Joseph F. Field papers  1859-1866 (bulk 1862-1866)
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Collection Scope and Content Note

Twenty-six of the 40 letters in this collection were written by Joe Field to his fiancé/wife, Kittie, with the balance including nine documents that Field acquired while adjutant for the regiment, one letter from Kittie to Joe, and two letters from other women to Kittie.

Field's letters contain little war news outside of some discussion of the conditions where he is encamped. In many letters, in fact, it is difficult to detect that a war is even going on. Field's letters are intensely focused on his relationship with Kittie, and are generally lighthearted and playful in tone. The war creeps in at the edges that the relationship defines: it is the war that separates the two, the war that affects the lives of their relatives and friends. For this reason, the collection is most likely to be of interest for the study of the effect of war and separation upon one couple's relationship.

Among the more interesting, specifically war-related, aspects of Field's letters are descriptions of various social activities and camp life, attitudes toward officers, and an account of a soldier who was accidentally poisoned by drinking a bottle of liniment that he had mistaken for alcohol. Field's attitudes toward civilians can be very interesting, as well, as he can be quite favorably disposed toward them. The citizens of Norfolk were particularly pleasant to Field and his company, though Virginia women, he wrote, were "too fancy" for his tastes, and the "native" women tended to shutter themselves in their houses, never showing themselves in public. At the end of the war, Field wrote that the Colonel intended to bring a 14 year-old white slave boy he had found to the north and educate him as a missionary, with the intention of seeing the boy return to the south later to spread the gospel. Field's attitude toward African-Americans was less benevolent, and his reaction to the enlistment of African-American soldiers, in particular, is worth noting. Field writes to Kittie that he hated the thought of the North "trying to raise niggers to do their fighting for them. As though Nigs were equal to your Joe" (1864 August 19), and on another occasion, he joked that he might bring home a freedman to sell as a draft substitute.

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