CINCINNATI - University of Cincinnati professor Dr. Christopher Phillips has studied one of the most mesmerizing works to survive from the Civil War. It's a love letter from a soldier on the battle field.
“I couldn’t believe someone could fashion a letter of this kind who wasn't a professional writer,“ marveled Phillips.
The classically romantic letter revealed the deep devotion of Major Sullivan Ballou for his wife, Sarah.
“Clearly this is someone who put as much emotion as they could muster into a particular piece of communication," Phillips said.
Historians say Major Ballou's letter was written just seven days before he was killed in the Battle of Bull Run on July 29, 1861.
Ballou wrote, “If I do not live my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you and when my last breath escapes me on the battle field, it will whisper your name."
He continued writing to the love of his life.
“But, oh Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by," Ballou wrote.
Fifteen years before Ballou composed his heart-wrenching letter, another declaration of devotion caused hearts to skip a beat. English poet Elizabeth Barrett wrote “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways” to her then-boyfriend and future husband and fellow poet Robert Browning.
“I think at the time people kind of just wanted to read it as sort of a goofy woman in love writing about what’s going on in her heart,“ said Northern Kentucky University Assistant Professor Dr. Andrea Gazzaniga.
Published in her 1850 book Sonnets from the Portugese, Barrett-Browning’s verses were scandalous for the time period.
“I think people were slightly embarrassed reading love poems like these from a woman," Gazzaniga said.
Professor Gazzaniga says Barrett-Browning’s impassioned assertion reveals infinite affection.
“The rest of the sonnet is about how she is trying to measure her love. Is it as wide as this, is it as high as this? Is it as deep as this?” Andrea Gazzaniga explained.
Want to try your hand at a love letter? Andrea says to do these three things:
1) Use terms of endearment
2) Offer sincere compliments
3) Hand write it on stationery.