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Sullivan Ballou

“I have no misgivings about or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged and my courage does not falter. I know how American civilization leans upon the triumph of the government. I know how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing, perfectly willing, to lay down the joys of this life to help maintain this government and to help pay that debt.

Sarah, my love for you is deathless. It seems to bind me with many cables that nothing but Omnipotence can break. And yet my love of country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly with all those chains to the battlefield. The memory of all those blissful moments I have enjoyed with you come crowding over me, and I feel most grateful to God and you that I have enjoyed them for so long.

And how hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the future years, when God willing, we might have loved and lived together, and watched our boys grow up around us to honorable manhood. If I do not return my dear Sarah, never forget how much I loved you nor that when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield it will whimper your name.”

Major Sullivan Ballou, of the Union Army, to his wife Sarah. One week later, Major Ballou was killed at the first battle of Bull Run.