Without public education, Elizabeth McGee, like many in the rural mid-West had only occasional access to a school. In Hardtack and Heartbreak, excerpts from her letters are included with spelling as she wrote them. An example is her letter on June 17, 1863 when her husband was near Vicksburg.
My Deare Husband
I took my seat to write you a long letter to tell you all I can think of is this is the 27 of June do you remember where you was this day five years ago and what you was doing if you do not I can tell you that was the first time you ever asked leave to go with me and it was a happy day to me and I look back with pleasure for the happiest part of my life has bin the last five years I have loved you ever since that day and have loved you for some time before but then I thought I had some incourigement to love so I did not try to keep from it all thoe I did not know for certain that you loved me but still I thought you did and that was a nuf for me at that time so I felt perfectly easy for a while but then came the parting the day you left me to go to the army but I must say I felt the worst then that I ever felt in all my life and hope I will never feal as bad again and it seamed to me that I had lost every friend I had in the world that cared for me or that I cared for and it was pretty nie so for if I had not had too little ones to take care of I would have given up but when I look at them I knew I had to live as long as I could if I never saw you a gain for they had to be taken care of by some one and no one else would take care of them as I would my selfe so I tried to think of them and their welfare I want you to do the best you can and take good care of yourselfe and come home as soon as you can so we can all be happy again in this world
I have bin to Mrs Daneses sence I commenced this letter they are all well she got a letter from Danes to day and got me to read it to hur I don’t know what I would do if I had to git some one to write all my letters and read all of yours I could not send you mutch noncence as I do but as it is I can say what I please and you can do the same but its 9 oclock and Jane fixing for bed and Marcus is in the little chair by me playing with his feet so we are all well at this time.