‘Write Quick’: An Anthology of Civil War Letters

- War and a Woman’s Life in Letters, 1835-1867

May 16, 2013

by Doug RobinsonFor more than 40 years, author Roberta Gibson Pevear, carried the letters of her heritage in a fireproof, locked box.  More than 150 letters from the Civil War Era document the lives and livelihoods from both the battlefields of the civil war and the battlefields at the home front.

Her presentation of her book, “Write Quick,” to the Salem Historical Society, in her words, “Is based on Civil War era documents, letters, and diaries (which) tell the story of one New England family’s daily experiences on the Civil War home front and battlefield, through never-before published primary source materials.”

Pevear labored for 40 years, transcribing the handwritten letters, most in pencil, to a readable text.  “I would copy the letters and then copy them again to make the print darker.  I would also have the letters blown up to sheet size paper in an effort to fully understand what was written in the letters.”

As described by author Pevear, “Amid the Gathering Clouds of war, far from the nation’s centers of power, two American families felt the first ripples on the breeze.  Andrew Bean, a teacher and a farmer from small town Bethel, ME, answered the call to the Union infantry.  His younger sister, Eliza, having found both employment and a suitable marriage in the bustling mill city of Lowell, MA, soon saw her husband Henry Foster, enlist as well.

“In more than 150 revealing letters dispatched from camp and field and home front, as well as Eliza Bean Foster’s own diary, the honors and horrors of war play out on an intimate stage.

“Seldom does a surviving cache of documents illuminate the full span of the antebellum of war years in such close detail, from so many angles.  “Write Quick” presents a valuable case history and a poignant of story of one Northern woman through her own pen and the lens of her contemporaries.”

The typed letters have an appraised value of $42,000 and have been donated to the Bethel Historical Societyin Bethel, ME.  “These letters preserve our history and tell us what will happen in the future” continued Pevear.  “These letters speak soldier’s experiences in a myriad of mud to the eating of fruit from the trees.”

In the pages of “Write Quick,” Pevear has collected letters of love, letters including locks of hair, letters describing life on the battlefield, letters of love-ones lost, letters describing fellow soldiers as warriors, letters describing lost souls on the battlefield, and letters describing a “spirit freed” describe in authentic detail life during the Civil War.  “I grew to know these people better because of what they wrote.  They wrote of love, hate, fear, war, and everything a good novel could have” continued Pevear.  “However, all these letters told the true story of their lives, and life during the Civil War.”

Dedicated to Pevear’s mother, Thirza Estelle Hickford Gibson, “Write Quick” was written “for her fortitude and efforts in preserving the past.”

All proceed from the sale of “Write Quick” will benefit the Bethel Historical Society.  Should you wish to order a book, send $34.95 plus shipping to Bethel Historical Society, PO Box 12, Bethel, ME 04217.