As one of the digitization technicians for the Digital Center of Americana, I come across a lot of correspondence. When I have a moment to read some of the letters I often ask myself what may have caused the writer to send this particular set of words to his loved one, family member, boss, or friend. Many times the letter I am scanning is a response to a letter that we do not have in our collection, and without having the time to research the item I am left to wonder what started the exchange. It’s a little like that game you find yourself playing on the train when you can overhear someone’s cellphone conversation, and you imagine what the person on the other end of the line is saying.
In the last few months no piece of correspondence I’ve seen here at HSP has had as much of an emotional impact as this letter to Mrs. Mary Acton about her husband’s death. It is part of the Edward A. Acton Papers collection. Edward Acton was an officer with the New Jersey Volunteers during the Civil War. This letter describes his death at the 2nd Battle of Bull Run, August 29, 1862.