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,
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