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Samuel T. Reeves Correspondence
The Reeves collection includes a total of 31 letters, 28 of which were written by Sgt. Samuel T. Reeves during his Civil War service with the 80th Indiana Infantry. Though the letters by Reeves span sixteen months, from March 1864 to June 1865, most (22) date from the spring of 1865. Of the six letters which predate Reeves' arrival at Camp Dennison, two were written from Tennessee, including one dated 17 March 1864 from Morristown, while four were written from Georgia during June-September 1864, when the 80th, attached to the 23rd Army Corps, was moving on Atlanta. Three additional letters in the collection were written to Samuel Reeves after the war, from family members in Texas. The letters are most notable, perhaps, for their religious exhortation. Reeves writes frequently and ardently of his Christian beliefs, of the need for faith and forbearance to ensure a permanent union with God in a heaven "where there is no sorrow no war no sin no separation" (12 March 1865). He takes evident pleasure in contemplating the rewards of heaven; his accounts of the latter verge at times on the ecstatic. As he frequently reminds his wife, the personal difficulties occasioned by the war should never be allowed to undermine "a kinde and cheerful Spirit," or overwhelm a profound thankfulness for the promise of salvation. Reeves can find solace in his faith, despite his separation from his family and despite the illness that has left him unable to fight: "at a thought it Seams that I am not doing my part but on reflection I am Subject to him that doeth all things right" (19 March 1865). The war itself is likewise the instrument of a greater, divine purpose. As he writes on 3 April 1865: "(if god has a desire in this war) (and I truly believe he has) it will close when the national Sin is blotted out and not before ) Gods will must and will be done and wee should be reconsiled to it." The "national Sin" probably refers to slavery — though nowhere else in the letters does Reeves reveal himself an abolitionist. And nowhere does he pronounce his allegiance to a particular Christian sect or denomination. Reeves' religious beliefs are evident as well in the several poems that accompany the letters, as in the one sent to Huldah on 11 June 1864. Reeves' "long looked for morning" connotes not just war's end but resurrection, especially of the "Hoosier boys" who have died for the cause. The benevolent persona characteristic of the letters typically colors even Reeves' discussions of the enemy. A notable exception occurs in the letter of 16 April 1865, in which he expresses his outrage at those sympathetic to the assassination of Lincoln.