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While Father is Away

The Civil War Letters of
William H. Bradbury

An in-depth story of a British-American's role in the American Civil War, William H. Bradbury's prolific letters home provide a rare window on the intimate relationships among husband, wife, and children while he was away at war. Frankfort, Bowling Green, Glasgow, Loudon, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Atlanta, and Nashville come alive in Bradbury's letters home.

Yorkshire-born attorney turned Union volunteer soldier, Bradbury became a "privileged private" detached from the 129th Illinois Infantry, with extraordinary access to powerful Union leaders including future president Benjamin Harrison, Daniel Butterfield, Mahlon Manson, Julius White, and Clinton B. Fisk, the region's administrator for the Freedmen's Bureau during Reconstruction.

As the army's court reporter in Nashville under Judge Advocate Gates Thruston, Private Bradbury chronicled some of the key post-war trials and executions.


Entrepreneurial through and through, Bradbury was a devoted father first. A subset of his Civil War writings includes letters to his children that uniquely guide their education and demonstrate a new look at long-distance parenting during wartime.

[photo: William H. Bradbury with Charles, ca. 1865]

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