Happy Valentine’s Day from the CWI


We at the Civil War Institute want to wish you a very happy Valentine’s Day. As for Thanksgiving and Christmas, CWI Fellow Megan McNish ’16 has once again created a Buzzfeed post for your browsing pleasure with help from Jen Simone ’18 and Alex Andrioli ’18. This time, they’ve created a set of Civil War-themed Valentine’s Day memes for your viewing pleasure.

If you’ve been keeping up with our posts this week, you will have noticed that we were feeling the season of Valentine’s Day this year. We ran a series of posts on romance in the Civil War, which for your convenience we’ve collected below.

On Monday, Jeff Lauck began our week of Civil War love stories with the tragic tale of Francis and Arabella Barlow. Mrs. Barlow followed her husband off to war as a nurse, cared for him when he suffered multiple injuries, and earned a reputation for her courageous and diligent service. Sadly, only one of them returned from the war. Continue reading “Happy Valentine’s Day from the CWI”

From Russia with Love: John and Nadine Turchin

By Ryan Nadeau ’16

In August 1856, Ivan Vasilievitch Turchaninov and Nedezhda Dmitrievna Lvow arrived in the United States. The two had been married for only three months, and were both natives of the Russian Empire. Ivan was descended from a family of Cossacks with a strong military background in whose footsteps he followed by attending military school in St. Petersburg. He had served as an army captain during the Crimean War, stationed in the critical port city of Sevastopol, and was part of the forces sent to put down rebellions in both Poland and Hungary. It was while stationed in Russia that he had met Nedezhda, a highly educated and articulate woman with ties to the aristocracy.

Brigadier General John Basil Turchin [120156]
Brigadier General John Basil Turchin.
The two shared a secret passion—aside, that is, from their love. Both were committed liberals, with connections to republican intellectuals considered subversive to the autocratic reign of the Tsars. And after Russia’s humiliating defeat at the hands on the Western powers in 1856, both were firmly tired of that autocracy. In April 1856, after Ivan obtained a one year leave of absence from the army, he and Nedezhda eloped to Krakow, then part of the Austrian Empire, and quickly fled to the United States, where they hoped to make a new home in a republican state. Neither spoke a word of English upon arrival, but they wasted little time Anglicizing their names. Ivan and Nedezhda Turchaninov became John and Nadine Turchin. Continue reading “From Russia with Love: John and Nadine Turchin”

Love Amidst Tragedy: The Story of Sandie Pendleton and Kate Corbin

By Meg Sutter ’16

You might be having mixed feelings about this Valentine’s Day week: maybe you think love is wonderful, or perhaps you are more pessimistic about love and deem it impossible. Whatever the case, it was not entirely wonderful, nor quite impossible for soldiers during the Civil War. Love and war coexisted quite well, as you will read from other posts this week. Yet, as is the nature of both, they can also be tragic. Warning: the story I am about to tell you does not have a happy ending, but it is nonetheless heartwarming.

This is the love story of Alexander “Sandie” Pendleton and Katherine Carter Corbin.

Sandie was born in Alexandria, Virginia in 1840 and graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 1857, where he first met Thomas Jackson on staff at the college. When the war broke out, Sandie was working towards a Masters degree at the University of Virginia. He received a commission as second lieutenant of the Provisional Army of Virginia and was sent to Harper’s Ferry. While in the Shenandoah Valley, General Jackson asked Sandie to join his staff. By 1862, during the Shenandoah Valley Campaign, Sandie became Jackson’s chief-of-staff.

Sandie Pendleton. Photo via the Virginia Military Institute Archives.

While on sick leave in August and September of 1861, Sandie was troubled by an engagement he made to Laura Burwell of Winchester the previous winter. He believed he was not truly in love with her but was wary of breaking off the engagement. Perhaps reading Sandie’s mind, Laura broke off the engagement herself in October 1862. Sandie wrote to his mother: “I am cultivating the soft tones of my voice, as I intend to fill the void so lately left in my affections. . . . I need something to cling to. But I shall take pains not to cling too tightly another time. I shall only make love & not talk soberly about it.” Five months later, Sandie met his future wife. Continue reading “Love Amidst Tragedy: The Story of Sandie Pendleton and Kate Corbin”

Loving and Forever: George Pickett and LaSalle Corbell

By Elizabeth Smith ’17

“So listen and cross your heart that you won’t tell. I love you—love you—love you, and oh, little one, I want to see you so!” These words, supposedly written by General George E. Pickett to his future wife LaSalle Corbell, sum up the nature of Valentine’s Day. They are full of love, even as they were supposedly written in a time of war. In 1913—thirty-eight years after Pickett’s death—LaSalle Pickett published The Heart of A Soldier: As Revealed in the Intimate Letters of General George E. Pickett. This collection of letters were, according to LaSalle, written by her husband to her during the Civil War. The letters provide detailed information about various campaigns and battles as well as serving as love letters from Pickett to his wife. The collection sold very well, but it eventually became a controversial work.

530px-GeorgePickett [51549]
George E. Pickett. Photograph via Wikimedia Commons.
George Pickett and LaSalle Corbell met sometime between 1850 and 1860, but their relationship didn’t truly begin until 1861 or 1862. They would marry on September 15, 1863 when LaSalle was twenty (she would later claim she was sixteen) and George was thirty-eight. This was George’s third and final marriage. It would last until George’s death twelve years later. After her husband’s death, LaSalle would dedicate the rest of her life to preserving her husband’s memory.

Controversy arose in 1968, however, when historian Gary Gallagher made the argument that The Heart of a Soldier was not comprised of letters written by George Pickett. Instead, he argued that it was, in fact, LaSalle Corbell Pickett who either heavily edited or completely wrote the letters. There are several reasons for this argument to be made. The first is that the letters hold far more information than General Pickett could have had at the time of writing. The next is that the tone of the letters did not match with letters know to have been composed by George Pickett. Continue reading “Loving and Forever: George Pickett and LaSalle Corbell”

A Soldier and his Nurse: The Star-Crossed Tragedy of Frank and Arabella Barlow

By Jeff Lauck ’18

This is not a love story ready-made for Hollywood. Rather, it is one more suited for a Shakespearean tragedy. Two newlyweds, on the day after their marriage, were separated by the call for troops in Mr. Lincoln’s War. As was true of so many Civil War couples, only one would survive the war. While you may be thinking to yourself that you’ve heard this story before (and perhaps many of you have), the tale of these two star-crossed lovers does not fit the typical narrative behind the vacant chair.

Francis Barlow and Arabella Griffith met in New York City shortly before the war. Francis, or Frank as his friends called him, graduated valedictorian of his class at Harvard before moving to New York to work as a lawyer and contributor for the New York Tribune. Arabella, nearly a decade older than Frank, moved to the city from rural New Jersey in 1846 to serve as a governess. She was not your average Victorian lady. Intelligent and bold, she soon affiliated herself with the high-class social circles of artists, politicians, and writers among New York elites. She even became good friends with George Templeton Strong, who described her as being “certainly the most brilliant, cultivated, easy, graceful, effective talker of womanhood.”

Caption: General Francis Channing Barlow (left) with General Winfield Scott Hancock (seated) and his fellow II Corps division commanders. The photograph shows Barlow during the Overland Campaign in 1864, just after he returned to the service after recovering from his wounds at Gettysburg and just a few months before his wife died that summer. Photograph from the Library of Congress.

Continue reading “A Soldier and his Nurse: The Star-Crossed Tragedy of Frank and Arabella Barlow”

“I am always thinking first of you:” The Chamberlains in Love and War

By Bryan Caswell ’15

Soldier. Professor. Hero. Braggart. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain has been called many things by many people. Regardless of whether one loves or despises him, Chamberlain and his role in the American Civil War never fail to evoke intense emotion. While books, movies, and the occasional painting have all immortalized Chamberlain the soldier, rare is the occasion to observe Chamberlain the husband. In honor of Valentine’s Day, I bring you the story of the Chamberlains; a story of romance and rebuttal, of peace and conflict, of injury both physical and emotional and, in the end, a deep, abiding love.

Fanny Chamberlain. Wikimedia Commons.
Fanny Chamberlain.
Wikimedia Commons.

Joshua Chamberlain was twenty-seven years old when he married Francis Caroline Adams. Three years his senior, ‘Fanny’ was the foster daughter of the pastor of First Parish Church in Brunswick, Maine, where all students of Bowdoin College were required to attend service. The two most likely met soon after Chamberlain arrived at Bowdoin in 1848, though their courtship would not begin in earnest until 1852. By this time Fanny had accepted a teaching position at a private girls’ school in Georgia, and so the bulk of their early intimacy was conducted through written correspondence. A reserved young woman, Fanny seems to have been rather hesitant in the expression of her affections, regularly testing Chamberlain with, among other things, musings on the value of a platonic relationship. As a hot-blooded young college student, Chamberlain responded by expressing his affections for Fanny in what can only be described as Victorian erotica, detailing his own sexual fantasies and what he looked forward to upon their reunion. Fanny’s homecoming in 1855 brought with it their marriage, an arrangement pursued by Fanny with dogged determination. Continue reading ““I am always thinking first of you:” The Chamberlains in Love and War”