While Father is Away
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While Father is Away
The Civil War Letters of William H. Bradbury


"A fascinating journey into the life of Bradbury. Combines an intimate look into the lives of a soldier and family and a broad glimpse of mid-19th-century America." - Blue Ridge Country

"Jennifer Cain Bohrnstedt opens a window on the social history of Civil War America by assembling the numerous wartime letters of William H. Bradbury. This thirty-three-year-old clerk enlisted in the Union army and served as a private and clerk throughout the war without ever firing a gun. His mastery of contemporary shorthand made him too valuable to risk in battle. He sank into posthumous obscurity until Bohrnstedt revived him through comprehensive, imaginative, and insightful editing. He has much to share about headquarters gossip, land speculation, and domestic affection." - John Y. Simon, Professor of History, and Ulysses S. Grant Association, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

"Thankfully, the Bradbury correspondence did not suffer the fate of most letters. . . The value of the collection is not simply a matter of survival. It is extensive in both its length and depth."- Andrew R. L. Cayton, Distinguished Professor of History, Miami University, Oxford, OH

From the Press:

"While Father Is Away" should be [of] special interest to Kentuckians, especially in Glasgow and Bowling Green. . . Detached to the Union headquarters, Private William H. Bradbury (originally with the 129th Illinois infantry) was in great demand for his education and adept skills in documenting important records and reports of the war. Nearly one-third of his letters originated from Bowling Green (29) or Glasgow (10). " - Glasgow Daily News. See article in full.

"Bohrnstedt found the Bradbury's letters to his family in the Library of Congress while she was editing an earlier book, The Civil War Letters of George F. Cram." She called the Bradbury papers a "fabulous letter collection."

Read More of this report by Steve Fry, of the Topeka Capital Journal

"I didn't go looking for a character like this," Bohrnstedt said in a telephone interview. "I kind of felt he found me." Bohrnstedt's affection for Bradbury is obvious, despite his faults, and she found him "a real human being," not the romanticized or idealized soldier that she finds typical in looking back at men and women of the Civil War period. "I felt a grit and a reality about this person, who just came to life for me."

Read the full article by reporter John Faddoul of the Pontiac Daily Leader