Tuber of the Week #10: Memorial Day and Sacrifice, Part Two

Note: With Monday being a holiday, I am switching my usual missing person post to Wednesday so that I can discuss the Tuber of the Week feature to today. The following is the second of two posts (and includes the third of my selected Civil War stories) in honor of the veterans who gave their lives for freedom.


Soldiers are commonly asked why they serve their country. Why would you want to risk losing your life?

One of the most eloquent responses to this difficult question was penned by Sullivan Ballou, a major in the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteers. In a moving letter to his wife Sarah more than 140 years ago, actor Paul Roebling reads Ballou’s words for this week’s highlighted video (this version was a student's college project):

The edited text of the letter is listed below:

July 14, 1861
Camp Clark, Washington

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...

Major Sullivan Ballou was killed a week later at the first Battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861.
Though some folks might disagree with Ballou’s beliefs, I cannot imagine any rational individual who would not respect the major’s love for country and family.

The text of the full letter appears here.


carenlibby said...

This is incredibly moving and shows the depth of loyalty and sacrifice that has helped keep this country free.

Thank you for this Memorial Day tribute. ~ Caren

thepeartreeblog said...

What a beautiful letter. I'm in tears. It's really moving and inspiring. :-)


Cindy Beck said...

What a touching letter! Thank you so much for posting it. It's good to be reminded of the loyalty and sacrifice of those who came before us.

(Oh, and thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting on the 30 days worth of prizes. Hope you win!

Slamdunk said...

Thanks--these two posts were fun for me to do.

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...


I have chills.

Thank you for posting this, though I am a late reader.