Sunday, February 3, 2013

Civil War Valentines

With Valentines Day just around the corner, I thought a look back on the traditions and practices of the holiday might be fun. For instance, did you know that during the American Civil War, homesick and love struck soldiers sent Valentine Cards from the battlefield?

It was a common occurrence on the home-front to receive letters and small items from the battle-lines  but during special holidays, those items often took on a more romantic and sentimental tone. Harpers Weekly, the leading Newspaper of the time period, even published a special Valentines Days greeting page in 1864 celebrating the Valentine tradition.


 Recognizing that many soldiers sent letters and cards, to their sweethearts back home, Harper's weekly celebrated undying love on Valentines Day during the Civil War with a special edition devoted to soldiers' love. Some soldiers could not read or write, and instead had very close friends pen love letters and make-shift cards to their loved ones. Most Civil War soldiers bought Valentine Cards from a sutlery, who in addition to carrying supplies of boots and weapons, also sold stationery and greeting cards. Here's an example of a beautiful Civil War era Valentine titled 'MY LOVE':


 During the War there were special valentines for soldiers and their sweethearts. Some showed couples parting ways. Others had a tent with flaps that opened to reveal a soldier. These were called a Window Valentine. Another Civil War novelty was the valentine that included a lock of hair. And another was the paper doll valentine that had a printed face and feet, with the figure dressed in cloth or paper.

 Many cards also had political and patriotic messages and imagery. Love letters between soldiers and their sweethearts have become collectors items and family heirlooms, and remind us that love and romance is present in even the most gruesome circumstances.

 Not all Valentines were a happy occasion to read however...

One such Valentine is a surprisingly elaborate one, from a Confederate soldier named Robert King to his wife, Louiza. King used a penknife to cut through an envelope and a newspaper, then he wove them together into a heart shape. When opened, the card shows two figures crying. In a prophetic turn of events, the Valentine didn't reach his wife until nearly two months after the Holiday, on the same day that another letter was delivered to her home. The letter stated that King was killed in battle.


So, hold someone close this Valentine's Day, and remember that life is short, no matter how great a love can be.

Love and Lightning Bugs,
  Photobucket

21 comments:

Xtreme Qpon - Angela Christopher said...

Super neat article!

Oo La La Savings said...

These are really cool! Thank you for sharing!

jesicaj1 said...

Oh my, what a sad story about the Valentine. How odd is it that the valentine and the letter both got there the same day. So weird.

And that was a lot of work he must have put into making that!

Cheap Is The *New* Classy said...

Those Valentine's are gorgeous. It's sad that we have almost lost the art of making a great card.

Dawn

Anonymous said...

How sweet that he took the time to make that for her. I am glad she did receive it with the way things turned out, that is so sad.

Hobbies on a Budget said...

My Mom used to have some really old valentines from our great ancestors. They were so intricate and special.

Julia Potvin said...

Great story! I agree always show the ones you love your love everyday, tomorrow may not come :/

amber said...

What a great post.... those are so sweet

Amanda Taylor said...

To live back in those days... without the immediate connection of telephones like we have now must have been torture. Having to wait for months and months to hear from your loved one and not even know if they are alive... touching story.

Alyssa McVey said...

What a amazing story. The little things they did that meant so much. I hope that getting the Valentine from her husband helped ease the pain of his passing even if it was just a little.

Heidi Gray said...

That is simply breathtaking!! I wish our valentine's looked like that now!!

Katrina said...

Neat! I know we did a simplified version of that woven heart in school

Meghan @ Crazy Casa K said...

Very cool!

Marieesbella said...

This is so neat! I never knew that thank you so much for sharing with us I always learn something new when I come to your blog :)

Guavalicious said...

I adore seeing old valentines! I am always searching for them while thrifting and antiquing.

Mama Luvs Books said...

Love those!!! In this digital age we rely too much on computers and not enough on creativity.

MumbleBee said...

<3 makes me think I need to hand make this year. More thought into it maybe he will love it even more :)

sandra said...

Awesome! I love the woven heart! It's so sad that it didn't reach her in time for the holiday, yet it's twisted that it arrived on the day she found out her husband was killed. A bitter sweet reminder of how much her husband loved her.

Coupons and Friends said...

Amazing post! I love hearing these stories they are so sad and romantic.

Gluten Free for Jen said...

I love learning new things about that era! I hope this doesn't sound to twisted but I love the story of the heart one- the thought he put into that and ironically had 2 people crying....

Mer said...

What a sad story! Though at least she had a reminder that her husband had loved and missed her. It's so interesting to see how people celebrated the holiday many years ago, back when physical mail was more important.