Architects of Our Fortunes: The Journal of Eliza A.W. Otis, 1860-1863, with Letters and Civil War Journal of Harrison Gray Otis

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9780873281812: Architects of Our Fortunes: The Journal of Eliza A.W. Otis, 1860-1863, with Letters and Civil War Journal of Harrison Gray Otis
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Architects of Our Fortunes is the first publication of the Civil War letters and journals of Eliza A. W. Otis and her husband, Harrison Gray Otis, who went on to become the publishers of the Los Angeles Times. These intimate letters and journal entries reveal an earlier and simpler chapter in their lives, when he was a printer who joined the Union army and she was a poet and teacher who traveled through the Upper South to stay close to her soldier husband. Their writings reflect their love for each other, the fears aroused by the war, and the shaping of their ambitions and moral purpose by the forces of history in a tumultuous time.

The book is divided into three parts. The first documents are letters written from Harrison to Eliza just after their marriage in 1859. Eliza's journal, which she kept from 1860 to 1863, forms the second, much longer, section. The journal draws a highly readable portrait of this young newlywed, whose thoughts and experiences tell us much about the women of her era. Her candid comments on the people around her are especially revealing of her own character and of Victorian sensibility. The final section, a brief Civil War diary written by Harrison in the field from 1862 to 1863, provides a common soldier's view of that great struggle.

The three sets of documents shed light not only on the Otis family but also on the experience of ordinary Americans during the Civil War. They also suggest the widespread impact of the war on the development of the West. Harrison and Eliza Otis were but two of the thousands of soldiers and their families who resettled in California after the war to begin a new life. The experience and ideals expressed in the documents in this book were widely shared. The emergence of the Otises as major public leaders in Southern California and the success of the Los Angeles Times grew out of their struggle during the Civil War years and the values they forged as a consequence of that conflict.

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About the Author:

Ann Gordon Condon (1936-2001) was Professor of History at Canada's University of New Brunswick. She authored The Envy of the American States: The Loyalist Dream for New Brunswick and An Illustrated History of Rothesay, 1785-1920.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

March 19, 1860
I often indulge in speculative questionings as to the future of our country. Seems to me that she is now drifting out into a troublous, stormy sea, where there are many shoals and quick sands...The next Presidential campaign will doubtless be one of intense, exciting interest. I never looked forwards to an election with so much anxiety.

October 24, 1862
I've just sent a box of things to Harry, which I trust will reach him....The regiment has been in three severe engagements, the battles of Bull Run, on the 27th, and South Mountain and Antietam, still later, and my dear Husband has been preserved through them all, unharmed save a slight wound in the shoulder.

April 9, 1863
I didn't know that I should miss My Husband so much, but I've felt all alone today. When will this war be over, and our Separation ended; God grant that it may end soon.

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Eliza A. W. Otis; Harrison Gray Otis
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