Normandy, 1994

This magazine’s publication of wrenching wartime letters between the author’s parents brought her to international attention. At the same time, it initiated some very heartfelt conversations with our readers.

I have always had a sense that a war claims many more casualties than those who perish on the battlefields. Each statistic, each white cross or star of David in a military cemetery suggests a mother, a father, a wife, a lover, a child left to grieve. I am sure of it, because I was one of the children. I was left with a hole in my heart and a sense of emptiness and vulnerability that comes from never knowing a father, wounds that will probably never totally heal.Read more »

Love Jackie

The Johnsons and the Kennedys are popularly thought to have shared a strong mutual dislike, but stacks of letters and a remarkable tape of Jacqueline Kennedy reminiscing show something very different —and more interesting

When Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis died four months ago, magazine and newspaper articles published around the world celebrated the facts of her life. And the fables too, as it turns out. Consider the stark certainty of Newsweek’s claim that as First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy had detested Vice President Johnson and his wife, calling them “Uncle Cornpone and his little Porkchop,” and that as a widow she became “increasingly upset” about LBJ’s Presidency.Read more »

The New Sherman Letters

Extraordinary correspondence, never published before, takes us inside the mind of a military genius. Here is William Tecumseh Sherman in the heat of action inventing modern warfare, grieving the death of his little boy, struggling to hold Kentucky with levies, rolling invincibly across Georgia, and—always—battling the newspapermen whose stories, he believes, are killing his soldiers.

William Tecumseh Sherman,” announced The New York Times near the end of the Civil War, “has surpassed all newspaper correspondents in writing about military affairs...for conciseness, perspicacity and comprehensiveness with brevity he is the perfect model.” One Associated Press reporter went so far as to say that the man would have been an even better war correspondent than a general. Read more »

Landing At Tokyo Bay

Two letters from a Navy lieutenant to his wife tell the story of the last hours of World War II

YOKOSUKA 9·4·45

My dear: Read more »

Take My Wife — Prithee

Happy marriages may have been all alike in the eighteenth century, but the unhappy ones
fought it out in the newspapers

Augoft 2d. 1771.

Whereas Hannah, wife

makes it her steady business to pass from house to house, with her buisey news, in tattling and bawling andlying, and carrying out things out of my house, things contrary to my knowledge— these are therefore to forbid all persons of having any trade or commerce with the said Hannah.

Richard Smith (legal notice appearing in The Connecticut Courant , August 6, 1771) Read more »

Letters of a Most Uncommon Common Man

Harry Truman’s lifetime correspondence with his adored Bess opens a window on their time

TWO THINGS ABOUT Independence, Missouri, Harry Truman’s town, strike you immediately as different from what you might expect. It isn’t plain, flat Midwestern. And it isn’t hick.

The surrounding country is high and rolling with lovely, sometimes panoramic, views, which must have been lovelier still in Truman’s youth, before the town turned suburban. The Truman family farm, twenty miles south, was beside a village aptly named Grandview. Read more »

Captain Newcomb And The Frail Sisterhood

Original documents tell the story of a Civil War steamboat captains sorrowful cruise with the most destructive cargo of all

By the summer of 1863 the Western rivers were no longer battlegrounds but supply lines for the Union Army. With the fall of Vicksburg on the Mississippi, Lincoln wrote, “the Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea.” Captain John M. Newcomb, however, was far from unvexed; federal authorities had some very trying plans in store for him and his brand-new steamer, the Idahoe.

  Read more »

Lincoln’s Lost Love Letters

A cache of letters, discovered in 1928 and published in the Atlantic Monthly, proved that Abraham Lincoln had really loved Ann Rutledge. Or did they?

Ann Rutledge, according to the full-blown legend, was Abraham Lincoln’s first and only true love, forever closest to his heart. Her death in 1835 filled him with youthful despair verging on madness and drove him into the political career that made him ready, when the time came, to save the American nation.Read more »

The Merriest Christmas

A LETTER FROM WORLD WAR I

December, 1918; the war was over. There was special reason for cheer that Christmas, particularly for those who had done the fighting, even for those who had been cut down and now waited for their wounds to heal in France before returning home. It shines through the following letter, written on January 10, 1919, from a hospital in Mesves, France, and recently discovered by Rita Cheronis of Deerfield, Illinois, who was kind enough to pass it along to us.Read more »

“Half Song-thrush, Half Alligator,”

An exasperated Ralph Waldo Emerson said of his rudest, most rebellious—and most brilliant—protégé. Their turbulent relationship survived what one newspaper called “the grossest violation of literary comity and courtesy that ever passed under our notice.”

One Saturday evening early in March, 1842, a twenty-two-year-old journalist named Walter Whitman came to the reading room of the New-York Society Library on Broadway, a few blocks north of City Hall, to hear a public lecture on “The Poet.” He had just been appointed chief editor of the Aurora , a daily paper that aspired to be the court circular of the beau monde, and he dressed the part of a man about town—he wore a flower in the lapel of his frock coat and carried a polished walking stick.Read more »