While wandering through the labyrinth of books in the Archives and Special Collections, I came across a title that caught my eye. Taking it off the shelf, the tale of Ellen McGowan Biddle was unveiled in her memoir Reminiscences of a Soldier’s Wife. The story mainly focuses on experiences that occurred after the Civil War as well as factual information of her peers and the deeds they had done. Her tale relays facts about certain war veterans she had met, be it Lieutenant-General Philip H. Sheridan, who was one of the causes of Robert E. Lee’s retreat in the Appomattox Campaign, to General W. T. Sherman, who is known for “Sherman’s March to Sea,” a campaign that left much damage in his wake. The novel also reveals aspects of Ellen’s life, from diverting masquerade balls and tea with soldiers to the dangers that followed her as she accompanied her husband on a journey across the frontier for his job. Her whole story reminded me of a quote I once read by L. P. Hartley: “The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.” The tale revolves around a history of a person, and how she is connected to several others who have their own stories; each page has a new discovery of tradition, perils or diversion that is now exotic in today’s world. It is an interesting read that retells the lifestyle of a woman in the late 1800s, and her acute observations of the events occurring around her. If one is interested in the American Civil War, lifestyle of the late 19th century, or the confrontation of the West, I would highly recommend this book. There are plenty of other treasures in the Archives and Special Collections that are waiting to be found, one only has to look!
Biddle, Ellen M. Reminiscences of a Soldier’s Wife. Philadelphia: Lippincott Company, 1907. Print.