Civil War letters give historic accounts of war and life | St. Louis Public Radio

Civil War letters give historic accounts of war and life

May 21, 2015

Cpt. James E. Love
Credit Missouri History Museum

When Missouri History Museum archivist M. E. Kodner came across letters that St. Louisan James Love wrote to his fiancée, Eliza Mary “Molly” Wilson during his service in the Union Army, she realized their importance in shedding light on the war and life during that period. So she compiled 160 letters into the book “My Dear Molly: The Civil War Letters of Captain James Love.” 

“I think the important thing about this book is that it is [a piece of] the history of the Civil War and a military story, but it’s also a love story,” Kodner said. “Those things unfold throughout the course of the letters.”

James E. Love and Eliza Mary “Molly” Wilson were both born in Ireland in 1830 and 1833, respectively. The two came to St. Louis at separate times around 1849-50. Love and Wilson met during the 1850s, but it is unknown how they met. Nonetheless, what is known is that after the two met, they feel in love and were engaged shortly before the start of the Civil War.

The Missouri History Museum acquired the letters from decedents of Love’s family. “I got acquainted with [the family] as an intern in the late 1990s and I discovered how wonderful the story is,” Kodner said.

Eliza Mary “Molly” Wilson
Credit Missouri History Museum

Kodner read from the first letter Love sent to Wilson on June 16, 1861.

“My dear Molly, we’re at present near St. Charles, and en route for Jefferson City. I shall write you again from there. At present, I have only time to say how much I love you. All my hopes of Heaven and earth depend on you. I have tried to act through life, so that neither my own or my adopted country need be ashamed of me. I have a double incentive now! and with a little advice from you, I will try to never give you cause to Blush for me.

I hope and pray to return safe and soon- believe me ever truly yours in thought, word, and deed.

James E. Love”

Letters from Love also detail the period during Prohibition and his time in a Confederate prison where he spent the remaining 17 months of the Civil War.

St. Louis on the Air discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.