Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Ethics, General — Rick Moran @ 9:21 am


Sullivan Ballou, taken a few weeks before he died in battle.

This blog post originally appeared on May 28, 2007

A week before the battle of Bull Run Sullivan Ballou, a Major in the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteers, wrote home to his wife in Smithfield. The letter, made famous on Ken Burn’s landmark documentary Civil War, should really be read while listening to the haunting Ashokan Farewell that accompanied the reading on the show. Such timeless love and heartfelt patriotism makes this letter so American in form and meaning that it should not only move you to tears but make you proud of your heritage.

Such men as this fought to save the union. And they fight to save us today.

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 . . .

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 willing - perfectly willing - to 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 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 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.


  1. This is a beautiful tribute to our fallen dead, who perhaps had similar thoughts, but lacked the ability to convey their sentiments to their loved ones in such high literary form.

    Comment by Michael — 5/24/2009 @ 10:46 am

  2. I suppose one of the very few good things about religion is the comfort it gave this man to believe that he would see his loved ones again.

    Comment by yoyo — 5/24/2009 @ 9:38 pm

  3. It is the thing that seems to be lacking in our modern society. That selfless dedication to a cause that will benefit others but at the expense of our own happiness and fullfilment in this world. To lay asside everything you hold dear to ensure that others may be free to pursue their life and find pleasure is the greatest gift any person can give another.

    Comment by Robert — 5/25/2009 @ 12:13 am

  4. I thank him even today. We need men like him, and there seem to be fewer and fewer on these shores. Many would fight to the death over the Chevy parked in their driveway, but would they die for this country….

    Comment by Carole — 5/27/2009 @ 3:55 pm

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