In an age of disposability it is remarkable that the letters in this volume have been saved and handed down through four generations of Nan’s and Mack’s descendants. They provide a vivid, personal look into the everyday life of a small family just prior to and during the Civil War. Although people of modest means and education, their interests were wide and varied and they often voiced their feelings with vigor and imagination. Almost without exception, the correspondents maintained strong commitments to God, country, and family. Family relationships, by blood and marriage, tended to be extended and intricate, but never precluded friendship, despite migrations to new areas.
The primary figures in this collection of letters are Henry McKendree Ewing, often referred to as Mack or Mc, and his wife, Nan, but their parents, brothers, sisters, cousins, neighbors, and friends play substantial roles, too. In 1862, not quite 21 years old, Mack married his childhood friend, Nancy Ann Hank. Born in West Virginia and raised in southcentral Ohio, Nan in 1861 visited relatives near Hillsdale, Michigan, and at the same time renewed her earlier friendship with Mack, whose family had moved from Ohio to Hillsdale some ten years earlier. Nan, born in 1840, was almost a year older than Mack. Mack served with the Ninth Army at the Siege of Petersburg, Virginia, where he was wounded in December, 1864.