I have in my files a copy of a letter written by Major Sullivan Ballou, a Union officer in the 2nd Rhode Island. He writes to his wife on the eve of the Battle of Bull Run, a battle he senses will be his last.
He speaks tenderly to her of his undying love, of "the memories of blissful moments I have spent with you."
Ballou mourns the thought that he must give up "the hope of future years, when, God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and seen our sons grown up to honorable manhood around us."
Yet in spite of his love the battle calls and he cannot turn from it.
"I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter . . . how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and sufferings of the Revolution . . .
Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break" and yet a greater cause "comes over me like a strong wind and bears me unresistably on with all these chains to the battle field."
A man must have a battle to fight, a great mission to his life that involves and yet transcends even home and family.
He must have a cause to which he is devoted even unto death, for this is written into the fabric of his being.
Listen carefully now: You do. That is why God created you—to be his intimate ally, to join him in the Great Battle.
(From Wild at Heart , 141)