|Creator:||Savage, John A.|
|Title:||Letters to Louise Kingsley Savage|
|Quantity:||0.8 Linear feet (2 document boxes)|
|Abstract:||The collection consists mainly of letters from John A. Savage, Jr. to Louise Kingsley Savage from 1851-1865. The early letters (1851-1859) were written during their courtship and pertain mainly to personal matters of their relationship. The letters from 1861-1865 were written while Savage served in the 28th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment. The most extensive set of letters are from points along the Mississippi River, particularly St. Charles and Helena (Ark.) where his regiment was involved in the battle of Helena (Ark.) and the siege of Vicksburg (Miss.). His later letters describe in detail the battle of Cold Harbor (Va.) while he was in the 36th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment.|
John A. Savage, Jr., Union Army soldier, first with the 28th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment in the western theater and later with the 36th Wisconsin which was part of the Army of the Potomac, married Louise Kingsley, resided in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
This collection consists of approximately 160 letters, the great majority of which were written by John A. Savage, Jr. to his wife, Louise-- both from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Beginning with their courtship in 1857, the letters document the development of this sometimes tumultuous relationship. There is a chronological gap in the letters from 1859 until 1862 in which time John and Louise were married and started a family.
When the letters resume in January of 1862 John has entered the Civil War with the 28th regiment of the Wisconsin volunteers. Herein lies the historical significance of these letters. This uniquely well-preserved correspondence opens a window onto the physical and mental strains the war put on its participants.
Savage, who was promoted to 1st Lieutenant and appointed Adjutant of the 28th regiment on August 30, 1862, spent most of the wartime years in the western theatre. He posted letters from Columbus, Ky., Memphis, Tn., St, Charles, Ark., and primarily from Helena, Ark. from where he and his regiment became involved in the important siege and battle of Vicksburg, Ms. Late in the war Savage Joined the Army of the Potomac and posted letters from Cold Harbour, Va. and Washington, D.C. Prominent names are frequently mentioned in the letters-- "Old Abe", Grant, Sherman, Bragg, Rosecrans, a Confederate cavalry leader called "Old Cuss"-- although Savage apparently had little, if any, direct dealings with them.
Descriptions of physical and mental hardships abound in these letters. "Magnificent" gas-lit Memphis is vividly contrasted with the "God-forsaken" yellow-fever infested swamps of southern Arkansas. Helena he places as being "only next door to Hell." He mentions the desolate plantations and crippled people along the shores of the Mississippi River. But he laments most about weather and disease. A second "war" is fought to move through the rain and mud. Naturally such conditions led to a prevalence of diarrhea, mumps, and typhoid fever, Many houses, he mentions, were converted into temporary hospitals. Cemeteries dotted the place. One of these cemeteries became the resting place of a friend and comrade, whose funeral is movingly recounted by Savage. His family is never far from his mind. He writes of desperately missing his wife and children, particularly one Christmas eve he spent sleeping in a log.
Politics is not completely absent from the letters. Savage generally supports the policies of Lincoln-- believing the country had to be saved--and denounces the "Copperheads" (Northern Democrats). The people of the South, he argues, want reconciliation and a reinstatement to the Union, only being prevented by the Rebel Army.
In conclusion it seems that the importance of this collection is in the changing ways in which the war was viewed by one of its participants. While the names, dates, and places may be of interest to avid Civil War researchers, no startling new material is uncovered here. But a vivid description is offered of how the war quickly became de-romanticized from a glorious mission full of grandiose visions to a national tragedy full of heartache and death.
Arranged in chronological order.
Cataloged as part of the Georgia Archives and Manuscripts Automated Access Project: A Special Collections Gateway Program of the University Center in Georgia.
John A. Savage, Jr., letters to Louise Kingsley Savage. Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Georgia Libraries.