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All is Fair in Love and War – Romance During the Revolution

US History
US History
June 30, 2024
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During the Revolutionary War, the vast distances and constant danger faced by colonial soldiers created a poignant backdrop for love letters. These letters not only served as a crucial means of communication but also as emotional lifelines for those separated by the conflict. Anyone who has been deployed and received a letter from their partner knows the powerful motivation these missives carry. Here are three notable love letters from the Revolutionary War that capture the enduring spirit of love amidst the turmoil of war.

John and Abigail Adams

The correspondence between John and Abigail Adams is among the most famous in American history, showcasing their deep affection and mutual respect. John Adams, a key figure both during and after the American Revolution, spent a lot of time away from home. In a letter dated June 23, 1775, Abigail wrote to John:

"My Dearest Friend, I hope you have had no occasion, either from enemies or the dangers of the sea, to repent your second voyage to Philadelphia. I wish you would let me know how you are every opportunity. I look upon you as embarking in a hazardous enterprise and perhaps all Nature is wrapt in gloom and darkness to me."

Abigail’s letters often conveyed her longing for John’s safety and her profound love for him. Despite the hardships, their letters were filled with endearments and a shared commitment to the cause of independence. What better shared interest for a couple than freedom from tyranny?

Joseph Plumb Martin

Joseph Plumb Martin, a Continental Army soldier, wrote a letter to his fiancée that reveals the uncertainty and hopefulness of young love during wartime. In his letter, Martin expressed both his deep love and his despair that the war might keep them apart forever. One of his letters poignantly reads:

"My Dearest Mary, The days grow longer as the war continues, and my thoughts are ever with you. The memory of your sweet smile and kind words sustain me through the trials of each day. Though I fear this war may separate us for longer than we wish, I hold onto the hope that we will be reunited soon."

Martin’s letters are a testament to the emotional struggles faced by soldiers and their loved ones, highlighting the resilience required to maintain relationships during such uncertain times. Martin later published a memoir which is considered an important source for Revolutionary War historians, A Narrative of Some of The Adventures, Dangers, And Sufferings of a Revolutionary Soldier, Interspersed with Anecdotes of Incidents That Occurred Within His Own Observation (later reprinted as Private Yankee Doodle.)

Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth “Eliza” Schuyler

Alexander Hamilton, an aide-de-camp to George Washington and later the first Secretary of the Treasury, wrote numerous letters to his future wife, Elizabeth Schuyler, filled with passion and longing. In a letter dated October 5, 1780, Hamilton wrote:

"Miss Schuyler, You are certainly a little sorceress, and have bewitched me, for you have made me disrelish everything that used to please me and have rendered me as restless and unsatisfied with all about me as if I was the inhabitant of another world. You are the dear object in which my fond wishes all terminate. Pray, give me my heart, for you have robbed me of it."

Hamilton’s letters are known for illustrating the power of love to provide solace amidst the chaos of war, despite whatever else about Hamilton which may give the reader pause.

Love letters whether famous or obscure offer a glimpse into the personal lives of those who lived through the tumultuous beginnings of our nation. They reveal not only the deep emotional bonds between the correspondents but also the ways in which love served as a source of strength and motivation. John and Abigail Adams' letters reflect a partnership built on mutual respect and shared ideals. Joseph Plumb Martin's letters to his fiancée capture the tender hopes of a young soldier. Alexander Hamilton’s passionate missives to Elizabeth Schuyler demonstrate the intensity of a love that endured beyond the battlefield. While plenty of deployed troops receive the ever dreaded “Dear John” letters, opening that envelope and catching that fleeting scent of the person that loves you most in the world can be all it takes to topple an empire.

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