Edward P. Bridgman autobiography  1894-1985
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The Bridgman "autobiography" consists of a typescript of a long series of letters sent by Edward P. Bridgman to a cousin (?), Sidney, between June 10th, 1894 and April 9th, 1895. The letters were transcribed by another relative, Frank, and form a continuous, sometimes rambling narrative of Bridgman's life from the time he traveled to Kansas in 1856 through the end of the Civil War.

Written retrospectively, almost 30 years after the end of the war, many of the details of Bridgman's service have been lost, yet he manages to display a strong, if somewhat selective memory for anecdotes and for the emotions of the events that remained in his dreams for so many years. "As I look over some of my army letters," he wrote, "and Bowen's history [of the regiment], march after march and camp after camp are an utter blank to me. But the terrible battle scenes are stamped vividly in my recollection; they can never be forgotten" (p. 42). A fine writer with a gentle sense of humor, Bridgman's letters offer an interesting insight into the way that selective memory and time shaped veterans' experiences of the Civil War. The battles, numerous as they were, form the focus of the narrative, but the suffering faces of the dead and wounded and the small pranks he played assume almost equal prominence.

Bridgman's descriptions of the battles in which he was engaged tend to be somewhat generalized, but the emotional impact of these events clearly remained strong with him. His descriptions of the costly capture of Marye's Heights during the Chancellorsville Campaign, of the battle of Chancellorsville itself, and of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Campaigns are noteworthy. Always, his letters make for engrossing reading, whether he is writing about wormy hardtack, lice, making beds, drinking tainted water from the mouth of a dead mule, or doing battle. Because he served intermittently, unofficially, as a nurse and surgeon for his regiment, Bridgman also provides several brief, but powerful accounts of medical care, the wounded and the dead.

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