The Personal Side of War

One of the things that has always fascinated me, as a reenactor, is the personal side of wars.  I have never been a big one for military history – I could really care less about the movements of the fronts, or why X offensive was a good or bad idea – what I care about is how those things affected the individual soldiers.  How did they feel about it?  What was going through their heads?

Where did they come from?  Did they have a family?  Did they volunteer or were they drafted?  Did anyone care enough about them to send them mail?  Did they have anyone to send mail to themselves?  Were they cold?  How awful was the food?

These are the things I wish I could know – the things one can only find out through interviews, or diaries, or similar resources.

So, when I see collections like this up for sale, it is always amazing (and tempting) to me.  I love looking at stuff like that to see what sort of details I can glean about a person, and having so many documents about a single person is a very rare find, and quite cool. I am not particularly interested in collecting militaria like many collectors seem to focus on, but I could see myself starting a collection of soldier’s letters, some day. I think it would be neat. They are usually so telling. I like to imagine that if everyone read letters like these, and had a better idea of the cost of war to the individual soldier, that there would be fewer wars. Maybe. Then again, most people, I think, prefer not to think about those things. It’s just easier not to face them.  That saddens me.


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