These Dead Shall Not Have Died in Vain

Many northern soldiers came to share Lincoln’s belief that the Civil War was a war to save the American Idea–“that nation”–by preserving self-government and by gaining liberty for enslaved Americans. In 1861, Major Sullivan Ballou wrote a letter to his wife, to be given to her in the event of his death. He said, “I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing – perfectly willing – to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.” Sullivan died shortly after writing these words.