This weekend, SITES newest exhibition Mail Call opens at the Spartanburg County Public Library in South Carolina. Mail Call explores the vital connections between military service members and their family and friends--as told in letters penned over the centuries, from the American Revolution through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. At its heart, the exhibition is a homage to the power of words and to human communications at times of distress as well as triumph.
Some of the most compelling letters in the exhibition were written by members of the Walters family during the Civil War. Private David Walters (Company I, 5, Indiana Cavalry) communicates with his beloved wife Rachel and his relatives as he travels through middle America.
The post marks on David's missives indicate that he mailed correspondence from small towns like Pomeroy, Indiana; Argus, Indiana; Old Point Comfort, Virginia; and Glasgow, Kentucky.
Despite living what must have been a difficult and unsettled life, David remained cheerful on Christmas Day, 1862, as he recounted the happenings of the day to his dear wife:
Camp Near Risingsun
Dec. 25th 1862
This is Christmas & drole one it is to what I am used to it is warm & raining the boys are enjoying them selves very well laying round in their respective tents some riting some telling fish storieys & some doing one thing & some another
the health of the company is good only three being sick Collonel Williams of riseing sun has volunteered to come to our camp onse a day to attend to the sick we are well treated by the [lined out]citizens they bring in something every day for the sick this morning we had a large trey of sausage sent to us for a Christmas gift
they have promised us a new years dinner we face here a goodeal better than we did at Camp Carington our vituals is better & more of them we ar camped two miles west of rising sun 14 miles from Laurenceberg & 96 miles below Cincinattia I stood the trip well the first night I stayed in camp carington ton then we came to Laurenceberg & from there I walked a good part of the way to our camp
this is a ritch county &vairy healthy but it is broken & hilly there seems to be but little yet wh a bout the people here the most of them is well off & live in old log houses some have brick bildings but loosely finished
We ar in Ohio county Riseing sun is the county town Rising sun is a very noise(?) place there is about 23 hundred inhabitance and well supplied with churches one Baptist one Christian two Presbyterian one Methodist & one universalist there is a good seminary here with about two hundred scholars the boats still run regular & will continue to do so as long as the river is open there is no regular soaldiers here except our company there is about 15 hundred home guard & legions in this county they are fully organised & reddy to turn out at any call we expect to have some thing to do before long as the secesh is geting quite saucey they ar begining to act about as they did last summer before Morgan come in they say that they ar looking for a heavy secesh forse thrown in before long
pleas rite as often as you can take good care of your self & child direct your letters to Riseing Sun Camp near Riseingsun Company 15th Cavailry Ind. Vol. so I will close & remain yours as ever
The Walters' series includes more than 80 letters, now housed in the collection at the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum
We'll be featuring one letter a week in a new series called "Mail Call Mondays" on our Facebook page @http://www.facebook.com/sitesExhibitions.