“They were real people.”
Anna Williams transcribed a collection of letters called the Wells-Cochran Letters that allowed the reader a daily look into the lives of people during the Civil War. She has transcribed about 25 in total. Anna feels that these letters debunk our “overly romanticized” image of people living in the Old South. She focused mostly on Aurelia Wells, her husband Augustus, and their two children. Unfortunately, these letters are very old so many of them are damaged, sometimes even torn in half. However, Anna was able to accurately describe many of the letters, reading and researching closely enough to differentiate between hand-writing and spelling, which gave Anna some insight into the different backgrounds and educations of the people writing these letters.
Anna delved deeply into the lives of Aurelia and her family, relating the dates of her marriage, children, and educational status. Although, she admits that there is a lot she was unable to find out about their lives, she does a remarkable job of giving her audience an accurate view of Aurelia’s life, and through her, the typical American family during the Civil War.
Anna also focuses on the relationship of agrarian lifestyle and family income. One of the more “exciting” letters was from Aurelia to her husband during the war after the pig had apparently become lost. She wrote to him often, asking for money until she learned to make and sell clothes in order to support them. Towards the end of the letters, we find that Augustus has died and the family moves in with some relatives in order to survive.
Anna was even able to see some of the family’s personal effects. She shows us a picture of her in a room with their supposed clothing and pictures. It’s obvious that this is a student with a great love for her topic. She even plans to continue her research for her senior seminar.