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Dear Catharine, Dear Taylor

The Civil War Letters of a Union Soldier and His Wife

Edited by Richard L. Kiper

Letters transcribed by Donna B. Vaughn

November 2002
424 pages, 12 photographs, 6-1/8 x 9-1/4
Modern War Studies
Cloth ISBN 978-0-7006-1205-5, $34.95

book cover imageTaylor Peirce was 40 years old when he left his wife and family to enlist in the 22nd Iowa Volunteer Infantry Regiment. He served for three long years and saw action in both theaters of the Civil War—ranging thousands of miles from the siege of Vicksburg through engagements in Louisiana, Texas, Georgia, both Carolinas, and the Shenandoah Valley. During that time he saw his wife only twice on furlough, but still stayed in close contact with her through their intimate and dedicated exchange of letters.

Both ardent Unionists who hated slavery and revered Lincoln, the Peirces wrote nearly every week over their long separation—letters that reveal a deep and abiding love for each other, as well as their strong-willed allegiance to the Union cause. Taylor’s letters tell of battles and camp life, drilling and training, brave and cowardly commanders, troop morale, raucous amusements like music and gambling, delinquent paymasters, and his own moral code and motivation for fighting. They include graphic descriptions of the battles around Vicksburg, including vivid details about burning plantation houses, digging canals and trenches, and enduring constant rifle and artillery fire.

Catharine, for her part, reported on family and relatives, the demands of being a single mother with three young children, business affairs, household concerns, weather and crops, events in Des Moines, and national politics, filling gaps in our knowledge of Northern life during the war. Most of all, her letters convey her frustration and aching loneliness in Taylor’s absence, as well as her fears for his life, even as other women were becoming widowed by the war.

The letters paint an engrossing portrait of a soldier and husband who was trying to do his patriotic and familial duty, and of a wife trying to cope with loneliness and responsibility while longing for her husband’s safe return. Beautifully edited and annotated by prize-winning Civil War historian Richard Kiper, they bring to life a nation under siege and provide a rare look at the war’s impact on both the common soldier and his family.

“A lovely portrait of a marriage amid the strains of war.”—William C. Davis, author of The Union That Shaped the Confederacy: Robert Toombs and Alexander H. Stephens

“These are great letters! They offer an extraordinary window into the emotional, familial, intellectual, and military experiences of two thoughtful and articulate Americans.”—Drew Gilpin Faust, author of Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War

“Few examples of Civil War husband-and-wife correspondence possess the magnitude and depth one finds in this volume.”—John F. Marszalek, author of Sherman: A Soldier’s Passion for Order

“A rare and valuable resource for students of the Civil War.”—Steven E. Woodworth, author of While God Is Marching On: The Religious World of Civil War Soldiers

RICHARD L. KIPER is associate professor at American Military University and an instructor at Kansas City Kansas Community College. His previous book, Major General John Alexander McClernand: Politician in Uniform, received the Fletcher Pratt Award and Alexander McClurg Award.

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