Voice from the Past: “My Valentine to the Best Woman in the World”

Union Mills, Va., February 14th, 1863.

Dear Wife:

It has this minute struck me that this is St. Valentine’s day and this will be my valentine to ‘the best woman in the world’ [except, perhaps, dear mother]. That is another valentine for her. I would ‘dance like a fairy’ if I could have her here for only one week. Since I lost ‘my own special correspondent’ by consequence of departure for Philadelphia, I am constrained to do my own letter writing, for which I am totally unfitted when so much of the pronoun ‘I’ is required I will tell you, however, what Mr. I did yesterday:

Colonel Stagg 1 of the cavalry brought me the information that 45 of his men had been attacked by superior forces of the enemy. I had been very busy all day, in shipping the 151st Pennsylvania and was very tired, but I forgot my troubles when I heard the news. After dinner I started with 100 cavalry, and 40 mounted artillery, in command of Lieut. Creely, an ambulance and a surgeon. Bull Run was high, almost swimming our horses, but with a hope that we might meet the Rebels, all took water with a will, for my part, I got two boots full. After seven miles’ ride, we arrived at the scene of action. Several dead horses was all that was left to indicate it. We found one dragoon, very badly wounded, and several others more or less so.

The ‘Rebs.’ had left, and we returned home, without firing a shot. It was after dark, and I for one, was wet, hungry and tired. I slept soundly, but when I awoke this morning, to write to you, I discovered that I had contracted a cold, which would kill a nigger.

I have lost the 151st, and receive, in exchange, some of the Pennsylvania Reserves. 2 The only other additions I have received, is the gray horse, who is a devil, and consequently, has been christened Count [Biscaccianti].

Writing so often, and having received not one word from you, even of your safe arrival at Philadelphia, I cannot he expected to write very long letters.

Love to all the dear ones.
Your husband,

– Letter from Alexander Hays to Annie Adams McFadden Hays, February 14, 1863 –

Source: Hays, Alexander, “Letter from Alexander Hays to Annie Adams McFadden Hays, February 14, 1863,” in Life and Letters of Alexander Hays, Brevet Colonel United States Army, Brigadier General and Brevet Major General United States Volunteers. (Pittsburgh: Privately published, 1919).

Image Credit: Harper’s Weekly, February 21, 1863.

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