Most Valentines sent during the early 19th century would have been made by hand, but by the beginning of the Civil War, commercially-produced greeting cards were being marketed for soldiers to send to their sweethearts. As the war continued, however, the Union blockade made paper extremely scarce in the Confederate States and mail delivery dangerous and difficult. Valentines and letters became ever more precious communications.
Unlike modern Valentines, Civil War Valentines often combined the sentiments of love, patriotism, duty, and loss.
The Kansas Historical Society has several Civil War Valentines in its collection. One of declares
‘Mid bugle’s blast and cannon’s roar,
And ‘mid the battles angry flame;
‘Mid clashing sabres red with gore,
I fondly breathe thy much-loved name.
I feel thee near at dead of night,
When I my vigil lone am keeping–
Thy image guards me, angel bright,
In dreams when wearied I am sleeping,
Each northward wind wafts on its breath,
To thee a yearning kiss of mine–
On glory’s field or bed of death,
I live or die thy Valentine.
A Valentine in the Smithsonian Institution has this message:
“My country’s cause to serve,
For her to do or die;
Thy love my arm to nerve,
Thy name my battle cry.”
Lorena, by J.P. Webster, was a very popular love song. Still sung today, it has been recorded by artists such as John Hartford, Bobby Horton, Johnny Cash,
and Waylon Jennings.
“I have not seen a woman since I left home that could tempt me for a moment to forget the dear old girl of my heart. The mother of my children. I am too old for such nonsense as that dearest be assured. You fill all my thoughts + desires in the way of a woman. And you think you will be a little shy + maidish when we meet eh? We’ll see about that. You must not be quite as hard to be kissed as you were before we were married, will you?”
Alex Morgan to his wife Fanny, February 16, 1863
A Union Valentine. The tent opens to reveal a soldier writing to the sweetheart whose face he imagines.
One of the most famous love letters of the Civil War was written by Sullivan Ballou and delivered after his death. Here is an excerpt:
July the 14th, 1861
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 . . .
Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you 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 irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.
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. 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 grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, 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, it will whisper your name.”
On November 17, 1861 Dr. Alex Morgan enlisted with Company F of the 19th Louisiana Infantry of the Confederate Army. When he left for war, his wife Fanny was 27 and he was 38. They had been married 11 years and had four children: Jim 11, Ross 8, Mary Elizabeth “Pet” 3, and baby Fanny. Another son “Charlie” (born 1856) died before the Civil War.
Alex’s letters to Fanny are available here in an online exhibit, presented by
The Texas Collection of Baylor University.
The following passage is from Milton’s Paradise Lost – a work Morgan called “one of my pets” and which he had with him in camp. This poem might well have come to his mind when thinking of Fanny.
With thee conversing I forget all time,
All seasons and their change, all please alike.
Sweet is the breath of morn, her rising sweet,
With charm of earliest birds; pleasant the sun
When first on this delightful land he spreads
His orient beams, on herb, tree, fruit, and flower,
Glistring with dew; fragrant the fertile earth
After soft shower; and sweet the coming on
Of grateful evening mild, then silent night
With this her solemn bird and this fair moon,
And these the gems of heav’n, her starry train:
But neither breath of morn when she ascends
With charm of earliest birds, nor rising sun
On this delightful land, nor herb, fruit, flower,
Glistring with dew, nor fragrance after showers,
Nor grateful evening mild, nor silent night
With this her solemn bird, nor walk by moon,
Or glittering starlight without thee is sweet.
…..from Paradise Lost by John Milton (1608-74)
Remember me kindly to all the kin + friends. Kiss the dear children for me + believe me till death yours