The Home Front: 1861 to 1865

Fathers and Sons: Oliver Wendell Holmes

Do we learn anything about relationships between fathers and sons during the war?

We have to admit that our evidence is almost entirely anecdotal, that is to say, based on word of mouth rather than numbers or statistics. However, both in the prose and the poetry of the time, it is suggested that there were deep feelings between fathers and sons and that these sentiments often went unexpressed.

One of our best anecdotes comes from the pen of a person in whom we can place a good deal of trust, the poet Oliver Wendell Holmes. A prominent physician and man of letters, he lived in Boston and had the joy of seeing his eldest son graduate from Harvard College in 1862. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. joined the Union Army and was badly wounded at the Battle of Antietam. Immediately upon receiving the news, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. and a friend were on a train, headed south.


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