American Presidents

Benjamin Harrison

Benjamin Harrison

In the following letter written during his Civil War service with the 70th Indiana Infantry, Harrison writes to his wife on the evening before going into battle.
May 13, 1864

But I have said these things only against the possibility of death, and not in any spirit of despondency, nor to awaken needless anxiety in your heart.
I must write you tonight as we look for battle tomorrow, and God only knows who shall come safely through it. . . . May God in His great mercy give us a great victory and may the nation give Him the praise....

You will perhaps like to know how I feel on the eve of my first great battle. Well, I do not feel in the least excited, nor in any sense of shrinking. I am in my usual good spirits, though not at all insensible to grave responsibilities and risks which I must bear tomorrow. I am thinking much of you and the dear children and my whole heart comes out towards you in tenderness and love and many earnest prayers will I send up to God this night, should you lose a husband and they a father in the fight, that in His grace you may find abundant consolation and in His providence abundant temporal comfort and support. I know you will not forget me, "should I be numbered among the slain," but let your grief be tempered by the consolation that I died for my country and in Christ. If God gives me strength I mean to bear myself bravely-come what will, so that you may have no cause to blush for me, though you should be forced to mourn.

But I have said these things only against the possibility of death, and not in any spirit of despondency, nor to awaken needless anxiety in your heart. Probably this letter will not be sent forward until the issue of the battle is known and I will precede it by a telegram if I can get one through, though this is doubtful. You must not burthen your heart with too much anxiety, as doubtless you will be in suspense for some days before you hear from me. Let us calmly put our trust in God and wait the issue. If it be prosperous for our country and for me, let us lift a glad song of praise, and if adverse to either, let us humbly bow to the decrees of Him who doeth all things well.

... I must make this letter short, as we need a good rest tonight and shall probably be awakened early in the morning. I might say much more, but this is enough. I love you, my dear wife, with all the devotion of a full heart, and my children as the apple of my eyes. But the obligations of a soldier are upon me, and these dear domestic ties are only the stronger incentive to quit myself well in the fight.

May the large storehouses of God's grace and providence always be open to you and them. My blessing rests upon you. Remember me affectionately to Irwin, Jennie and their families, also to Mr. Nixon, Mr. Sharpe, Mr. Ray and all of my family in the old P[resbyterian]. Ch[urch]. who may inquire for me, and particularly to the members of my old Bible class and the dear Sabbath School. Should I come alive through the fight to get home. I hope to see you all in good time. Farewell and God bless you.

Benjamin Harrison

[The above letter is reproduced exactly as written and was obtained through the archives at the Library of Congress]

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