Thursday, January 25, 2018

Keeping history alive: Preserving the Bauers' war-time letters

William Griffing created a web site for war-time correspondence between Jacob and Emily Bauer.
Like this blog on Facebook  | 'This is a dreadful war': The Bauers' correspondence.

At a Connecticut flea market nearly two years ago, I purchased a packet of war-time correspondence between 16th Connecticut soldier Jacob Bauer and his wife, Emily. I have no plans to keep these letters. Like anything else in my modest Civil War collection, I rent what I have. I strongly believe in  sharing history, so the letters will eventually be donated to a historical society, a library or returned to descendants of the Bauers.

Jacob and Emily Bauer in Virginia in the summer of 1863.
(Connecticut State Library)
In the meantime, I have collaborated with William Griffing to make the Bauers' correspondence available to the public. Griff, featured recently on my blog, has become expert in creating web sites for war-time correspondence of Civil War soldiers. In two days, he transcribed my eight Bauer letters and created this site for them. (Visit his landing page of soldier correspondence here and his "Spared & Shared Facebook page here.)

In my favorite letter, dated Oct. 5, 1862, a worried Emily wrote Jacob, then a private in the 16th Connecticut. A German immigrant, Bauer had recently survived the Battle of Antietam -- the regiment's first fight of the war. In a 40-acre cornfield near the village of Sharpsburg, Md., on Sept. 17, 1862, more than 200 soldiers in his regiment became casualties -- 43 were killed in action.

“Mr. [Jacob] Eaton was wounded at the battle of Antietam and the ball is in his leg yet,” Emily noted about the private in the 8th Connecticut. “[Private] William Pratt was also wounded in that battle, I believe pretty severely in the hip. [Sgt.] Edward Parmalee’s remains were carried here from Hartford on the one o’clock train and buried up town where his mother was buried. [Sgt. Wadsworth] Washburn’s body has not come up yet.”

Added Emily: “This is a dreadful war. I hope and pray it may cease soon.”

In a letter to Emily on Aug. 20, 1863, Jacob wrote how he eagerly anticipated her visit to the regiment's camp in Virginia.

Jacob Bauer of the 16th Connecticut survived Antietam.
Many of his comrades did not.
"... do not trouble about the cost at all," he wrote. "You will never be sorry of having been here. There are several ladies here now with their husbands and a good many more coming."

Later, he added: "I think I can get a room and board near our camp but if not, can you sleep with me on a hard board and a single blanket for covering?"

On April 20, 1864, Bauer, a sergeant, was captured in Plymouth, N.C., with most of the rest of his regiment and sent to Andersonville, the most notorious POW camp of the Rebellion. He somehow survived the camp where 13,000 Union soldiers died; Bauer was paroled on Dec. 10, 1864.

After the war, Jacob was active in veterans’ organizations. He died in 1931 at age 92, outliving his wife and most of his fellow veterans. Emily, with whom he had four children, died in 1900. (In A Broken Regiment, Lesley Gordon's excellent book on the 16th Connecticut, Bauer is featured.)

There are no amazing revelations in the Bauers' correspondence, which provide a glimpse into the lives of a loving couple during the Civil War. At the very least, that alone makes them worth preserving and sharing with others.

Let's keep history alive.

All William Griffing's transcriptions of Civil War soldier letters here.

Have something to add (or correct) in this post? E-mail me here.

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