“For Americans during the Civil War, embracing loved ones on paper was a hardship they could only with difficulty overcome. Most of them, no doubt, would have rather not had to resort to it. For us, their efforts created a record of something we rarely get to see: glimmers of the emotional lives of ordinary people long gone.
“Martha [Hendley] Poteet of western North Carolina endured labor and delivery, for at least the ninth time, during her husband’s absence in 1864. When she wrote to Francis a month later, she cheerfully described the easiest postpartum recovery she ever had experienced. ‘I had the best time I ever had and I hav bin the stoutest ever sens I haint lay in bed in day time in two Weeks today.’ Of the baby, a girl she was waiting to name until Francis came home, Martha could report no weight — scales and doctors were rare things in the Blue Ridge.
“She had a better idea. She laid the baby’s hand on scrap of paper, traced a line around it, and carefully cut it out to tuck into the envelope. Some days later, in a long-besieged trench outside Petersburg, Virginia, Francis [Marion] Poteet opened that envelope and held his new daughter’s hand in his….”
— From “The Civil War Art of Using Words to Assuage Fear and Convey Love” by Chrisopher Hager at Zócalo Public Square (Jan. 15, 2018)