This has been a lonely couple of weeks, and I don’t know why.
Bent on curing loneliness, I turned, of course, to watching sad documentaries on Netflix, where I can binge watch from bed amongst puppies and Oreo cookies and no one is the wiser.
I’m a huge fan of Ken Burns and his Prohibition and Roosevelt documentaries; his is a vision I trust to tell me a million historical things I never learned in the many snooze-worthy classes I endured in school, and to portray the players honestly, with great respect. While searching for my new binge-worthy subject, and in my current mood, I touched, literally, on the icon for his series about the Civil War.
Episode one was grueling. About six minutes before I reached the end, I hit repeat twice to be certain I caught everything. So many details, so much information; so many characters to mentally locate. Granted, some of the details were missed because of all the Oreos and the crunching.
Finally ready to proceed, flat out of milk and thus no longer smacking on Oreos, I hit Play for the episode’s last few minutes in which I was caught short and teary-eyed by an if-I don’t-come-back letter from a volunteer Union soldier — Sullivan Ballou — to his wife, Sarah, at home in Smithfield, Rhode Island with their two sons.
Here’s the video reading of the letter.
Tears gushed in ignominious rivers down my face. Who doesn’t want to be loved like that? Who wouldn’t want a letter so beautiful, so dear, so crushing because of its finality?
As with all of Burns’ videos — well after I’d poured more milk, ingested even more cookies, and stopped with the ugly, lip-quaking, nose runny sobbing — I turned to the internet for even more information.
Ballou’s letter, as lovely and gorgeous as it sang then, holds water still. And has since 1861, in fact.
For a tidbit about the branching tree of Sullivan’s impact, read the tale at this Washington Post site.
Tears, tears, tears.