Toward a More Perfect Union


Toward a More Perfect Union

The Civil War Letters of Frederic and Elizabeth Lockley

Edited by Charles E. Rankin

472 pages
25 photographs, 3 maps, 3 appendixes, index


May 2023


$38.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
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May 2023


$38.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
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May 2023


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About the Book

Toward a More Perfect Union is an extraordinary book of husband-and-wife letters written during the Civil War, selected from the Frederic E. Lockley Collection at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. Appearing here are 162 letters exchanged between Frederic Lockley and his wife Elizabeth, chosen from 405 letters preserved in the collection.

The survival of such two-way exchanges is rare. Few soldiers in the field had the opportunity to save letters from home. The Lockleys’ selected letters narrate a chronological three-year story, from 1862 to 1865. When Frederic enlisted at thirty-seven, he and Elizabeth promised each other they would write twice a week and, for the most part, they did. These are not average letters. A published author, Frederic was remarkably insightful and articulate and Elizabeth was literate and expressive as well.

Although primarily a love story set during the Civil War, Toward a More Perfect Union also offers ample military material, some not well represented elsewhere in Civil War literature. Frederic wrote of life in garrison duty in defense of Washington, manning the siege lines at Petersburg, and guarding Union parolees and Confederate prisoners of war. But his letters also show strong ties to home and his need for those ties in order to maintain his own mental and emotional equilibrium in the face of the horrors of war.

Elizabeth’s letters reflect an urban setting and the perspective of a young, recently married woman who spent much of her time parenting three young children from Frederic’s first marriage. In fact, children and parenting assume a theme in Fred and Lizzie’s correspondence almost as constant and consequential as the war itself.

Providing background and framework for these exceptional letters, editor Charles E. Rankin’s introduction and contextualization create a continuous narrative that allows readers to follow these correspondents through a time critical to their marriage and to our nation’s history.

Author Bio

Charles E. Rankin is the retired editor in chief and associate director of the University of Oklahoma Press. Prior to that he was the director of publications for the Montana Historical Society. He is the editor or coeditor of Wallace Stegner: Man and WriterLegacy: New Perspectives on the Battle of the Little Bighorn; and Trails: Toward a New Western History.


"Rankin's editorial contributions are prodigious. In addition to penning a lengthy prologue, Rankin's chapter introductions set the stage for what follows, and he provides further context to the letters through copious bridging narrative."—Civil War Books and Authors

"Toward A More Perfect Union is a treasure of letters revealing the struggles of war separation, affection, parenting, opinions, and values of a soldier and his young wife. Details within the letters will be of value to military and social historians and history-buffs alike."—Sarah Kay Bierle,

“Sensitively curated and expertly framed, this collection of letters between an unusually articulate set of newlyweds not only samples virtually every element of home front and battle front but also narrates a love story reflecting the writers’ growing affection for and trust in each other.”—James Marten, author of The Children’s Civil War

“The letters reveal not only how Frederic and Elizabeth Lockley surmounted the obstacles of wartime but how they managed, amid the most trying times of their lives, to keep their love for one another and their children vibrant and enduring. No other group of wartime letters between husband and wife is as large or forms such a well-connected chronicle. . . . Their letters maintain a satisfying narrative balance and provide insight into a timeless union of heart and mind.”—Edward G. Longacre, author of Unsung Hero of Gettysburg: The Story of Union General David McMurtrie Gregg

“Charles E. Rankin has done a masterful job situating the correspondence of the Lockleys within the cultural and social context of the times without losing sight of the military story. The inclusion of Elizabeth’s letters is particularly valuable given that earlier historians have largely ignored her.”—Peter S. Carmichael, author of The War for the Common Soldier: How Men Thought, Fought, and Survived in Civil War Armies

“Frederic Lockley—though committed to the Union cause—was a free thinker with a talent for storytelling. He makes an ideal representative for the heavy artillery regiments of the Union Army. This is a compelling portrait of a marriage and a family enduring the strains of war. Rankin has crafted a wonderful book from the Lockley letters. Students of the Civil War era—and not just militarists—will find much edification and food for thought in these pages.”—Gregory J. W. Urwin, author of Victory in Defeat: The Wake Island Defenders in Captivity, 1941–1945

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. The Setting    
2. Days of Roman Heroism, August–September 1862
3. It’s All for Our Country, September–November 1862
4. Not Exactly a Bed of Roses, December 1862
5. We Must Ride the Tempest, January–May 1863
6. Your Letters Are My Meat and Drink, May–June 1863
7. Would You Fancy the Surprise? Mid-June–Mid-July 1863
8. I Am at My Old Lunes, July–September 1863
9. Hope Is the Anchor of the Soul, October 1863
10. A Rather Scandalous Affair, November 1863–January 1, 1864
11. This Morning That Boy Was Buried, January–March 1864
12. I Left Josey Standing on the Stoop, March–April 1864
13. Sergeant Major! We Have Got Our Orders! May–June 1864
14. Soldiering in Its Roughest, Sternest Form, June–July 1864
15. An Epoch of Endurance, Mid-July–Mid-August 1864
16. No Sundays in the Army, August–September 1864
17. Fighting Is Almost Incessant, September–October 1864
18. Which Ticket Are You Going to Vote? October–November 1864
19. Johnnies Deserting by Wholesale, December 1864–January 1865
20. The Fighting Is Nearly Over, February–March 1865
21. The Little Mischief, March–April 1865
22. A Soul Struggling to Be Free, April–May 1865
23. I Share with You in This Impatience, Early to Mid-May 1865
24. My Last Letter!! Late May–June 1865
Appendix 1. Frederic’s Letter to Elizabeth, January 11, 1863
Appendix 2. Frederic’s Letter to Elizabeth, August 7, 1864
Appendix 3. Timeline of Key Events

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