.
Rest in peace Mr. Foote.
Thank God we have always had brave men to protect us. This tells a little more about Major Ballou.
Born March 28, 1829 in Smithfield, R.I., Ballou was educated at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass.; Brown University in Providence, R.I. and the National Law School in Ballston, N.Y. He was admitted to the Rhode Island Bar in 1853.
Ballou devoted his brief life to public service. He was elected in 1854 as clerk of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, later serving as its speaker.
He married Sarah Hart Shumway on October 15, 1855, and the following year saw the birth of their first child, Edgar. A second son, William, was born in 1859.
Ballou immediately entered the military in 1861 after the war broke out. He became judge advocate of the Rhode Island militia and was 32 at the time of his death at the first Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861.
When he died, his wife was 24. She later moved to New Jersey to live out her life with her son, William, and never re-married. She died at age 80 in 1917.
Sullivan and Sarah Ballou are buried next to each other at Swan Point Cemetery in Providence, RI. There are no known living descendants.
Ironically, Sullivan Ballous letter was never mailed. Although Sarah would receive other, decidedly more upbeat letters, dated after the now-famous letter from the battlefield, the letter in question would be found among Sullivan Ballous effects when Gov. William Sprague of Rhode Island traveled to Virginia to retrieve the remains of his states sons who had fallen in battle
Thanks for posting that letter. I will play the Ashokan Farewll today in honor of Shelby.
"Sarah my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me unresistibly on with all these chains to the battle field."
*SIFFLE* *SOB* Wow. That was a beautiful letter. I was born way too late. Oh, to have received a letter like that from such a brave and patriotic man!
Thanks. Gotta go blow my nose... ;)
Quote: But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the gladdest days and in the darkest nights . . . always, always, and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath, as the cool air fans 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 meet again . . .
Yo S Wazzzz up? Almost got my balls almost got shot off today....
P.S. This is not a cutdown on todays soldiers but our corsening and lowering of society in general.
"..we have death so constantly before our eyes that it loses it terrors, and the question with us is not so much whether we shall die or not, but how we shall die and among what surroundings."
Capt. William Wheeler, 13th NY Light Artillery
Sept. 5, 1863, Catlett's Station, VA
killed in action June 22, 1864 at Kolb's Farm, GA
so long Mr. Foote.
I remember being awestruck hearing those words in the series.
How can someone write so eloquently?
Thank you...I can't read that enough....