"I reckon I sympathize with you deeply Dear Walt and I wish I could be with you, if it would help you any. I would...be the best nurse you ever had, I'll bet you. I would laugh and sing and read to you and if we both felt like it I could cry too, and not half try." So wrote Emma Randolph, a young woman not yet twenty, to her distant cousin, Private Walter G. Dunn of the Eleventh New Jersey Infantry, as he lay in a crowded, filthy hospital ward. They corresponded when Walter went off to war, but their real story only began when he was carried from the smoke and carnage of Chancellorsville to a hospital in Baltimore. There, barely recovered, bloodied and dazed with ether, he aided overworked surgeons when the Gettysburg wounded poured into the city and regularly took up his pen to relay everyday events that became history. She replied in kind. At home, men were torn by guilt, women lost in grief, and a presidential election loomed. But there were also church picnics, strawberry festivals, ice cream socials, and trips to the ocean. In time they realized their love for one another and planned a life together after the war ended. This was the American Civil War for many who lived it, overwhelming and ultimately tragic, viewed through the eyes of a courageous youth and an unforgettable young woman.
©1998 Maryland Historical Society; (P)2000 Blackstone Audiobooks