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My Own Dear Wife

Four days after Confederate batteries opened fire on Fort Sumter, Dr. Bowman Breed was on a train headed south, leaving behind his wife Hannah and their four-month-old son, Isaiah. Before he left, he and Hannah vowed to write to each other every day, if even "just a line." Bowman served throughout the war, moving from the hospitals of Washington, D.C., to the shores of North Carolina and Virginia, on to guerrilla-infested Missouri and, finally, the hills of western Tennessee. During long stretches of the war, Hannah joined him in the field, giving her the perspective of both a worried wife on the home front and a correspondent from the front lines. Although they often complained of having to communicate through "the medium of these dull pens," Bowman recognized that each "precious" letter was a living piece of his beloved back home. "The touch of the hand in tracing the lines seems to leave a sort of electricity on the paper which pervades it always," he wrote from a camp outside Baltimore in late June 1861. "Did you ever come upon the handwriting of some one long since gone and have the touch of the paper thrill you with a long forgotten sensation ..." Their letters, about 1,000 in all, provide a nearly daily journal of the Civil War, told through the eyes of one Yankee couple. And, all these years later, they still have that same "electricity."
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About the Author

Allen G. Breed is a tenth-generation native of Lynn, Massachusetts. He joined The Associated Press in Louisville, Ky., in 1988 and was named a national writer for the wire service in 2006. He lives with his wife, Linda, and their daughter, Miana, in Wake Forest, N.C. Massachusetts native Robin L. White is a retired Foreign Service Officer who served in Morocco, Canada and Japan. She continues to take an active interest in U.S.-Japan affairs. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband, Nathaniel P. Breed Jr., great-grandson of Dr. Bowman and Hannah Breed.

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