Life on the Home Front
Since most of the letters in the collection were written by soldiers to loved ones at home, the reader can learn a great deal about life in the military camps and in battle. However, one can also learn something of family relationships and happenings on the home front.
For example, in January 1863, Tilton received a letter that caused him to write the following to his mother:
. . . my last letter to you was in answer to the one containing the news which has ever since caused me to feel verry badly. I hardly knew what I was doing for a day or two after I got it and it is as much as a bargain that I do now. I was working on a copy of a monthly report when I got the letters and I could do nothing at them that day or the next day. I lay awake at night thinking of it and the next night when I did get to Sleep I dreamed of it. I know it is useless to fret over it but I can not help it. I thought a great deal of Clara and I am afraid this will bring trouble on her as well as all the rest of us for she is So young that I fear she does not realize what she is doing. It may though be all for the best but time alone can tell that.
What news do you think caused such a reaction from Tilton? Check your answer by reading his letter of January 19, 1863. Was your hypothesis correct? How did Tilton's isolation from the family's normal activities add to his concern about the event?
While Tilton's letters to his mother are most numerous, he also wrote to his father, sometimes beseeching his father to write back:
It Seems folly for me to write to you for you never answer any of my letters but I can at least have the pleasure of writing to you. If I never do have the pleasure of getting any letters from you Pap I think If you would consider a little about what pleasure it would give me to get a letter from you that you would write to me but If It is not your will to write I need not urge it for I know you too well to think that you would do a thing that you did not want to.
Try to determine whether Tilton's "Pap" ever wrote back to him. What picture of Thomas Reynolds do you get from reading Tilton's letters?
In March 1864, Tilton was concerned about happenings at home. Read his letter of March 18, 1864. What problems troubled Tilton? Can you imagine a soldier today being concerned about similar problems? What does the letter suggest about continuity and change in history?