Till Death Do Us Part
The Letters of Emory and Emily Upton, 1868–1870
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
342 Pages | 6 x 9 | 8 b&w illus.
Until now, only a few of the couple’s intimate letters have been published. During the years he spent editing and publishing Emory Upton’s correspondence, Salvatore G. Cilella Jr. deliberately set aside the general’s voluminous letters to his wife. Unfortunately, as Cilella explains in his editorial notes, Emily’s letters to Emory did not survive, but he was able to draw on the rich trove of letters Emily wrote to her mother and father while on her honeymoon and during her stays in Key West, Nassau, and Atlanta. Together, both sets of letters form a poignant narrative of the general’s tender love for his new wife and her reciprocal affection as they attempted to create a normal life together despite her declining health.
The life of an army wife could be grueling, and despite her declining health, Emily longed to perform the role expected of her. It was not meant to be. Unwittingly, she and Emory chose the worst places for her to recover—Key West and Nassau—where the high humidity and heat must have exacerbated her difficulty breathing. She died in Nassau, far away from her husband. Eleven years later, racked by a sinus tumor and likely still grieving from his lost love, Upton committed suicide at the age of forty-one.
Till Death Do Us Part offers a powerful—and poignant—tale of two star-crossed lovers against the backdrop of post–Civil War America. In addition, the volume gives readers a fascinating glimpse into gender roles and marital relations in the nineteenth century.
“Till Death Do Us Part explodes stereotypes about postbellum America: that women had no agency, especially in the U.S. military; that husbands don’t have deep feelings; that Reconstruction wasn’t so bad; and that people don’t die of broken hearts. Emily Martin Upton and General Emory Upton’s touching romance demonstrates life in changing times, as well as some eternal verities of human existence.”—Carol DeBoer-Langworthy, author of The Modern World of Neith Boyce: Autobiography and Diaries
“Salvatore G. Cilella Jr. has done a marvelous job editing the letters of Emily and Emory Upton. Readers interested in life in the Army following the Civil War, as well as those seeking to learn about romantic relationships of Victorian Americans, how Americans toured Europe, and Reconstruction from the vantage point of an Army officer will find much in this book. The vibrancy of these letters renders even more poignant Emily’s tragic early death in 1870 and Emory’s suicide in 1881.”—Peter C. Luebke, editor of The Autobiography of Rear Admiral John A. Dahlgren and Albion Tourgée’s The Story of a Thousand