Today we’re pleased to share a guest post from Sara DeLuca, editor of Heavy Marching. During the Civil War, Lute Moseley, a member of Wisconsin’s 22nd Volunteer Infantry, wrote detailed missives to his family in Beloit about his wartime experiences. These 125 letters, published for the first time in Heavy Marching, provide a uniquely candid and vivid view of this tumultuous period in US history. In the early 2000s, Esther Moseley enlisted the help of Sara DeLuca, a Wisconsin-based writer, to transcribe, annotate, and edit the letters written by her husband’s grandfather. Over the past few years, Sara has worked on the book, with the permission of Moseley’s descendants; the resulting volume was published June 27, 2023, with a foreword by Robert Lucius Moseley. Today, Sara shares an essay and poem she wrote about this experience.
The pandemic that altered so many lives around the globe, beginning in 2020 and continuing for longer than we ever expected, held me close to home, searching for creative work that would fill my days. I remembered the box of Civil War letters that had been shared with me by a friend named Esther Moseley, when we were both living near Atlanta, Georgia. The letters had been written by her husband’s grandfather, Lucius Moseley, during his service with the 22nd Wisconsin Volunteer Regiment, 1862–65. Esther had asked me to help her transcribe and edit the letters for possible publication. Unfortunately, she died soon after we began our collaboration and I abandoned the project for nearly fifteen years. When I moved back to Wisconsin, the letters moved with me.
Early in 2021, after I had cleaned out all my closets and run out of productive household tasks, I contacted Esther Moseley’s family and received permission to continue working with their ancestor’s writings. Transcribing, curating, researching, annotating, editing, editing, editing, absorbed my time for more than two years. Early in the process I submitted a proposal and sample pages to the University of Wisconsin Press; an encouraging response helped keep me motivated.
My working title for the book was Ever Dear Home, a salutation that Lucius (“Lute”) Moseley often used when addressing his beloved family in Beloit, Wisconsin. Ultimately, the title was changed to Heavy Marching: The Civil War Letters of Lute Moseley, 22nd Wisconsin. The 22nd Wisconsin certainly did some heavy marching—2,400 miles on foot, much of that through extremely difficult terrain and challenging conditions, described in startling detail by the young soldier.
As editor of this remarkable first-person history, I did some heavy marching too, though most of that was accomplished in the safety and comfort of my own dear home. This poem describes my journey, which has been more rewarding than words can express.
Ever Dear Home . . . That is how my young soldier begins so many Civil War letters to his father, mother, brother, grandmother, back home in Beloit, Wisconsin. I have become that grandmother, loving, hoping, praying for Lucius Moseley to survive the long exhausting marches, battles at Thompson’s Station, Stones River, Peach Tree Creek, the Siege of Atlanta, fighting and foraging across Georgia and the Carolinas, near starvation in Richmond’s Libby Prison, torments from dysentery, scurvy, from rats and flies and fleas, snipers and bushwhackers. From the stench of death. Should God allow me to live, he writes, I will come home and do my best to make your old age happy. I want to know this battle-hardened boy who is marching into manhood, who can shoot rebel soldiers, so like himself, take their weapons, bury the bodies and celebrate, yet burn with remorse for stealing hay from an emaciated mule so he can make himself a bed. I need to bring him back, unscarred. I will listen intently, learn what he has to teach me. This is kinship with another soul, across time and space. I suffer from exquisite maladies. I am choking on the dust of history, burning with archive fever. I am tossing sleeplessly, dreaming fitfully, excavating, reanimating a long-dead body, searching for a pulse, finding only a portion of his life, while feeling like a thief, knowing that too much belongs to time and I can never make him whole.