The letters that Elizabeth McGee McCartney wrote to her husband while he was serving in the Union army provide a view of a woman’s reaction to her husband’s service. Because there were few public schools in Illinois and educating girls was a low priority, many women were illiterate. Elizabeth was fortunate to have had two or three brief years of school. Many of her letters are quoted in Hardtack and Heartbreak but she wrote almost every day and often at length so not all could be included. The letter below, written when her husband was part of the campaign to take Vicksburg, is one of those omitted.
My Beloved Husband
I am well how are you it has bin reighning here and looks like is going to reigh more do I wish I could git to see you and have a grand talk with you I got your letter yesterday that you sent by Dr Legore and was sorrow to here that you was mad at the Dr but hope you will not stay mad long do not git yourself arrested for there is a nuf gitting in that office with out you you say Dr Legore is going to Springfield to see a bout your Comition and his one I think it is time you had your comition if you are going to git it I think you have dun a nuf for nothing do not you it is long a nuf since Dayhuff died for you to have got a half a dozen comitions and if they do not send it to you soon come home and let them do the best they can do you think you will git any thing for what time you have bin there or not do not think you are marred to a stranger when you wright to me remember I want to know it all
Captain Woodward was here last evening to see me he says he is going to go back next Thursday he was in such a hurry that I didn’t ask him if he would take you a cake or something to eat I will try to send you something to eat the next time I see any man going down there I am in hopes you have my likeness before this I do not see why you did not git it a long time a go if you do not git it I will git one taken and send it by hand the first chance
What is the matter with you the last letter that I got was only a half a sheat and when the male came I did not git any come this will never do are you about to forget me or what is the cause or is there no cause I am as ever
Your Affectionate Wife E.M. McCartney
Beyond her spelling and lack of punctuation, you may be puzzled by her first paragraph on his “comition.” The regimental quartermaster, Josiah Dayoff, died and McCartney was asked to replace him. When he traveled to Memphis to join the regiment, his commission as Lieutenant had not been approved.