On September 7, 1864, William Whitlock, aged thirty-five, left his wife and four children in Allegany, New York, to join the Union army in battle. More than 100 years later, his unpublished letters to his wife were found in the attic of a family home.
These letters serve as the foundation for Allegany to Appomattox: The Life and Letters of Private William Whitlock of the 188th New York Volunteers, by Valgene Dunham (Syracuse Univ. Press, 2013), which gives readers a vivid glimpse into the environment and political atmosphere that surrounded the Civil War from the perspective of a northern farmer and lumberman.
Whitlock’s observations tell of exhausting marches, limited rations, and grueling combat. In plainspoken language, the letters also reveal a desperate homesickness, consistently expressing concern for the family’s health and financial situation and requesting news from home.
Dunham’s detailed descriptions of the war’s progress and specific battles provide a rich context for Whitlock’s letters, orienting readers to both the broad narrative of the Civil War and the intimate chronicle of one soldier’s impressions.
Valgene Dunham is Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the College of Science at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina. He is the author and coauthor of numerous books, chapters, and journal articles.
Note: Books noticed on The New York History Blog have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.