How are you spending this Valentine’s Day? Be it a with a loved one, contentedly flying solo, commiserating with pals, or ignoring the holiday altogether, let this remarkable story get you in the spirit. The unfaltering devotion of a Civil War-era couple that endured two years of separation is chronicled by their handwritten correspondence. Hardship, love, and letters. Now how romantic is that?
by David R. Bush
“Happiness I have found to be out of the question while I am separated from you.”
– Wesley Makely in a letter to his wife, Kate.
Captain Wesley Makely, of the Confederate army, was a Civil War P.O.W. held for two years by the Union at Johnson’s Island Military Prison. While Wesley was imprisoned in Ohio, his wife Kate was back home in Virginia. Their collected letters provide a detailed look at a P.O.W.’s struggle to recapture lost liberties while held in a Northern prison and reveal the hardships of wartime incarceration.
Author David Bush gives context to their letters with historic and archaeological records, allowing readers to truly understand the struggle, emotional toil, and physical challenges experienced by prisoners of war during this era.
The following excerpt describes, in Bush’s words, how Kate and Wesley’s reactions to his imprisonment unfold through their correspondence:
Their frustration, pain, despair, suffering, struggle, and at times even their happiness are manifest in their letters. These are a firsthand account of life on the island, offering a picture of how lives are affected by war and by imprisonment. The prisoners at Johnson’s Island expressed a continual desire to hear from family and friends. The question of their return to the South through exchange was a constant source of frustration. This set of letters provides insight into the day-to-day struggle of imprisonment, a situation not unique to the American Civil War.