Gerald Doughery wrote “Ann’s Letters” using 13 of the 150 letters he inherited from his great grandaunt.
“She was the Twitter of her age,” Doughery said, noting when his great-grandaunt was in her early twenties, many people didn’t write at all — let alone well.
“She used 50-cent words,” Dougherty said, describing how she would at times misspell words by trying to use phonetics.
Dougherty said today’s event is more than a book-signing because the collection of letters used in the book connect by theme and show what family life was like at the time.
“Civil War letters personalize and reveal humanity to what we too often talk about only in terms of numbers,” said Richard G. Mannion, a history professor at Kennesaw State University. “A personal letter puts a name behind a statistic and exposes us to the intended audience.”
Dougherty said he looked at the letters and asked “What’s the thread here?” then realized 33 of the letters were relevant to a specific era during the war.
“Ann was sister to two of the soldiers,” and two other soldiers who wrote Ann were suitors, Doughery said.
“They were sniffing each other out,” he joked. “Ann married one of the two soldiers after the war.”
Her son, Jesse, lived until age 102, and died in 1976, Doughery said, adding his mother inherited the letters, and he received them in 1985.
“I’m not a historian,” he said. “These letters provide insight to family life during the time and a continuing dialogue of the letters is rare for a collection.”
One part of the correspondence includes letters sent by a soldier who Dougherty said was part of Gen. William Sherman’s 60,000 troops.
Jonathan Scott, a historian with the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History, said the author’s description fits with the accepted number of troops from the March to the Sea, where Sherman led troops through Georgia.
“It’s not rare to find archival documents from the Civil War period, especially if they were preserved well,” Scott said.
Doughery’s family was from the Ohio area, and Scott said Sherman’s “Western troops came from the Ohio and Cleveland areas,” among others.
“Having the letters between an individual and others gives a good baseline to understanding the wider world by which they were connected,” Scott said.
The letters go into great detail about the family’s hopes, anxieties and the day-to-day life of 1860s America, Doughery said.
The family history continues with the book’s cover art, Doughery said, because his granddaughter, Gentry Moore, a 16-year-old senior at Woodstock High School, created the concept and the artwork that was chosen by the publisher. Gentry plans to be a graphic artist, Doughery said.
“Her cover design was chosen by the iUniverse publisher because it’s clean, says what the book is and shows the flags of the Civil War,” he said.