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Sullivan Ballou was a Union soldier in the Civil War. According to the National Park Service, he was a 32-year old attorney in Providence, Rhode Island. He was enlisted to the Rhode Island Infantry. Before he died in battle, he had written a letter to his wife a week before his death.
In the first body paragraph of his letter, he acknowledges that the war may become brutal and that he is a bit un-ease by it, but he is willing to do it and is prepared for it. "I have no misgiving about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged" Ballou writes, "and my courage does not halt or falter." What is this cause is he fighting for? Again, He was a soldier for the Union, which was fighting against slavery. He believes that he must owe great debt to those who fought in for our countries' freedom during the American Revolution and is willing to set aside his personal time and leisure to "maintain" the government.
The next few paragraphs are written about how feels about setting aside his calming and happy personal life for duty and honor to his country and fears of what is to come for him in battle. He doesn't seem to want his children to go through orphanage and wishes to be there for them. To show them the kind of real father care personally coming from him it seems. He then write, "is it weak, or dishonorable, while my banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly through the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, through useless, contest with my love of country." He is questioning if it's wrong for his love for his family be contested with the love for his country.
He thinks about the negatives of happiness and comes to find nothing being negative about it. He wrote that his happiness (his wife and children) is "deathless", but his love for his country comes before if his personal happiness. He writes, "the name of honor, that I love more than I fear death, have called upon me, and I have obeyed." He asks her to forgive him for many of his faults past, present, and even future and how he was happy spend so much time with her and their kids.
The remainder of the letter, writes how much he loves and appreciates his wife and kids. Even if he is killed in action, he will always be with them and watch over them. He writes how he has faith in her in taking care of their two boys, Willie (probably short for William) and Edgar, and has faith that they will safe in her care. His final line in the letter reads, "Tell my two mothers, I called God's blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children."