- Between Home and the Front
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Between Home and the Front
Civil War Letters of the Walters Family
Published by: Indiana University Press
The personal letters of Americans during the Civil War preserve first-person records of news, people, and emotions that humanize the horrific events of the war and provide unique insights into the conflict's effects on individuals, families, communities, and America. Often, however, only the letters sent home survived, leaving half of the story missing. Between Home and the Front presents previously unpublished letters from the Walters family's collection held by the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum, which include the exchange of correspondence between the home front and front line, a perspective not often seen.
Between Home and the Front gives us a glimpse into the poignant questions, answers, and sentiments Private David Walters of the 5th Indiana Calvary and his wife Rachel shared in their correspondence. The letters from David give details about some of the lesser-known actions of the western theater of combat, such as Morgan's Raid. The letters by Rachel Walters record how she managed the household and a young child while becoming hub of communication for the family, often receiving missives from David's brothers, Isaac and John Wesley, both of whom served with Indiana units, and relaying the information to others. From the early letters describing a Civil War soldier's enlistment to his widow's struggle in the aftermath of the war, the letters of the Walters family add incomparable details to the study of the Civil War.
Between Home and the Front offers not only unique first-person accounts from those that experienced the Civil War but also meticulous annotations that provide valuable historical context for the events, people, and material culture described in the letters.
About the Letters
5. 1865 and Post-War Years
Lynn Heidelbaugh, curator at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum, specializes in the history of the US Postal Service. She has published essays and created several exhibitions about military mail, including "Letters Home" in Smithsonian Civil War: Inside the National Collection, and the exhibition My Fellow Soldiers: Letters from World War I, for which she received a Smithsonian Secretary's Award for Research in 2018.
Thomas Paone curates the lighter-than-air collection, including balloons, blimps, and airships, at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Paone's research focuses on ballooning in the Civil War, as well as the use of airships and blimps in America. He is coauthor of Milestones of Flight: The Epic of Aviation with the National Air and Space Museum.
"Between Home and the Front uses the words of the Walters family to bring a uniquely personal perspective to the suffering and sacrifices of the American Civil War. This well-referenced book uses letters, maps, and background information to illuminate one family's experiences and losses—the same kind of experiences and losses felt by millions due to war, both then and now."~Terry Reimer, Director of Research, National Museum of Civil War Medicine
"Between Home and the Front stands out amid the many published collections of Civil War correspondence in numerous ways. These letters vibrantly capture the daily lives and emotional strains of countless ordinary Americans during the war years. They reflect not just one soldier's experience but a rich network of correspondents: spouses, siblings, and friends. Especially fascinating is the role played by Rachel Walters, farmer's wife-turned-schoolteacher, in orchestrating communications among relations scattered by the upheavals of war. Heidelbaugh and Paone's careful attention to all aspects of this distinctive archive—from its military and social contexts to the materiality of its envelopes—has given us an exceptional primary-source collection that will prove eye opening for any student of the Civil War."~Christopher Hager, Trinity College
"This unique collection of letters offers an exceptional glimpse into one Indiana family's tragic Civil War experiences. Taking readers across the eastern and western theaters, the chase for John Hunt Morgan in Ohio, and into the northern home front, Between Home and the Front provides a broad view of the war and will be a boon for scholars and general readers alike."~Jonathan W. White, author of A House Built By Slaves: African American Visitors to the Lincoln White House