Brev. Brig. Gen'l
- Feb 14, 2012
- Central Pennsylvania
Shouldn't have been? Chalmers Ingersoll, Co. G of the 8th Illinois Cavalry survived some of the biggest, most savage cavalry clashes of the war. I could have used a sappy, flowery image for Trooper Chalmer's love story. His war was this; his sabre hand penned a liquid, living thread home through these shambles- and lived to follow it.
Mention the 8th Illinois Cavalry anywhere near a Gettysburg buff, see what happens. Lt. Jone's borrowed shot echoes down History, vanishing into tomorrow's mists. When ' they came booming, skirmishers 3 deep ', Buford's men fought their famous delaying action, holding the ground we know as " Gettysburg ". In a letter home to his love, all the more striking for a sense of heavy restraint and weariness, Trooper Chalmers Ingersoll tells Lottie 200 men were lost. It's stark reading.
Make no mistake . This is a hardened, war tested, veteran of battles he would never mention, post war. I've frequently wondered how in blazes my own grgrgrandfather survived- a Regular Army cavalry trooper, scraped through Fairfield, also attached to Buford, among other, awful, bloody names- as did Chalmers. Perhaps it's why these letters get to me.
It's the single time Chalmers breaks what must have been a resolve not to send his war home, or allow it to intrude into this sacred space.
Yet he carved a place in his war for this. t does seem almost intrusive, reading words penned at such crucial moments in a couple's lives. We should know, however, through the unspeakable blood, gore, loss and senseless slaughters- how they survived. This gives us a hint.
Intense, and brings this war home. Written in a camp somewhere, horses stamping, heat overwhelming, a battle behind, one tomorrow, his time carved for himself- such private moments, are with his love. No maudlin, creepy, fake commercial ' love '. This is real stuff. All they had, squared.
Unsure these horrific cavalry clashes are quite understood for what transpired. Traveling with armies, artists tried. Chalmers never did although he survived quite a few.
Chalmer's daughter, in a book whose seams barely contain her pride, published her parent's letters to each other post-war. Always impatient of mere, maudlin words, had small expectations and ended being blown away. This collection more than any I've read conveyed to me who are ancestors were, away at war. Who were our grgrgrandmothers, waiting and wondering and keeping the faith. Would theirs come home- and di not ask that question out loud.
Do not read if love stories are what you wish to find and no, do not read if you're looking for Century Magazine's unequaled skill at bringing us post war accounts. Please read, for an image of what love looks like in a shambles called war.
I had to go look up who this man was. You love and adore their daughter. her father's war is secondary to pride in her parent's enduring, endearing story. She says nothing of his regiment, achievements or miraculous survival. His war? He came home and should not have- but not a word in letters of a fear otherwise. Charlotte, at home in slowly growing realizations of who, exactly she might be dealing with seems unhesitating in giving her heart to a man whose next letter might be from a chaplain or Captain. He could be gone, dead on a battlefield for weeks before she knew.
From LoC. There are photos of both in the book I did not bring here on purpose. Published in 1948, there must be family out there not anxious to see family images splashed across the internet. Here, on CWT, safe enough. Once on Pinterest they tend to get ' orphaned '- separated and identities lost. Defy anyone to separate Lottie and Chalmers.
This story seems published- meant to highlight a joke shared early on how unknown they were to each other early on. They were. It misses the point. These two rode those battles together, she quite simply what got him through. She writes that she wasn't swift to accept the concept of true love- no Victorian, wilting, stars-in-her-eyes, character from fiction, our Charlotte.
We've read elsewhere of the cavalry throwing themselves on the ground and falling asleep. Read this description- his campaigns were those whose names are written in our deepest, worst and best History. Not a word.
Will stop there. When the final letter , on the last page is read you find yourself wanting more- and we cannot. It's enough to know how real were these lovely people, how great their strength and strong was genuine love. Not at all interested in post war ( well, I do know theirs, and it's very nice- just not the point of the thread ) - there was one, for them.
Sappy image now? You bet. Who deserves one more.
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