(8/20/12 Web Exclusive Civil War News Book Review)
My Dear Esty: Letters from Framingham's Civil War Soldiers. By Patricia Lavin. Illustrated, notes, bibliography, 128 pp., 2011, Framingham History Center, www.framinghamhistory.org.
My Dear Esty reminds students of the Civil War how it intimately affected the local communities that supplied both armies with their most precious resources, their men. This is not a “battle” book. Rather it is a collection of various letters ranging from an interesting letter about the Baltimore riot, a missive discussing dollar allotments to individual family members of soldiers in the field, and an inquiry into the status of a $10 bounty that Co. F, 45th Massachusetts did not receive.
The majority of the correspondence reproduced here went to Constantine Canaris Esty, Yale graduate, lawyer and chairman of the Framingham Citizens Military Committee, the local organization that provided financial aid to the soldiers’ families while they were away at war.
The illustrations in the book — copies of letters, pictures of camps — are specific to the men from Framingham. Biographical and historical commentaries accompany each entry, and there is another set of notes, mostly bibliographic in nature, at the end of the work.
My Dear Esty is a reminder of why many of us got so deeply involved in Civil War history. We are bound by the “mystic chords of memory” to this horrific conflict. This book is filled with the memories, however trivial and seemingly unimportant, of the men from a Massachusetts town who engaged in a war that still affects this nation.
John Michael Priest
John Michael Priest retired from teaching in 2011 after serving 30.5 years. He is a guide at Antietam. He has published four Civil War books and is an avid 54mm wargamer — French and Indian War through the U. S. Civil War.