Book Review: Letters to Lizzie: The Story of Sixteen Men in the Civil War and the One Woman Who Connected Them All


by James M. Scythes, editor

Kent, Oh.: Kent State University Press, 2022. Pp. xviii, 243. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $55.00. ISBN: 1606354523

A Young Woman’s Wartime Correspondence

Soon after the outbreak of the Civil War, 16-year old Lizzie Brick (1845-1919), of Hurffville, N.J., began corresponding with some family members, neighbors, and fellow Church members serving with the army. By war’s end she was exchanging letters with 16 men, an uncle, two cousins, several friends, and two friends of a cousin, . Amazingly, there survive 124 letters from this correspondence, mostly those addressed to Lizzie; only three letters from her have been found.

In preparing these letter for publication, Prof. Scythes (West Chester University), has been careful to not to overdo “correcting” spelling, grammar, and usage, so that the “voice” of each of the writers comes across, telling us something about their personalities, backgrounds, and education.

Much of what’s in these letters can help the student of the Civil War gain a better understanding of American society and mores in the midst of the war. We can find perceptions about the war, life at the fighting and the home front, familial and social relationships, and more.

There are many comments about the war and soldiering, encounters with Southern society and slavery, family and community news and gossip, and questions of faith. We also see Lizzie’s frustration over being unable to fight by reason of her sex, something certainly shared by other young women, and later news of her marriage, which perhaps disappointed a couple of the men who seem to have developed warm feelings toward her.

Letters to Lizzie is a very valuable read for anyone interested in the lives of ordinary Northern men and women during the Civil War, forming a unique resource, with insights about perceptions of the war, soldiering, life the home front, and family, faith, and male-female relationships in mid-nineteenth century America.

This book has one flaw. Prof. Scythes’ quite valuable annotations are all in the back of the volume, much less accessible than had they been at the foot of the page.


Note: Letters to Lizzie is also available in e-editions.

StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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