I Remain Yours
Common Lives in Civil War Letters
Harvard University Press 2018
New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Literary StudiesNew Books in Military HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network February 12, 2018 Michael Amico
In I Remain Yours: Common Lives in Civil War Letters (Harvard University Press, 2018), Christopher Hager trains our attention to “the cell-level transfers that created the meaning of the Civl War.” He follows the correspondence of a group of soldiers, and their family members, many of whom had never written letters before in their life. These people were largely illiterate. They had to learn how to spell as they were trying to compose their thoughts on paper. Yet Hager leaves their letters ‘uncorrected.’ In their struggle to put their feelings and thoughts into words—a struggle we also feel in reading those words—the words themselves gain an immediacy and directness. They grow in importance for being chosen. The repetition of phrases throbs with feeling. The emotional dynamics of union and disunion—the fear of being forgotten, the assurance of love, no matter the soldier’s side in the war—congeal around individual words, phrases, even marks on the page. As they write, both soldiers and their family members realize that they’re at war together, tending to the relationships that comprise their everyday lives, and warding off the threats to them.
Christopher Hager has previously explored the lives of ordinary Americans through their writing, including diaries kept by slaves. His first book, Word by Word: Emancipation and the Act of Writing, won the 2014 Frederick Douglass Prize for the best book of the year on the subject of slavery. Hager is Charles A. Dana Research Associate Professor of English at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut where he teaches courses in American literature and culture from the nineteenth century to the present.
Michael Amico holds a PhD in American Studies from Yale University. His dissertation, The Forgotten Union of the Two Henrys: The True Story of the Peculiar and Rarest Intimacy of the American Civil War, is about the romance between Henry Clay Trumbull and Henry Ward Camp of the Tenth Connecticut Regiment. He is the author, with Michael Bronski and Ann Pellegrini, of “You Can Tell Just by Looking”: And 20 Other Myths about LGBT Life and People (Beacon, 2013), a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in Nonfiction. He can be reached at email@example.com.