"Should not I die as well as they?"

James Billingslea Mitchell (1844–1891) to his father, February 23, 1862. James B. Mitchell Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

I have done so, & come to the conclusion that if I do not participate in this war it will be a source of the deepest regret & disappointment through life. Like a bird of evil omen it will follow me & mar all my undertakings.

You said that you would not except in case of the direst necessity consent to have my course interrupted. I heartily agree with you in this. I believe I know the value of an education, how inestimable it is. Oftentimes I have heard you deplore the incompleteness of your own. But the time has now come when even this may be neglected. I ask you earnestly, what direr necessity can there be than the present, unless the very burnings of our own homes. . . . It is true hundreds of my age have fallen victims to disease & death while yet upon the threshold of the service. But why should not I die as well as they? Shall I sit ignobly here & suffer them to fight my battles & endure all for me? Never.

James Billingslea Mitchell (1844–1891) to his father, February 23, 1862. James B. Mitchell Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

This blog complements the Library of Congress exhibition, “The Civil War in America.” This series of posts chronicles the sacrifices and accomplishments of those—from both the North and South—whose lives were lost or affected by the events of 1861–1865. To learn more about the object featured in this blog entry, visit the online exhibition.