American Treasures of the Library of Congress: Memory, Exhibit Object Focus

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A Letter Home

Illustrated letter sent from Centerville
Charles Wellington Reed (1841-1926) to Mrs. Reed, June 20, 1863
Illustrated letter sent from Centreville
Manuscript Division
Gift of Grace M. Schirmer, 1928 (41A.1)

A vital source of information and comfort for Civil War soldiers, the mail could be a source of material sustenance as well--when it included "care packages" of food or clothing. In turn, soldiers sometimes tucked portions of their pay into the eloquent, opinionated, and sometimes artistically embellished letters that they dispatched home, like this letter from Charles Reed, who would later receive the Medal of Honor for gallantry during the Battle of Gettysburg. On the Union side alone, some 40,000 letters per day were sent East and about twice that amount in the western theater.

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