‘Do They Miss Me at Home?’; Book of Original Civil War Letters Published

Dr. Jason Combs
geography professor, 308.865.8605.

UNK– Historic battles, brave men and love for a woman are all documented in “Do They Miss Me at Home,” a book of 110 original Civil War letters written by William McKnight, a member of the Seventh Ohio Volunteer Cavalry, to his wife Samaria.

The book, edited by University of Nebraska at Kearney geography professor Dr. Jason Combs and Dr. Don Maness, dean of the College of Education at Arkansas State University-Jonesboro, was just released this spring by the Ohio University Press.

“Do They Miss Me at Home” is a compilation of 110 letters, an introduction and an epilogue. Chapter introductions and several hundred footnotes provide commentary for the letters. Dr. Combs, who has a background in historical geography, began working on the project in 2005.

“Don Maness had the letters for a few years before I got involved,” he said. “I realized that it was going to consume a large amount of time but was confident that a major university press would publish the work.”

The letters from McKnight to his wife chronicle his experiences from September 1862 until his death in June 1864. McKnight was 29 years old and married with four children when he joined the cavalry. The collection of letters came from Terry Hauger, McKnight’s great-great-grandson.

“The letters were in excellent condition,” Dr. Combs said. “Most were written on heavy fibrous paper and almost all of them were in original envelopes. We translated all the letters verbatim.

“McKnight’s penmanship was difficult to read at first, but then got much easier after reading several letters. His letters provide an in-depth overview of the life and times of a common Union cavalryman,” he said. “The McKnight collection adds to the growing literature concerning common soldiers by chronicling the emotions and insights of an atypical soldier throughout the war.

“McKnight writes in a descriptive manner and touches upon several major Civil War issues (duty and honor, faith and loneliness) and provides intimate details of several battles in Kentucky and Tennessee,” Dr. Combs said.