January 6, 1863 Got married to L,M, Dickerman
January 18 The 95th left Camp Chase for Memphis
–from William Morgan Davies’ diary
A cousin of my mother’s sent her a photo of William and Louisa on their wedding day. It’s a shock to see this picture, after months of reading and visualizing and hearing his words in my head. At first glance, I found him surprising, not what I’d expected. He looks more substantial, more authoritative, than the infantry private complaining of the ague.
He has a widow’s peak in the middle of his slightly receding hairline (already at the age of 25 or so—we’re not sure what year he was born). The hair is long on top and wavy, brushing his collar in back. Our cousin thinks his eyes were blue. His trim little beard looks like it could be reddish (and in fact, there was a good bit of red-blonde hair handed down to my aunt and her children). He is wearing a dark, double-breasted coat that goes down to his knees. He is apparently holding his breath.
He stands beside and behind his bride, who is seated. Her shiny dress spreads in a voluminous skirt of many folds. Was it green? Blue? Gray? I picture it blue. Her left hand sits gracefully across her waist, and her right hand is mysteriously missing. It doesn’t look like it could be hanging down below the billowing sleeve, and surely she wouldn’t put it behind her back, as her husband has done with his right hand. Maybe it’s resting beneath the left hand, although that shiny patch looks more like a bodice than a sleeve. I’m sure we would know if she had been missing an arm.
Her dark hair is pulled back in a bun, and something sticks out from the side. It looks like a feather, but maybe it’s a beaded ornament. He is looking straight into the camera, but her eyes are directed to the side. She looks morose, and I long to know if she is worried about her marriage, about her husband going back to war, or about having her picture taken. She, I know, is 21.
This wonderful treasure suddenly makes me feel sad and greedy for more—it brings up more questions than it answers. It causes me grief, thinking of the bittersweet occasion of their marriage, a few nights of frantic love before his departure for the Vicksburg campaign, and later the terrible months in Andersonville that would wreck their marriage 24 years hence.
But for now, what a comfort it will be to him to have a wife to write home to—more warm and secure than a girlfriend. He will send her his photo from Memphis (oh, to have one of those pictures that he doled out to his friends and relatives!) and receive from her intermittent parcels of “good things to eat”. How she must have sustained him through those years of adventure, boredom, duty, and suffering!
And what about her, waiting, fearing, longing? What choice did she have? Most women her age must have had husbands or lovers in the military. The war was everyone’s life for four years.