ATLANTA — Gerald Dougherty's relative found the letters, dozens of them, in the upstairs of an Ohio barn.
They were yellowed with age, and some showed signs of nibbling by pests, but overall, they were in pretty good shape.
The letters, many written to Eve Ann (sometimes spelled Anne) Huffman, a 21-year-old woman from a small farming town in central Ohio, were from four young men — two of whom were her brothers — serving on the Union side during the Civil War.
The correspondence, which Dougherty, a Sandy Springs, Ga., resident, has turned into a book called Ann's Letters: A Newly Released Collection of Letters From the American Civil War Period (iUniverse.com, $17.95), offers a glimpse into life for foot soldiers during the War Between the States, which divided families and a nation. Ann Huffman would later marry into the family, becoming Dougherty's great-grandaunt.
"She was a pack rat of letters," said Dougherty, 79, a retired chemical engineer.
In one letter, Ann's brother John J. Huffman writes from Atlanta on Nov. 1, 1864, to inquire about her health and spirituality. "Do you feel that peace within, which none but the Christian can feel?"
He also slips in news about the war.
"There are no special movements going on here at present. There is but One Corps (the 20th) in Atlanta; the balance of the Army is back near the R.R. operating against Hood. It is believed that we (the 20th Corps) will leave here in a few days, and go on a raid; but this is vary uncertain. The report that Sherman's army is in a critical situation, is untrue."
The book was published this year, which marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War's Battle of Atlanta.
Not all of the letters are included in the book. Dougherty decided to used 31, covering 1862 to 1865. Their soldier authors were members of the 126th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, the 51st Ohio Veteran Volunteer Infantry and the 85th Indiana Volunteer Infantry. The soldiers were her brothers John J. and David L. Huffman, William Bowman and Joseph W. Kimmel.
In another letter, dated September 1863, John J. writes to Ann during the Battle of Chickamauga:
He says "one of the awfulest battles is being fought that ever was known in an open field fight. Unfortunately for us, (or fortunately) we are in the corps, and do not have the honor of participating in the fight. Our boys are vary anxious to go forward."
"I'm not an historian," said Dougherty, who has developed a renewed interest in Civil War history. "But I hope people can take away from these letters some knowledge of what people went through" during that period. He said they show what "real" people went through during the war.