Write A Love Letter Like A Soldier

by Brett and Kate McKay on February 13, 2008 · 21 comments

in Dating, Marriage, Relationships & Family


The thing women most want on Valentine’s Day is not jewelry or chocolate but a love note from you. A Hallmark card with some prefabricated message simply won’t do. Women want to hear words straight from your heart.

But writing a well-crafted love note is no easy task. They can quickly devolve into trite, cliche mushiness that doesn’t say anything meaningful. Chock full of banal generalities, these love notes pack the romantic punch of a wet noodle. Do you need some inspiration on making your love note powerfully romantic?

Nothing is more romantic and tragic than the last letter a soldier writes home before being killed in action. The supreme example of this type of letter was written by a man named Sullivan Ballou.

Ballou was an American patriot who immediately and voluntarily left his career and family and enlisted in the Union army when the Civil War commenced. A week before Bull Run, a battle in which he would be killed, Sullivan penned this love letter to his wife Sarah. Read over the words slowly and take in what a true man’s love sounds like:

July the 14th, 1861

Washington D.C.

My very dear Sarah:

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days-perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.

Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure-and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine O God, be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing-perfectly willing-to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.

But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows-when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children-is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country?

I cannot describe to you my feelings on this calm summer night, when two thousand men are sleeping around me, many of them enjoying the last, perhaps, before that of death-and I, suspicious that Death is creeping behind me with his fatal dart, am communing with God, my country, and thee.

I have sought most closely and diligently, and often in my breast, for a wrong motive in thus hazarding the happiness of those I loved and I could not find one. A pure love of my country and of the principles have often advocated before the people and “the name of honor that I love more than I fear death” have called upon me, and I have obeyed.

Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me-perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar-that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.

Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have often been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night-amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours-always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.

Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.

As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father’s love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue-eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters. Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God’s blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.


After you read the letter listen to a shortened version in this clip from Ken Burn’s Civil War documentary. It is set to the achingly beautiful “Ashokan Farewell.” Whether you are a man or a woman, I dare you not to get a tear in your eye. The letter begins at 2:25:

Feeling inspired now? Some of the best love letters have been crafted while the threat of death was imminent. The truth is that any day could be your last. Don’t wait to tell your loved ones how you feel. And have a Happy Valentine’s Day.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tim Ramsey February 13, 2008 at 9:12 pm

I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you.

Tim Ramsey

2 fathersez February 14, 2008 at 12:12 am

A really touching letter.

It’s not easy to put pen on paper and write with such fervour and feelings.

There were times during my teenage days when I had to write letters on behalf of some of our neighbours to their wive’s back in India. I then had to read back to them what I had written. Though these people saw their wives, say, every 5 years or so, I don’t remember writing such words of love or endearment.

I am sure our fallen soldier’s words were straight from deep inside his heart. Somehow this brings out the hidden Shakespeare in all of us.

3 David H. Sundwall February 14, 2008 at 7:23 am

What a remarkable letter. Thanks for the inspiration.

4 Christian February 14, 2008 at 8:23 am

Morbid yet inspiring

5 Chris Cree February 14, 2008 at 8:37 am

I think as a culture we’ve fallen a long way in our ability to communicate with the written word in the last 150 years. We could all stand to read more of that kind of eloquence. Thanks for sharing it.

6 Sherwin February 14, 2008 at 9:45 am

A loving letter but it is indeed under different circumstances than most Valentines Day love letters. We aren’t all facing eminent death. Nevertheless, we can learn from this.

7 Jason February 14, 2008 at 10:11 am

Actually, I’d say it’s more that we aren’t aware of whether or not we’re facing imminent death, not that we actually are not.

If you want to write like this, what you really need to do is get your conscious mind out of the way… the words to write letters full of inspiration and passion flow from elsewhere.

By the way, The Art Of Manliness is the newest of my blogs I read, and already one of my favorite… thank you.

8 Keith February 15, 2008 at 6:16 am

Great post and I agree with Chris Cree on the issue of writing. We have moved away from expressing our feelings as men through writing.

9 Brett February 15, 2008 at 11:31 am


@Chris and Keith-The writing skills of Americans in general have sadly gone downhill. My wife is a history instructor at a community college and she can’t believe some of the stuff her students turn in, or even write in emails to her. I think part of this is caused by all the texting, im-ing, and emailing we do. OMG and LOL are turning our brains to mush. I think men should get back into writing real letters on occasion. Emails are convenient, but there is something truly great about a handwritten letter.

@ Jason-You got it just right. No one knows whether we are facing death or not. I also like your comment about getting our consciousness out of the way. Very true. And thanks for the compliment.

10 Kate February 15, 2008 at 12:28 pm

You piqued my curiosity. Why were you writing letters home for men who’s wives were back in India?

11 ian February 15, 2008 at 9:20 pm

Trust me…now that this is published – all kinds of variations will be going out on Match.com. A great service not only to his country..but to a bunch of hard up online dating dudes a century later. Now that’s a Patriot!

12 Katie February 16, 2008 at 9:29 am

Thanks for the Great Advice :) I love writing love letters. This will help me out allot.


13 Brandon February 20, 2008 at 4:07 pm

I only wish I could have read this blog before valentines day. I was at somewhat of a loss as to what to get my new girlfriend and this would have made a fantastic idea!

I used to write poetry years ago when I had a girlfriend who was interested in the world of Renaissance and it was beautiful indeed. I agree that the OMG and LOL, ROFLMAO nOOb speak of today has degraded our language into nothing more than shorthand abbreviation of the great and powerful vocabulary it used to be.

After reading this, I’m still going to write her that letter and surprise her with it, I’m sure she’ll love it. Thanks for the awesome article!

14 Sophia February 27, 2008 at 7:32 am

Want to know how to write a sexy email? http://sophiasparx.blogspot.com

15 seo by inkode March 17, 2008 at 6:12 pm

Seriously this site freaking rocks – please don’t ever stop writing :)

16 Michael Sanders March 31, 2008 at 11:37 am

The YouTube link is (unfortunately) broken – hope you can find another link for this wonderful piece from Ken Burns’ Civil War series.

17 veronica June 12, 2008 at 2:21 pm

hi idont know whowillread this it is a lovely feeling to have whenyou can find true love i have not yet to discribe the feeling that i have in my heart nowing that i came close to finding what itoo would like to share with some whom is ready to idmitt that being real to one self is more inportant than making excuses!!!!!!!!!!!! TRUE LOVELY YOURS veronica.sandez

18 Clayton August 8, 2008 at 5:40 pm

Or write a love letter like a martyr:


19 Ja December 10, 2008 at 9:05 am

I found it for a report and it gave me a good idea

20 Cameron Sharpe May 11, 2009 at 1:30 am

These are the good tips in this busy world with hectic work load and stress these is were we can get relief and work out for relationships and find our right partner to live together rest of life. Hey thats a great idea, in this busy world you can get in touch with your loved ones.

21 home for romance January 13, 2013 at 11:14 am

I delight in, result in I discovered exactly what I used to be taking a look for. You’ve ended my 4 day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye

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