James Madison Bowler explains his motivation for enlisting to his sweetheart, Elizabeth Calef (April 27, 1861)

My Dear Lizzie:

…. Though I promised you that I should try to keep from doing anything to make you feel bad, yet I have volunteered my services to my country as a private in the ranks of the Min. Volunteer Militia. So many of my friends are going and the cause is so just, that I cannot resist going with them and for the cause…. I deplore the condition of our country that calls upon us to fight for it. But somebody must go; and who can go better than young men like myself, without business and with family to demand my attention.
 The heart which prompted the words, “Go, if you think it your duty,” has increased claims to my confidence and my love. I have thought of those words a thousand times since you spoke them.

Source: Andrea R. Foroughi, ed. Go If You Think It Your Duty: A Minnesota Couple’s Civil War Letters (St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2008), 27-28.



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Company D, 1st Minnesota Regiment posed at the southeast corner of Nicollet Avenue and First Street, Minneapolis


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David, Thomas and Alexander Christie


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James Madison Bowler and Elizabeth Caleff Bowler


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Handmade United States flag


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Civil War rosette badge


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Civil War Recruiting Station, Wasioja.


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