Friday, July 30, 2021

"Union or Nothing"


One reason we know so much about Civil War soldiers is because they wrote so much about their experiences. One of the things that those fighting for the United States often mentioned was their love for the Union. 

In the rush of our modern day lives it is sometimes difficult for us to comprehend the deep commitment Federal soldiers felt toward the idea of an indivisible Union. In a letter in the collections of Pamplin Historical Park, and dated, August 13, 1864, Capt. E. Forrest Koehler of Company C, 114th Pennsylvania Infantry commented to his brother his willingness to sacrifice comforts for the preservation of the Union. “Today I have been three years and five months in the service, (the same time that you have) but Jack understand me distinctly, I am not tired of the service, but I am really tired of the separation from my dear wife & child . . . . But yet we have both made great sacrifices, but I know you will be like me, that is to glory in it, and feel that we have but done our duty to our country and at the same time feel, that we still owe her a debt that we can never repay. I often feel as if I would like to leave the service, especially when I think about the ‘dear ones at home.’ But Jack I am determined to say in the service until the ‘last armed foe expires,’ and this cruel rebellion is crushed out. You must not think that this determination of mine is made upon the spur of the moment, but it has been my object ever since the war commenced. I trust my course will satisfy you of that fact. If the rebellion is not crushed out, I do not wish to live. I recognize one flag, and that I have carried successfully through many a bloody field, and I pledge you my honor that it will never be disgraced so long as God spares my life.”

Koehler ended his letter with even more words of commitment to the principle of Union. “Believe me staunch for the Union at all hazards, and affectionately, Your Brother Forrest.” In post script Koehler continued the theme, “God bless you, stand by the flag. Union or nothing.”

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