It is exciting to see a new book about the Civil War dig down into the trenches of our rich local history. As a book lover, it’s been fun to see the local public embrace this wonderful story.
In the spirit of full disclosure, Mary Jordan approached me more than two years ago to help her see whether there was a book in all the local historical research she had done over more than 20 years. In this wonderful community, Mary worked with my neighbor, Annie, on Cornell’s campus. Annie passed along my name to Mary. Mary’s husband, it turns out, worked with my father-in-law, Charlie, at the old NCR plant on south hill in Ithaca.
When I read the letters of John Tidd I fell in love with his story. My friend Michael at Cornell University Press told me Ron Ostmun and Harry Littell at Six Mile Creek Press had recently found new photographs by Mathew Brady nearby. This is the magic of matchmaking.
Now the books is out and available for sale online through Amazon.com and there is a public exhibition of the letters and artifacts at The History Center of Tompkins County and the Kitchen Theatre presents The Secret Room, a dramatization and reading from Dear Friend Amelia. The local buzz about the proximity and relevance of our community to the Civil War is exciting.
At my new fiction reading book club, last Thursday Jean Snow hosted a discussion of American Rust by Philip Meyer. We talked about other books and I brought along my copy of Dear Friend Amelia. Jean Snow was so excited. She knew the family and the house not far from their own dairy farm where these precious treasures were discovered almost 30 years ago.
Private John Tidd Jr writes an intimate and unvarnished perspective of the war in his letters home to his lady friend. Red Badge of Courage is fiction. Dear Friend Amelia is not. This makes it even more poignant as we ponder the reasons our nation is now at war.