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Off to the war—embarkation of ninth army corps at Aquia creek landing, in February, 1863

Elizabeth Stuart Phelps' poem A message breathes a faith that inspired the mothers of many men who stand expectantly in this picture, and of many thousands more who, like them, were ‘off to the war’ in 1861-1865. Proud, indeed, were the sweethearts and wives of their ‘heroes’ marching away to the big camps or floating down the stream on the transports. Honor and glory awaited these sons and brothers who were helping to serve their cause. To each fond heart came the hope: ‘Soon the nation will be ringing with my boy's praise, and his name will be repeated with blessings by unnumbered tongues.’ But there was also the sickening dread that he might never again be heard of, that stalking disease might single him out in the camp, that he might fall unnoticed when on lonely picket service, that in the wild tumult of the cannonading or the panting rush of the bayonet charge he might be forgotten by his comrades. Mrs. Ward voiced the desire of all true women, both North and South. Though the hero in Blue or in Gray was not to fill the pages of history with deathless deeds, these women believed that at least he would find an honored grave and rise to a higher bliss than this world gives.

‘Their searching message from those distant hours’


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