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We Are in His Hands Whether We Live or Die

The Letters of Brevet Brigadier General Charles Henry Howard

Edited by David K. Thomson

Publication Year: 2013

Howard’s letters cover a wide-ranging period, from 1852 to 1908. His concern for his family is typical of a Civil War soldier, but his exceptionally firm reliance on divine providence is what makes these letters an extraordinary window into the mind of a Civil War officer. Howard’s grounded faith was often tested by the viciousness of war, and as a result his letters are rife with stirring confessions and his emotional grappling with the harsh realities he faced. Howard’s letters expose the greater theological and metaphysical dilemmas of the war faced by so many on both sides.

Published by: The University of Tennessee Press

Contents & List of Illustrations

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pp. 8-9

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pp. ix-xi

Leeds, Maine, nestled near Androscoggin Lake just west of Augusta and north of Portland, is a picturesque community in the south-central woods of the Pine Tree State. It is also home to the prominent Howard family, primarily due to its native son, Oliver Otis Howard, Civil War general, supervisor of the Freedmen’s Bureau, and namesake to a university in the nation’s capital. However, the youngest ...

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pp. xiii-xvi

While this work stresses the religious faith of one particular soldier during the bloodiest conflict in American history, I must also take time to thank those who maintained a personal faith in me throughout the duration of this project. The debt I owe to many individuals can never be fully repaid, but it is my hope that I can begin the process here. What follows is a list of the many teachers, friends, and ...

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pp. xvii-xxiii

As the end neared for Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, a colonel from Maine encamped in Goldsboro, North Carolina, wrote to his mother and reflected on almost four years of service in the Union Army. “It is a beautiful moonlight night—all our doors & windows open—sitting out on the verandah a good deal. Shrubbery in the front garden all in leaf, bright & thrifty. ...

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Editorial Method

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pp. xxv-xxvi

The editing of these letters has proved to be somewhat complex. At all times I wanted to maintain Charles’s voice in these letters and therefore did not alter any misspellings or grammatical errors present in his work. Brackets ([ ]) were reserved solely for words that were illegible owing to his handwriting, missing portions of ...

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Chapter 1. “The Savior Says Ask & Have Faith & Ye Shall Receive”: Charles and His Early Years

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pp. 1-36

Charles Henry Howard was born on October 28, 1838, in the small town of Leeds, Maine. The third son of Rowland and Eliza Howard, after Oliver Otis (only referred to as Otis by family members) and Rowland, the Howard family traced its settlement in New England back to the 1640s and to Maine shortly thereafter when it was still a part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.1 Charles grew up on a small, simple family homestead ...

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Chapter 2. “Now All Is Right and I Am in the Place Marked Out by Providence”: Charles and the Civil War, 1861–1862

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pp. 37-79

By early June 1861 Charles Howard had made his way to the outskirts of Washington to join his brother Otis as part of the growing Union Army assembling in defense of the capital. Charles quickly fell in with Otis’s outfit of the 3rd Maine with the rank of drum major.1 Originally assembled in the Kennebec region of the Pine Tree State, the 3rd Maine mustered into service in the late spring of 1861 in response to Abraham Lincoln’s ...

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Chapter 3. “The Lord Is Gracious & We Are in His Hands Whether We Live or Die”: Charles and the 1863 Eastern Theater [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 81-108

The year 1863 dawned for the Union Army with high hopes for a reversal of fortune in the east. In the Eastern Theater, setbacks followed the Army of the Potomac for almost all of 1862, with the one exception being McClellan’s tactical draw at Antietam in September. This battle, however, became viewed as enough of a “victory” in the eyes of the Lincoln administration to issue a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. Effective ...

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Chapter 4. “A Kind Providence Has Been with Us All Along”: Charles and the Western Theater, 1863– Early 1864

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pp. 113-162

The fall of 1863 brought with it great hope for Charles Henry Howard as he moved with the XI Corps to the Western Theater. Perhaps it was his brother, Otis, who put it best when he stated, “I feel that I was sent out here for some wise and good purpose.”1 There was reason to be optimistic, for things could not have gotten much worse for the Howard brothers and for that matter the entire XI Corps. After the physical and mental ...

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Chapter 5. “Pray for Me, Mother, That I May Have All the Grace Requisite for My New Duties & Responsibilities”: Charles and the End of the War

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pp. 163-197

As the 1864 campaign wore on in the Western Theater, William Sherman’s collective armies of the Tennessee, Cumberland, and Ohio slowly made their way toward the crucial Confederate stronghold of Atlanta. As essential as Chattanooga was to Union progress in clearing out all Confederate forces from central Tennessee, Atlanta proved even more important for Confederate rail transportation efforts in what remained of ...

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Epilogue. “I Am Growing Old I Think Rapidly”: Charles and His Postwar Career

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pp. 199-203

The end of the Civil War in the spring of 1865 brought with it a chance to evaluate the utter devastation it had wrought. Seven hundred and fifty thousand lay dead with over a million wounded, many permanently. However, the devastation did not end with casualties, for there were billions of dollars worth of property damage and lost human capital in the South that took decades to properly salvage. ...

Appendix. Bowdoin College Alumni Referenced by Charles Howard

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pp. 205-207


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pp. 209-264


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pp. 265-273


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pp. 275-281

E-ISBN-13: 9781572339903
Print-ISBN-13: 9781572339439

Publication Year: 2013