Book cover, “My Dear Molly: The Civil War Letters of Captain James Love”, edited by M.E. Kodner.

At the January meeting of the Civil War Roundtable of St. Louis, M.E. Kodner presented on a collection of one hundred sixty letters donated to the Missouri History Museum. The letters were written by Captain James Love to his sweetheart, Molly, over the course of the Civil War. Ms. Kodner compiled them into a book. The letters give a fascinating glimpse of what daily life must have been like for a Union soldier from Missouri, and his affection for Molly warmed my heart.

Here’s a line from his letter of January 3, 1862: “I believe I am blessed beyond the power of words in your true love. No shade of doubt ever crossed my mind. I pray that I may ever return it-as you deserve.”

Molly must have been suitably impressed by his devotion, as they were married on May 2, 1865, after Captain Love escaped from a Confederate prison and made his way home to her in St. Louis.

This book, along with the approach of Valentine’s Day, got me to thinking about love letters. Does anyone write them anymore?

There have been some glorious letters composed in the past by names we all know. It surprised me to find this ancient snippet from Pliny the Younger, written circa AD 100: “If your letters are so dear to me, you can imagine how I delight in your company; do write often as you can, although you give me pleasure mingled with pain.”

There’s something beautiful about seeing loving thoughts set down on paper. They’re tangible and real and took some time and effort to prepare. The writer considered what to say, wrote it down, addressed an envelope, and carried the missive somewhere else for mailing.

“Old Letters” by Jarmoluk, CCO Public Domain via Pixaday.

I used to be a prolific letter writer. If my current “crush” went out of town, you can bet he’d receive pages and pages from me-often accented by the tiniest touch of perfume. I wanted my letters to trigger the senses in more ways than one.

This brings me to my point. On Valentine’s Day, instead of buying a greeting card or using social media, how about writing a heartfelt letter to your beloved telling him/her how you feel? It doesn’t matter whether the object of your affection is a sweetheart, spouse, your child, or a friend-I’m betting this could be one of the best gifts they’ve ever received. Imagine someone reading what you wrote five, ten, fifteen or more years from now.

Talk about a treasure!

Don’t worry. I have suggestions. For anyone who needs inspiration, click on this LINK to read bits of love letters written by a multitude of people from history. You’ll see love letters can be sweet, tender, or playful.

Take some time to jot down thoughts on what makes your loved one special to you. Organize your thoughts and let the words flow. Please, please, don’t type. Hand-write what you want to say-in cursive, of course.

Now it’s time to spill secrets. Do you have a stack of precious letters tied with a faded ribbon and stored in an attic or trunk?

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