From Moore’s Rural New-Yorker in Rochester, NY
April 2nd, 1864
Young Women and Soldiers.
The Testimony of a Soldier
Eds. Rural New-Yorker: – Not withstanding a long acquaintance with your paper has taught me that it is now opened to local complaints or derogatory personalities, I am here at your sanctum asking for space in the Rural to enter a complaint against an individual. The fact is, I have been misused, – yes, misused, neglected, – to be explicit, and that, too, by a young lady.
I found an advertisement lately in the Waverly Magazine, inserted by a young lady, soliciting correspondents in the army. This young lady deeply regretting the custom that debarred her from “sharing the hardships of the camp and field,” was “willing to do anything that would lighten the burdens of the noble ones who went so readily to the rescue of our dear country,” and proposed to do “what little her contracted sphere” would admit of, by corresponding with “the brave soldiers of the Union.”
Now, I had always looked upon this practice of advertising for correspondents as having a rather dubious tendency. But having an ardent admiration, and, as I venture to believe, a pretty good appreciation of the spirit of patriotism- whether exhibited by the sons or daughters of our excellent country – I could not but encourage it wherever I saw its manifestations. Accordingly I sent this patriotic young lady my compliments, with the assurance that, in my opinion, there could be no more laudable motive to action than patriotism, and that America had great reason to be proud of her daughters. “And as for your commiseration for the soldier’s lonely lot,” I wrote, “it is, indeed, noble and philanthropic.” I then attempt to inspire her with a conception of the great measure of happiness that I derived from anticipating the reception of a letter from her. As her object was declared to be “mutual pleasure and improvement,” I proposed as the subject of her first letter one of the following: – Woman’s sphere – her duties, etc. The relationship of the sexes. The origin and destiny of man. The operations and organic laws of the human mind. A criticism on Edward’s Philosophy of the Will; or, if she did not incline to any of these, to take some ordinary subject likely to be fraught with interest to a soldier, shut out as he is from the society of the good and learned. Then, having closed with an earnest appeal to her not to disappoint me, nor keep me long in suspense, I inclosed [sic] this in an envelope and directed it according to instructions, and marking it “Soldier’s Letter,” dropped it into the mail box and went about my duties “rejoicing.”
Now I have waited these five weeks for an answer, and lo! It cometh not! And I say it is really too bad for this young lady to treat me so. But can any one, male or female, phrenologist or moral philosopher, bachelor or “matrimonially inclined” widower, tell my why it is that I have been so used? –if so, let him now speak of for ever hold his peace.
Some hair-brained fellow may presume to insinuate that to have insured the “consummation I so devoutly wished” I should, at least, have paid the postage on the letter I sent, if not inclosed [sic] a stamp to pay return postage. But such a suggestion would be in very good keeping with the reputation of its author.
Such a course would manifest a depreciation of the young lady’s patriotism. It would evince a lack of faith in her modest and praiseworthy pretensions, and would, therefore, be as unkind as it would be unprofitable. No, no! it cannot bet his, for I have no doubt that she would willingly pay postage both ways as an evidence of her devotion to – her country! But oh! I fear the Fates are against me.
But of this enough. I wish now to say a few words seriously to the noble and patriotic daughters of America who read the Rural. This practice of advertising for correspondents in the army is indeed dangerous. I have no doubt that many well meaning and really worthy young women are caught in this snare, by the belief that they are rendering the brave soldiers and important service in that way. But let me tell you that you are egregiously mistaken. I am a soldier, and write what I know to be so. Whatever may be the spirit thrown into the letter the soldier writes, he does not write in good faith, nor does he look upon you as virtuous women, worthy of his respect. And this is the very reason why he pledges so freely his fidelity and his honor, while he seeks to lead you on step by step. That there may be exceptions to this I will not deny, but this is the general rule. I could not desire to say anything to lower the esteem of our brave boys in the army; there are many of America’s noblest sones in the ranks; but it is not the young men of worth that insert, or reply to, advertisements of this character. The soldier’s life is indeed a hard one. Its many privations and exposures make it quite a contrast to the lives we were leading at our pleasant home are to crest of old Mars cast its ominous shadow upon our land, and it is the earnest wish of every true soldier that “when this cruel was is over” he may receive every acknowledgement of respect and appreciation to which his worthy deeds shall entitle him, from the fathers and mothers, and, most of all, their virtuous and patriotic daughters. But don’t think us any the better now for being soldiers, for when we do our best we are only doing our duty.
If you really want to relieve our sufferings, there are many ways in which it can be done; but don’t deceive yourselves with the belief that you are doing any good by advertising yourselves as correspondents of soldiers, or by replying to any of the many advertisements inserted by them in the columns of some of the unprincipled papers. So far is it from being a benefit, that it is directly the reverse – an actual injury. It is a temptation to the soldier to try experiments, while it exposes you to any insults his unhallowed purpose my recommend; for, I repeat, her does not respect you as a woman “safe in her virtues.”
The monotony and idleness of camp life, with the consequent restlessness, beget much mischief within the soldier’s mind. Add to this the love of adventure that the life begets, and you will have the prive secret of the looseness of morality in the army. Go to New York, Elmira or Washington, and behold the thousands of soldier’s wives (I) there, and take warning, and be discreet.
Does my writing thus plainly deserve and apology? I would not have you think, fair daughters of America, that I look upon your virtues as being all in jeopardy. But this evil is already wide-spread, and has set on foor a work of woe and despair. This eivil is a monster “who stole the livery of the Court of Heaven to serve the devil in,” and is, therefore, doubly to be guarded against.
Stockade Camp, Va, March, 1864. Max Kipp.