Spotlight on Women in History

James E. Love and Eliza Mary “Molly” Wilson were both born in Ireland in 1830 and 1833, respectively. The two came to St. Louis at separate times around 1849-50. James and Molly met sometime during the 1850s, but it is unknown how they met. The two fell in love and were engaged shortly before the start of the Civil War.

When the Civil War broke out, James enlisted as a sergeant in the United States Reserve Corps. He left St. Louis with his fellow Union soldiers on June 15, 1861, and the next day he sent a letter home to his beloved fiancée. A prolific writer, James penned over 160 letters to Molly throughout the course of his Civil War service. These letters—which can be found in the archival collections of the Missouri Historical Society—have been published in a book titled “My Dear Molly: The Civil War Letters of Captain James Love.” The Love letters reveal the story of two ordinary Americans living through extraordinary times.