If Ever There Were a Righteous Cause
"I shall perhaps see you again. . ."
In April of 1861, as President Lincoln put out his call for 75,000 volunteers after the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter, James P. Mills, the oldest son of Galen and Elizabeth Mills of Ripley Township in Huron County, Ohio, was a student at Baldwin University (now Baldwin-Wallace College) in Berea. Though nearing the completion of his education, Mills was thoroughly convinced that the proper place for him at this time was in the service of his country. Unlike many other Northern recruits, however, who insisted that theirs was simply a fight to save the Union, Mills' own stated cause was the elimination of "accursed slavery", and his fervor was fed by his environment, as he writes in his letter to his siblings that "the faculty are for war to a man".
While this Ohio college student in his early twenties pens a letter brimming with idealism, a letter written at the same time by his mother to her other children bears a slightly different attitude. She is in Berea at the time the call for volunteers is made, and witnesses all of the pageantry and patriotic zeal: rallies to recruit volunteers held every evening, a procession of citizens through the town accompanied by martial music and the firing of cannon, speeches by faculty and students in favor of taking up arms, and a campus flag-raising by her own son and another soon-to-be-soldier. She understands the needs of the country, and her convictions tell her that she must not stand in the way of her son doing what he feels is his duty, but her heart is overwhelmed by the sentiments of a mother fearful of losing her child. In fact, on James' own letter, she has included a sentence hastily scrawled in the margin: "kep [sic] this letter safe it may be the last from J."
Note from the artist:
I would like to express my sincerest
appreciation to Christopher Whipple of Solon, Ohio for providing me with the
image and letters used as the basis for this drawing, and to John Whipple of
Berea for his assistance in researching James Mills and the city of Berea,
as well as Baldwin University.|
View the next painting in the series: Waiting for War
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August 22, 2009