Thursday, 2nd October, in the Year of Our Lord 1863

My Darling Anna,

Please accept our most heartfelt and sincerest apologies for such long silence this fortnight last. We found ourselves a dogfight this Sunday past, and fecund eloquence all but evaporates in the hot muck of blood and bullets. The men are weary, and for my part, there's little I can say or do to prod them on.

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I hesitate to impart our current position, lest my words be intercepted and our whereabouts betrayed to those knaves masquerading as an army. Damn them! Damn them all! Their lot in this life or the next is naught but whips and fire and pain beyond imagine. Dante himself ought shudder at the debts I feel they owe to kin and country, and were I a man of many words, I'd pen for them a condemnation that Luther himself would certainly smile at.

Forgive me, lady, my anger and ire let slip all too often in these wilds of America. War, this damnable war, is dirty business, fit for feral fiends beneath our civility. It pains me to curse in written word, when all you seek are Cupid's trifles and kindness implanted on your heart. How does one convey the delicacies of home and peace with calloused hands such as these? Even now, stylus 'twixt raw fingers, my lamp hangs on chinked and blackened musket, this foul instrument of death. This ... this bestower, as it were, of clouded mortality illuminates this missive, bound for you, my reason to live. To live! What irony! What tragic circumstance!

In re the aforementioned fight I spoke, we snatched victory from the jowls of defeat, but I admit that Pyrrhus' quip rings about my ears every night: "A win like that once again, and live to fight once more we won't." Had not a counter attack under Cpl. Watt's watchful eye yielded late success, I only guess at what the fates could have written. Surely those boys from New York, "Bills" they called themselves, wanted us left for carrion, and surely they would have, but for Mr. Watt's strong left wing. We Tennessee boys know how to fight, and the scrap hung in the holy balance for a time, but grind them out we did. In truth, we took a company of those rascals, about 20 in all, and their captain, Manuel his name, a good fellow, soft eyes, tall, easy movements. Still, he's young. They're all young. Younger by the day, it seems. Just boys out here, as if it's some kind of game. The heart grieves for their mothers.

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How go the wedding plans? 'Tis difficult, yes, to speak of our future, with the future of the world seemingly in question, but the thought of matrimony brings albeit small consolation to my heart. You are my rock and touchstone in the chaos of this flood. I hope mother hasn't drowned you in her wishes. It is, after all, our special day. I picture us, you in white and me in grey, standing gayly 'neath that laurel on the hill. The sun upon your face, hair about your shoulders, and that smile which would bring savage Mars to staggering knees.

As my lamp-fire fades down to purple spark, do know, my Anna, that you are in my thoughts ever and always on this lonely march. We will send these invaders back to whence they came, and life—our life—will return when they depart. I promise you this. Offer my best to those back home, and keep up your nightly vigils.

All my love,

Ryan

[Image courtesy of @sirdiesel]