We often think of Valentine’s Day when we think of February, but that month can be hard for people separated from their loved ones.
Whether at home or abroad, soldiers have always found it difficult to be days, weeks, months away from their sweethearts, connected through the postal service or, at best, a telephone. This week, we take a look at some letters written to and from soldiers in various wars, all during the month of February.
Writing to his wife Alice in Eutaw, Alabama, John Meriwether shows her how much her letters mean to him.
Meriwether is stationed at Vicksburg, Mississippi, in February 1863, when he writes, “How happy I was yesterday evening when our Regt mail boy brought me another precious letter from you announcing that our little darling Juliet was again well and able to take a long walk with her mother. Oh, Alice you have no idea how blue it makes me when I hear that you or Juliet are sick. And language can not express my joy & happiness when I hear that all of you are well and enjoying yourselves.”
The next year, John Boatwright writes to his wife in Columbia, South Carolina, from his location in Georgia.
Boatwright has a more flowery style than Meriwether, and he uses it to pour out his loneliness: “I am very unhappy, and do you not think I ought to be having all the dear ones far behind me and coming to this land of strangers. Oh! that I could spend one sweet hour in the presence of her whom I love above all things. When with you my darling, (it seems when I leave you) that I do not appreciate you enough, and when in some of my gloomy feelings, I am sure I can say I am the most unhappy of mankind.”
It seems like most of the WWI soldiers in our collections write to friends and family, but at least one writes with regularity to his wife and children. Dr. Alston Fitts wrote several letters from France in 1918 and 1919, including this one, that begins, “How I long for you to-night!”
He goes on to describe what it’s like in his tent, so that they can picture him there and imagine how he must be feeling. In another letter, he images himself with them, as they’re curled up reading his letter:
“Don’t see how I ever brought myself to the point of leaving you and the children so far behind, but we will look forward to a happy meeting when this horrid war is over. So now, nestle up close, while I kiss you all good night.”
While Meriwether, Boatwright, and Fitts write to their wives, Fred Lindsay’s correspondent is his sweetheart, Helene Phillips. He sends her letters by V-mail from his position in the South Pacific.
In February 1944, he tells her about his work in the chaplain’s office, as well as the kind of thing the men have been doing to entertain themselves. He talks of a “swimming meet” with the Australians, with each man “in his birthday suit,” attempting to win, among other things, cigarettes.
But, clearly, Lindsay is also worried about his girl, because he admonishes her, “please take good care of yourself.” That was something Phillips was apparently not good at doing, as evidenced in one of her letters to him.
Here, she says she’s concerned about him, too — “Under the circumstances I worry when I don’t hear from you” — and she later admits, “Instead of taking care of myself I continued to work until I just fell apart.”
She closes by saying, “I guess I just can’t take these hours after two years of this stuff. Please write soon.”