A frivolous 4th

This week on Twitter, we’ve been featuring 4th of July-related excerpts from the Civil War Diaries and Letters digital collection, as transcribed by our crowdsourcing volunteers. Unfortunately for the soldiers, the holiday typically held business as usual — the fatigue, discomfort, and anxiety of life on the battlefield — mixed in with the occasional historic event.

In contrast are letters from home, detailing 4th of July picnics, concerts, and various other “selebrations.” A favorite, written to Tillie Wise Clark from her niece Bell, is excerpted at length below. While sparing a few lines for her brother Lycurgus, a captain in the 101st Colored Infantry Regiment, Bell shows a preoccupation with parties, dresses, and beaus that’s worthy of Scarlett O’Hara herself.

Brooklyn Sanitary Fair, 1864 | James W. Bollinger Collection

Brooklyn Sanitary Fair, 1864 | James W. Bollinger Collection

Dear Aunt Tillie,

…Aunt Bell and Jessie went to Winona, [for] a festival of some kind there in the afternoon. I could not go, as I was so fortunate as to get my face poisoned Wednesday, consequently it is about as big as two faces ought to be, with the exception of the eyes, which are uncommonly small. Aunt Bell wants me to get my Photo now, but I do not think twould be pretty so I will not follow her advice…

Curgus is coming home in July, and perhaps when he goes back will come by Winona. Seems to me I’ll be kinder glad to see him, wish mother and all the rest of the folks would come with him. I rather think from the way he writes, he has a notion of joining the regulars. I don’t want him to, dear knows, but of course he will do as he likes.

By the way I have been to Deer Park. Went Wednesday last in a buggy or carriage with nineteen others. Had ever so much fun, Colvins, all but Herve McCartys, Wilsons, Grays, and some others, made quite a respectable load. “Nely” Colvin and I were on the seat with the driver, Frank McCarty. Aunt Bell did not go. Consequently there were but about three I was acquainted with, didnt have any introductions either, but I don’t care. Enjoyed myself the best kind. The folks from about Uncle Abner have not gone yet, I may get to go again, possibly.

I had almost forgotten to tell you I have such a very pretty new dress, not quite made yet. I just know I will get a beau the fourth of July, as I’m most determined to wear it. Am going to get a hat this week also if I can find any thing in Winona or Lostant pretty enough for me to wear, know I’ll look awful handsome if my face should happen not to get well. Guess I will get a letter from somebody this week, wouldn’t you like to see it. I’m getting anxious myself. The cherries are turning red, will have pies of them this week, Grandmother says, the strawberries are all gone, were not very many in the first place…

Much love to all the folks, and please look over all errors.

Your niece,


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