I Seat Myself to Write You a Few Lines:
Civil War and Homestead Letters from Thomas Lucas and Family

Collected and Edited by Dona Bayard Sauerburger, great-great granddaughter, 2002 and Thomas Lucas Bayard, grandson, 1960
With chapter introductions by Andrew German
Heritage Books, Bowie, Maryland, 2002

photo of Thomas Lucas (from the chest up) shows him as a young man with an earnest look, wearing a soldier's uniform photo of Thomas Lucas (from the chest up) shows him looking much thinner and about 10 years older than the previous photo, wearing a soldier's uniform and staring harshly at the camera photo of Thomas Lucas (from the chest up) shows him as a middle-aged man with a full beard, wearing a coat and tie

Thomas Lucas at the beginning of the Civil War (left), photo taken on his way home 3 years later (middle)
and as a middle-aged homestead farmer in Nebraska (right).
Sample letters

Welcome! This page describes the book "I Seat Myself to Write You a Few Lines: Civil War and Homestead Letters from Thomas Lucas and Family." The book has almost 400 letters written by or to Thomas Lucas during his service with the First Pennsylvania Cavalry in the Civil War, and more than 100 letters that he and his family and friends wrote when the war was over, describing their adventures after moving west to Nebraska.

The book is published by Heritage Books, Inc. and is available on tape from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (it was listed in the November-December 2005 catalogue, to the surprise and delight of a granddaughter of Thomas Lucas who is unable to read the book because of macular degeneration!). It can also be found in a few libraries -- click here for sources.

The story of how the letters were collected and published is at the History of the Letters, and there are links to segments and excerpts from the book itself, including a sample of letters, at the end of this page. Meanwhile, the Preface below describes the book:


From Civil War soldier to homesteader, the life of Thomas Lucas and those of his family members are revealed in this book through hundreds of letters written during a span of more than fifty years. Thomas and his wife Letty grew up in a small Pennsylvania town, but their lives were disrupted in 1861 when the Civil War broke out. Thomas heeded the patriotic call, leaving his pregnant wife and their baby daughter Millie to serve for three years in the First Pennsylvania Cavalry.

The first section of the book, "Thomas Lucas: Civil War Soldier," covers the years of the Civil War. Through 350 letters that Thomas wrote to Letty and family, as well as several dozen letters written to him from his family and comrades, we share his adventures, daily routines, and "ennui" during the war; eavesdrop on his deeply religious reflections; observe through his eyes his comrades, citizens (both friendly and hostile), aristocratic Southerners, slaves and freed Negroes, women prisoners, and a countryside devastated by war; and read the poignant anguish from his sister and the sister of a fallen comrade, as well as his responses to Letty's persistent pleading for him to come home. The letters are punctuated with lighter reading such as his anger about the drunken cook who ruined his Christmas dinner, and a tongue-in-cheek description of a trip to a saloon by his wife's cousin, James Gregg, while he recovered from a battle wound in the hospital.

The second section of the book, "Thomas Lucas and Family: From Home Town to Homestead," gives us eloquent descriptions of life after the war. A few of these letters give us a glimpse into the first dozen years after Thomas returns home to Pennsylvania during which he was, among other things, a merchandiser, bookkeeper, owner and operator of a planing mill, postmaster, and elected County Commissioner.

Thomas became a grieving widower when Letty died giving birth to their seventh child, who lived but a few months. Several years later Thomas married again and moved his family west, following his father, brothers, sisters and cousins who had gone west two decades earlier (several letters from these earlier pioneers are also in the collection). Letters, obituaries, and memoirs from his family reveal stories of exhaustion and hard work; tragic death; a memorable blizzard; newfangled machinery that inspires Thomas to declare "I tell you this is a great country!"; encounters with friendly Indians; and lively descriptions of life as a teacher by his daughter Emma who, at the advanced age of 28, wonders if she will ever get married and pities Pap for having to stay up late while beaus court his daughters in their kitchen.

The third section provides brief biographies of the lives of Thomas Lucas and his family and others, and a family tree listing the births, deaths, and marriages of many people in the letters. The Appendix describes how the letters were found, edited, and prepared for publication, as well as information about a videotape that was produced from a tour of Thomas Lucas Civil War sites. The extensive index will help the reader find general themes such as soldier's life, slaves, battles, and teachers, and obscure topics such as homesick, mutiny, music, drunks, women prisoners, religion, and horses.

Sample letters from Thomas Lucas during the Civil War
Love letter
Blizzard of 1888
Tongue-in-cheek letter from soldier about a trip to a bar

Links to more information:
Table of Contents
Introduction to "Thomas Lucas: Civil War Soldier"
Introduction to "Thomas Lucas and Family: From Home Town to Homestead"
Introductions to chapters of "Thomas Lucas and Family: From Home Town to Homestead"
History of the letters
Publisher: Heritage Books, Inc.

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