Belle Arnold Sleeper · Berlin Wisconsin · Civil War Prisoners · Mary Burwell

The Agony of Young Brides: Mary Burwell and Belle Arnold Sleeper

Mary Burwell and Belle Arnold Sleeper, the two women featured in the last chapter of Such Anxious Hours, had much in common. Both young women married during the war and after their marriages said farewell to their husbands as they left for the battlefield. However, their experiences also differed greatly.

Mary Burwell had the comfort of living with her own parents when her dear Andrew went off to the war. Her letters are full of descriptions of the antics of her infant daughter. Lucy. A loving, unselfish woman, Mary also shared recipes with Andrew, the officers’ cook, as well as expressing her love and loneliness in her poetry.

Belle Arnold Sleeper’s letter reveal the transition from a carefree young woman who loved to gossip about the people of Berlin Wisconsin to a young bride desperate for news of her husband Hiram when he was taken prisoner by the Rebels. During her time of trial she did not even enjoy the comfort of her own family as she was called to care for her mother-in-law during a lengthy illness. Despite her worries about Hiram and her isolation from her home and family, Belle’s effervescent personality continues to shine through her letters.