Seeing the Elephant: One Man’s Return to the Horrors of the Civil War is a true story originally told in 180 letters written by Lieutenant Thomas S. Armstrong of the 122nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry about his experiences in the Civil War.
Author T.W. Harvey has used those letters and other primary and secondary research to tell of those experiences from Armstrong’s decision to fight for his country and what the Union stood for; to being discharged after the Battle of Shiloh due to illness; to the decision to re-enlist, knowing that he will see the horror of battle once again and the possibility of his own death; to being captured at the conclusion of the Second Battle of Winchester; to enduring the horrible conditions of prison life; to escape from Libby Prison, only to be recaptured; to being paroled and marching in the procession at the funeral of Abraham Lincoln.
Harvey recounts these events as they happened to an ordinary infantry soldier, one of 2.5 million men who served their country, both North and South, during the Civil War.
He tells of the thoughts and feelings of Lt. Armstrong; his worries, fears and concerns; emotions that every man in uniform felt against the backdrop of the conflict that tore the United States apart and changed it forever.
If you have interest in the Civil War and would like to learn more about individual experiences, this is a great book for you.
The Paula B. and Thomas W. Harvey Collection of Civil War Letters
Ohio Wesleyan University
It was noted earlier on this page that there were Thomas S. Armstrong documented his experiences in the Civil War in 180 letters that he sent to his family and wife-to-be. In addition, his best friend, George W. Porter penned 70 letters that he sent to his family. Together, they make up The Paula B. and Thomas W. Harvey Collection of Civil War Letters which were donated to Ohio Wesleyan University in April, 2016.
The letters have been digitized by the library staff and can be accessed through the link below and were the basis for Seeing the Elephant: One Man’s Return to the Horrors of the Civil War.
“I really am enjoying reading your book and having the opportunity to contribute to its historical accuracy. It is an amazing story with some quite unexpected twists and turns. Truly a vivid account of one man’s experiences in the Civil War. I learned a great deal about the plight of ordinary men as they faced the horrors of war willingly to fight for their country.”
Curator, Muskingum County (OH.) History