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Sullivan and Sarah

Updated on December 1, 2013
AudreyHowitt profile image

Audrey is a poet, classical singer and voice teacher, recovering attorney and licensed psychotherapist.

Sullivan Ballou
Sullivan Ballou | Source
Text of Sullivan's letter to Sarah written just before his death at Bull Run
Text of Sullivan's letter to Sarah written just before his death at Bull Run | Source

The heat of summer

beats against my temple

as your spirit hovers,

a softest breeze against check and eye.


My heart beats

as yours cannot.


Wilt thou seek me now,

as I seek you?

I know not where you have fallen,

but I felt the hour of it,

the precise moment when soul left,

to touch me here in my loneliness and grief.


The boys sleep now,

tender in dream and thought,

innocence streaming

into a world I no longer know

or understand.


How do I help them

to know the father--

the man you are--

That you so loved,

have given all you had to give.


And I,

I stand mute witness

and pray for a better day,

one in which I hold you

in a world where none

are treated unjustly.


On that day,

I pray that we find each other

again.

Go now in peace.

Your loving wife,

Sarah.



copyright/all rights reserved Audrey Howitt 2012.


Sullivan Ballou wrote a letter to his wife, Sarah, just days before his death at Bull Run. It is known as the famous "Sullivan Ballou" letter. Sullivan Ballou speaks to his love of Sarah, his love of his country and his near certainty that death waits for him in this next battle. I would have liked to have excerpted a small portion of the letter to make this poem more meaningful. But current Hubpages rules prohibit that. Thus, the full letter can be viewed at the link provided. My poem, is my imagined reply.

Please take the time to read Sullivan's letter. It is only one of thousands such letters in perhaps the bloodiest war in U.S. history.




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    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 3 years ago from California

      Thank you Jackie! Thank you Jamie!

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 3 years ago from Reno NV

      Well done Audrey, this is such an enjoyable read on history. Jamie

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      So beautiful and I imagine it could well be those words. Came to vote you up and share noticing you at 80. It is so horrible whatever they have done ...ewww...lol but maybe this will help you some not dip to 70s!

      Love this.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Are you ziyena?? Thank you then especially!! I loved the Ken Burns special on the Civil War--and that prompted this piece!

    • ziyena profile image

      ziyena 4 years ago from ... Somewhere Out There ...

      I loved this Audrey ... of course, why would I not?

      I'm a Civil War buff :)

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you for reading this one toknowinfo!

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      toknowinfo 4 years ago

      This is a beautiful poem, and I learned so much. You definitely got me interested in finding out more about this man and this couple at that point in history. Thanks so much for educating me about something I knew nothing about. I love learning new things. You are a wonderful and talented writer and I am glad you are part of Hub Pages.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you Hyphenbird!!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you ahorseback----it was the history of this war that prompted this piece. I watched Ken Burns' documentary on the Civil War--and it was so very sad. He mentioned Sullivan Ballou and when I read Ballou's letter, I knew that I had to write a piece to him from his wife. Thank you again for reading--

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      Hi Audrey. I have always loved Sullivan's letter and imagine the love affair between he and Sarah. Your poem is a lovely reply. You did such a wonderful job on it. Thank you for inspiring love and beauty.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you Mike for reading and for you lovely comments!!

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      ahorseback 4 years ago

      In the history of America , there is no sadder time than the American civil war years ! So many records were set in the amounts of death and distruction in a day , a battle , a week........... . I recently heard an interview by the professor of history at Yale give a talk on the amount of unmarked , unknow graves of the fallen men and boys of these battles , burried where they fell mostly , unmarked because of the politics of where they were and of which side they fought !. Can you imagine even ? Such letters as in your wonderful hub is but one tragic love story , can you imagine never to even be notified of the death or where the grave is ! The department of the army was under no obligation to notify next of kin ! We never learned that in our sterilized versions of history ! .......the Pride of these young soldiers , the integrety ! The Honor !..........+++++

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      Mike Pugh 4 years ago from New York City

      This poem was beautifully written, thanks for sharing it Audrey, and it flowed oh so smoothly as well. Sharing!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you Justin!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you b. Malin!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you Susan!

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      Justin W Price 4 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      I like this audrey... great piece of historical fiction.poetry

    • b. Malin profile image

      b. Malin 4 years ago

      Your Poem is such a Poignant Tribute to a Love lost...Timely today, as the reference of "Sullivan's letter to Sarah". A truly Beautiful Poem, Audrey. My Votes of UP & Beautiful go to you.

      I now look forward to Following your Hubs.

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      Susan Holland 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      Audrey, I can see why Sullivan's beautiful letter inspired you to write Sarah's response in your beautiful poem.

      Votes and shared. :-)

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you so much LadyFiddler!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Hi John! Thank you so much!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you Christy! So glad that you enjoyed this one!

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      Joanna Chandler 4 years ago from On planet Earth

      very nice hub ;) flowing words

      Keep up the good work

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you Jackie! Glad for your visit!

    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Hi Audrey, what a beautiful poem this is. ...sad, but most great literature and music usually is...very profound!

      Take care and voted up

      John

      PS. Thanks for sharing Christy!

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      Christy Birmingham 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      What a creative way to add more to the historical event. Well done and your poetry as usual is lovely!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Oh I know what you mean, it is so frustrating! I tried to use the Declaration of Independence once and couldn't! Gee it is mine too! Oh well you handled it very beautifully!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you IntegrityYes!!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thanks vespawoolf!

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      IntegrityYes 4 years ago

      That rocks and I definitely voted up.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you thelyricwriter!!!

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

      My goodness, what a tear jerker! You can feel Sullivan's conflict in his letter, his desire to shoulder the responsibility toward his country and his family and, finally, his love for his wife and children. Your poem is bittersweet closure to a sad ending. Thank you for sharing with us.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you IntegrityYes!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you Vincent!!

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 4 years ago from West Virginia

      Audrey, what a great story behind all of this! Quite amazing really. So emotional and deep. Very beautiful and touching. Hope that they both received their wish. Voted up, awesome, beautiful, and shared Audrey. Awesome work as always. Best wishes.

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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you Nell Rose! I hope you read the letter--it made me tear up

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      IntegrityYes 4 years ago

      That is great and I voted up for sure.

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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment tillsontitan! Much appreciated!

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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Me either unknown spy--sad tale I think!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you Leslie!

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      Vincent Moore 4 years ago

      It's always amazed me when a man/woman knows the time and when its at hand. To write such a letter to his wife is profound yet not uncommon. I sense even she knew that this would be his last battle to. Nicely done my poet, it moved me as it should do. Peace and blessings I send you this night.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      HI Gypsy Rose Lee----thank you so much for reading this one---

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you Phillydreamer!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you Dancing Water!

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      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Hi Audrey, your poem was a lovely tribute to a time of fear and war, very much like these days I am sure, wonderful take on it, and yes I will go take a look at the letter, thanks, nell

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you Rosemary--I cried when I read Sullivan's letter--

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you so much Michelle! I so appreciate it!

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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you so much brtbell for taking the time to read this one---cheers to you on your day!!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Oh thank you Ruchira!!!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you Ruby!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you Valleypoet! When you read these letters and there are so many--it is so very moving

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you so much Richard! I so appreciate the read and comments!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you so much Nellieanna. I am so glad that you enjoyed this piece--I was so moved when I read Sullivan's letter--as well as letters from other men--a poetic response seemed fitting somehow--

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you Break of Dawn!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you Nikkij!!!

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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you Frank! Much appreciated!

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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you so much kashmir56! I am so glad that you enjoyed this piece!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      Love transcends all bounds and all wars. His letter, and your reply, show the devotion between a loving husband and wife, beyond what war can do to them. Sad yet beautiful. Thank you for sharing this.

      Voted up, awesome, and beautiful.

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      IAmForbidden 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

      very sad... dont know why it has to end so soon..

    • ImKarn23 profile image

      Karen Silverman 4 years ago

      O, to a time when men were men and women were women...

      Great sentiment - voting up+

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting Vellur!!

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      Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      Voted up and beautiful. Audrey your touching poem is an excellent answer to a brave, patriotic and loving hero who fought for his country. Passing this on.

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      Jose Velasquez 4 years ago from Lodi, New Jersey

      This was very creative. You describe such a powerful love, but its so sad to see her let go.

    • Dancing Water profile image

      Dancing Water 4 years ago

      This is so profoundly touching. There is an immediacy to it. You take the reader back in time, back to the moment.

      War is so senseless, yet young people go and give their lives for their countries, for their families. In this poem and in the exquisite love letter, loves transcends all and rings deep and steadfast. Audrey, you are a wonder!

    • Rosemay50 profile image

      Rosemary Sadler 4 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

      Who could read the letter without tears. and your imagined response from Sarah is simply breathtaking.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      A truly touching letter from a wife to the spirit of her husband who must have meant so much. Thanks, Audrey, and I share.

    • btrbell profile image

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      I think it's truly lovely. I'm sorry that the rules don't allow you to use it as you wanted. Still truly beautiful!

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      Ruchira 4 years ago from United States

      Gosh...sometimes words can say a thousand words. Are'nt we glad we have learnt to play around with these words :)

      Beautiful play of emotions, Audrey. What more can a wife say to a deceased husband!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Oh my, This is beautiful. The letter brought tears, such faith and hope for a better tomorrow..

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you Martin!!

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      Valleypoet 4 years ago

      Very moving poetry, more so because it pertains to real events. Thank you for sharing this Audrey:-))

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      Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

      Audrey,

      What a moving poem and letter attachment. The thoughts that linger inside of one before battle can be foreboding warnings, for sure. Great Job!

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 4 years ago from TEXAS

      Dear Alan, simply click the link under the heading, "Read the letter in full" which appears right after the difficult copy of the letter itself here.

      Note that the "http://" reference isn't a 'live' link, though it should open the letter if it's accurate and if it's copied and pasted into a address line at the top of the page.

      But the "Sullivan Ballou Letter" shown in blue following "Read the letter in full" is an accurate, quick live link. Try it.

      And dear, dear Audrey - speaking of going to the link and reading the letter, it was truly special. I've copied the letter to keep. Sullivan's love for his family and his country just outpours. His quandary of loyalties and priorities is intense. It brought tears to my eyes. And your poem in tribute to this is wonderful.

      I have a special place in my heart for letters written during that bloody war, written by some of my mothers' relatives, some survivors whom she'd actually known in person when they were older. She had a collection of these letters which she divided among her three surviving children before she died in 1974. They were written back to their families and expressed their first-hand feelings about their own situations and caring about those back home. Most of the relatives were on the Union side, though there were actually some on the Confederate side. They're amazing.

      Thank you for highlighting this lovely letter and its joy and pathos.

    • Break of Dawn profile image

      Break of Dawn 4 years ago

      Oh so very sad, yet absolutely beautiful and heartfelt poem. Thank you!

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      Nikkij504gurl 4 years ago from Louisiana

      Well done! I read the letter and had to hold back a tear. Its very moving and I am sure sarah cherished it all her life. The poem you wrote was a beautiful reply to it, I would think she had wrote it herself if I didnt know you had.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

      sad, moving, beautiful all wrapped up in poetry.. thank you Audrey for this share :) Frank

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      Thomas Silvia 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      A very touching and beautifully written poem which i have enjoyed reading !

      Vote up and more !!!

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      Very sad, though beautifully expressed. Wars are a loss to precious lives and brings grief and sorrow to so many families.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Congratulations. I feel you have captured the moment. Also, thank you for the original letter and calling attention to these letters.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you IntegrityYes!!

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      IntegrityYes 4 years ago

      I definitely voted up.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you Phyllis! I so appreciate your kind words! I am glad that you read Sullivan's letter--the poem really makes much more sense within that framework-

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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you Joyce! So very appreciated!

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      Phyllis Doyle Burns 4 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Audrey, what a lovely and heartfelt poem. I did read Sullivan's letter and the compassion, love and patriotism in his letter is so deep. I can imagine the emotions that must have crept over Sarah as she read her husband's last words to her.

      I get so very upset that quotes, poems, letters like Sullivan's, are banned to us when we want to add them, or a portion at least, to our hubs. It is the same for me on another site I write for. I strongly believe that any written piece over 100 years old should be accepted as a part of our writing, to add the emotional side of the person we are writing about.

      I was asked to remove the Gettysburg address from an article I wrote on another site, and when I did, my article lost the human touch and emotional impact of what I had worked so hard on. I just think it is so unfair.

      It seems that Google and other search engines are the ones to blame for this unfair act that binds us.

      I love your poem and it seems like it truly would have come from Sarah herself.

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      Joyce Haragsim 4 years ago from Southern Nevada

      The full letter is so sad and heartfelt .

      Your poem is so wonderful to read yet sad.

      Voted up Awesome and beautiful, Joyce.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you Sueswan! I watched a show on the Civil War and death last night--I just cried

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      Sueswan 4 years ago

      Hi Audrey,

      "I know not even where you have fallen,

      but I felt the hour of it,

      the precise moment when soul left

      to touch me here in my loneliness and grief."

      Your imagined reply is wonderful. It is as if Sarah is speaking through you.

      Voted up and away

      Take care :)

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Hi Sunnie--thank you for reading the poem and the letter--I cried when I read Sullivan's letter to Sarah

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      Sunnie Day 4 years ago

      Dear Audrey,

      This was so touching and so well written. I read the other letter and it touched my heart as well. This line stood out to me in Sullivan's letter to Sarah. Thank you for sharing this emotional letter filled with much love for one another.

      Sunnie

      "Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on, with all these chains, to the battlefield. "

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you Arb! Susan Zutautus helped me take a photograph of the text which I have included--but I also kept the link---I just think you need to see both for the poem to have meaning---

    • arb profile image

      arb 4 years ago from oregon

      Well it would be nice, but, your poem drove me to the link for more. I'm sure most others will do the same. Nellieanna has a penchant for circumventing inconvienence. I'm sure she will flitter by. It is what butterflies do!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image
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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you arb! I tried it, but HP wouldn't let me do that--because it is duplicative---

    • arb profile image

      arb 4 years ago from oregon

      Dear Audrey, What a divine imagined response and one no doubt, though never seen, conveyed the majesty which was inherent in their love. What an inspirational testament to the sacrifice with which our freedom has been purchased.

      His own anquish in considering the price of duty as it came against his love of family and the burden transfered to them because of it, is illuminating and obviously the consequence of great inner battle.

      BTW, if you were to copy the letter to a word document, I think that you could then paste it in a capsule form within your hub.

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      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Thank you Susan---do you think there is any way that I can get the text of the original letter into the hub itseff???

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      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Oh my, how sad. Thank you for including the link to the letter.

      Beautiful poem!