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Wattles, War and the Frontier Home February 13, 2012

Posted by sandyclaus in Uncategorized.

Right now I’m in the midst of digitizing the correspondence of the Wattles Family of Kansas for Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield. You can see some of the connections on Pinterest. Augustus was an abolitionist and his family wrote a number of letters during the war. You can find a picture of Augustus here: http://www.kshs.org/p/cool-things-free-state-battery-photo/10208 He is third in front the front of the cannon. (You can like the cannon here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Old-Sacramento-Cannoneers-Association/103722183039587 “Old Sacramento” has its own history.)

Right now I am in the midst of letters from his daughter Emma to just about everyone else in the family. They seem to be quite mobile for the time, spreading out from bloody and contested Kansas to Newark over the early years of the war. It is fascinating to see Emma engage in the war. Over the course of the letters so far, she goes from concerns over her cousin’s views on piety to imploring her sister to get their cousins to enlist in the Union cause. Have they no patriotism she asks. It is very much Little Women go to war.

Wattles has strong connections to John Brown and political discussion in that household is lively. The mother, Agustus’ wife Susan, is active in the Moneka Women’s Rights Association. You’ll find a letter of hers here: http://web.northnet.org/minstrel/moneka.03.htm. She also includes her notes on the raising of children and growth of Sarah and Emma in the papers I’ve scanned so far.

The connections to the political life of the nation and the awareness of their existence on the edge of the frontier are every bit as apparent as their reliance on the industry of the east. Taken together, they are a window into the lives of women, at least as they presented themselves in print. They are also windows into the flow of information, the partial knowledge and wartime rumors that made up knowledge at the time. If you find yourself in Springfield, MO, you should take time to visit and check them out. If you have time on your hands, I’d like to put you to work on transcription. These are worth sharing.


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