Civil War Book Published by Society

WRITE QUICK front cover (BHS ed.), small“Write Quick”: War and a Woman’s Life in Letters, 1835–1867, published by the Bethel Historical Society, is now available from the Society’s Museum Shop. Edited by Bethel native Roberta Gibson Pevear of Exeter, New Hampshire—a descendant of Eliza Bean Foster, the main character of this book—and poet and author Ann Chandonnet of Vale, North Carolina, this volume is based on Civil War era documents, letters and diaries donated to the Bethel Historical Society by Mrs. Pevear in 2005. Over 570 pages in length, with more than 50 photographs, illustrations, maps, and index, the book tells of one New England family’s daily experiences on the Civil War home front and battlefield.

A New England native and longtime Alaska resident, Ann Fox Chandonnet is the author of numerous books, including Alaska’s Inside Passage (Fodor’s, 2009). Her food history, Gold Rush Grub (University of Alaska Press, 2005), won an Outstanding Book award from the American Association of School Librarians. She currently resides in the Hickory, North Carolina, area. Roberta Gibson Pevear, who spent thirty-five years in business administration and law before serving as a New Hampshire state representative, grew up in Eliza Bean Foster’s hometown of Bethel, Maine, and attended Gould Academy. She lives in Exeter, New Hampshire.

Henry C. FosterAmid the gathering clouds of war, far from the nation’s centers of power, two American families felt the first ripples on the breeze. Andrew Bean, a teacher and farmer from Bethel, Maine, answered the call to the Union infantry. His younger sister, Eliza, having found both employment and a suitable marriage in the bustling mill city of Lowell, Massachusetts, soon saw her husband, Henry C. Foster (photo, left), enlist as well

In more than 150 revealing letters dispatched from camp and field and home front, as well as Eliza Bean Foster’s own diary, the honors and horrors of war play out on an intimate stage. Seldom does a surviving cache of documents illuminate the full span of the antebellum and war years in such close detail, from so many different angles. While Andrew wrote from the eastern battlefields of Bull Run and South Mountain, Henry posted lines from New Orleans, Fort Monroe, and Sabine Pass in the Western Theater. Eliza’s replies describe children and family—and sometimes desperate circumstances. “I have a good mind to send this [money] right back,” wrote Eliza to her brother near war’s end. “I shant use it untill I hear from you. Write quick.”

Illustrated with original documents and never-before-published photographs, the book traces Eliza’s life from New England mill girl, to young married woman and mother, to war widow and victim of consumption. Write Quick presents a valuable case history and a poignant story of one Northern woman through her own pen and the lens of her contemporaries. To order, click here.

Read here about Write Quick co-editor Ann Chandonnet’s November 2011 visit to the Old Mint in New Orleans, where Civil War soldier Henry C. Foster wrote many letters to his wife, Eliza Bean Foster, the book’s major character.