To The Letter S2 E10: Black Soldiers in the Army

In this episode we’re talking about the roles of Black men and women in the military during the Civil War.

To the Letter is a podcast brought to you in collaboration with University Libraries and the eLearning and Emerging Technologies Department’s Digital Studio at GVSU. On this podcast, we bring correspondence from GVSU’s Special Collections alive. In each episode you will hear (in their own words!) letters written by the people who lived through history and the stories behind them. John Bennitt is voiced by Matt Ruen, Scholarly Communications Outreach Coordinator at University Libraries.

Letters featured in this episode are available below:

Letter from John Bennitt to his wife Lottie, Apr. 12, 1864

Letter from John Bennitt to his wife Lottie, February 25, 1865

Letter from John Bennitt to his wife Lottie, March 3, 1865


Additional research for this episode:

Questions? Comments? Let us know!

To The Letter S2 E9: Vote for President!

Episode 9 is all about the election of 1864, in which only 25 states participated!

To the Letter is a podcast brought to you in collaboration with University Libraries and the eLearning and Emerging Technologies Department’s Digital Studio at GVSU. On this podcast, we bring correspondence from GVSU’s Special Collections alive. In each episode you will hear (in their own words!) letters written by the people who lived through history and the stories behind them. John Bennitt is voiced by Matt Ruen, Scholarly Communications Outreach Coordinator at University Libraries.

The letter featured in Episode 9 is available below:

Letter from John Bennitt to his wife Lottie, Dec. 27, 1863


Additional research for this episode:

Questions? Comments? Let us know!

To The Letter S2 E8: It’s So Rare We Get Any Mail Here

We couldn’t resist talking about how the mail system worked! While delays in communication were a common theme in Season 1, John hasn’t talked too much about the mail yet. In Episode 8, we take a look at how letters were delivered, especially as troops moved into enemy territory.

To the Letter is a podcast brought to you in collaboration with University Libraries and the eLearning and Emerging Technologies Department’s Digital Studio at GVSU. On this podcast, we bring correspondence from GVSU’s Special Collections alive. In each episode you will hear (in their own words!) letters written by the people who lived through history and the stories behind them. John Bennitt is voiced by Matt Ruen, Scholarly Communications Outreach Coordinator at University Libraries.

Letters featured in Episode 8 are available below:

Letter from John Bennitt to his wife Lottie, Nov. 8th, 1863

Letter from John Bennitt to his wife Lottie, Dec. 3, 1863

(Notice in the December letter that John wrote in both directions to conserve paper!)


Additional research for this episode:

Questions? Comments? Let us know!

To The Letter S2 E7: Bushwhacking

This episode explains “Bushwhackers” and “Jayhawks”. Bushwhackers was the term given to pro-Confederate secessionist guerillas of Missouri, in particular, but was also applied to other guerilla fighters in Kentucky, Tennessee, northern Virginia, and even California. Jayhawks, in contrast, were pro-Union guerilla fighters.

Several famous outlaws in the West got their start as bushwhackers, including Frank and Jesse James.

To the Letter is a podcast brought to you in collaboration with University Libraries and the eLearning and Emerging Technologies Department’s Digital Studio at GVSU. On this podcast, we bring correspondence from GVSU’s Special Collections alive. In each episode you will hear (in their own words!) letters written by the people who lived through history and the stories behind them. John Bennitt is voiced by Matt Ruen, Scholarly Communications Outreach Coordinator at University Libraries.

Letters featured in the episode are available below:

Letter from John Bennitt to his wife Lottie, July 21, 1863

Letter from John Bennitt to his wife Lottie, Oct. 27, 1863

Letter from John Bennitt to his wife Lottie, March 3, 1864


Additional research for this episode:

Questions? Comments? Let us know!

To The Letter S2 E6: The Invalid Corps

In this episode we delve into the aftermath of Civil War medicine. What happened to soldiers wounded in action?

To the Letter is a podcast brought to you in collaboration with University Libraries and the eLearning and Emerging Technologies Department’s Digital Studio at GVSU. On this podcast, we bring correspondence from GVSU’s Special Collections alive. In each episode you will hear (in their own words!) letters written by the people who lived through history and the stories behind them. John Bennitt is voiced by Matt Ruen, Scholarly Communications Outreach Coordinator at University Libraries.

Letters featured in this episode are available in full below:

Letter from John Bennitt to his wife Lottie, July 5, 1863

Letter from John Bennitt to his wife Lottie, May 19, 1863


Additional research for this episode:

Questions? Comments? Let us know!

To The Letter S2 E5: Prisoner of War

In today’s episode we discuss the capture of the 19th Michigan Infantry by Confederate troops near Brentwood, Tennessee and how prisoners of war were treated during the Civil War.

To the Letter is a podcast brought to you in collaboration with University Libraries and the eLearning and Emerging Technologies Department’s Digital Studio at GVSU. On this podcast, we bring correspondence from GVSU’s Special Collections alive. In each episode you will hear (in their own words!) letters written by the people who lived through history and the stories behind them. John Bennitt is voiced by Matt Ruen, Scholarly Communications Outreach Coordinator at University Libraries.

Letters featured in Episode 5 are available in full below:

Letter from John Bennitt to his wife Lottie, April 26, 1863


Additional research for this episode:

Questions? Comments? Let us know!

To The Letter S2 E4: Sisters of Charity

In Episode 4, we continue to talk about medical treatment during the Civil War – particularly the role that women in religious organizations played. The Sisters of Charity, Daughters of Charity, Sisters of the Holy Cross, and Sisters of St. Joseph all provided volunteer nurses.

To the Letter is a podcast brought to you in collaboration with University Libraries and the eLearning and Emerging Technologies Department’s Digital Studio at GVSU. On this podcast, we bring correspondence from GVSU’s Special Collections alive. In each episode you will hear (in their own words!) letters written by the people who lived through history and the stories behind them.

The letter featured in Episode 4 is available below:

Letter from John Bennitt to his wife Lottie, January 17, 1863


Additional research for this episode came from:

Questions? Comments? Let us know!

To The Letter S2 E3: Sawbones

Episode 3 is all about Civil War medicine – which is a huge topic! John was one of many Civil War surgeons, but one of few that had prior medical training.

To the Letter is a podcast brought to you in collaboration with University Libraries and the eLearning and Emerging Technologies Department’s Digital Studio at GVSU. On this podcast, we bring correspondence from GVSU’s Special Collections alive. In each episode you will hear (in their own words!) letters written by the people who lived through history and the stories behind them. John Bennitt is voiced by Matt Ruen, Scholarly Communications Outreach Coordinator at University Libraries.

Letters featured in Episode 3 are available below in full:

Letter from John Bennitt to his wife Lottie, November 9th, 1862

Letter from John Bennitt to his wife Lottie, November 30, 1862

Letter from John Bennitt to his wife Lottie, Dec. 28, 1862

Letter from John Bennitt to his wife Lottie, February 7, 1863

Letter from John Bennitt to his wife Lottie, March 18, 1863


Additional research for this episode:

Questions? Comments? Let us know!

To The Letter S2 E2: Always Be Prepared

In Episode 2 we’re getting into what military camps looked like during the Civil War and how John got involved in the war. He enlists as an assistant surgeon in 1862 with the 19th Michigan Infantry.

To the Letter is a podcast brought to you in collaboration with University Libraries and the eLearning and Emerging Technologies Department’s Digital Studio at GVSU. On this podcast, we bring correspondence from GVSU’s Special Collections alive. In each episode you will hear (in their own words!) letters written by the people who lived through history and the stories behind them. John Bennitt is voiced by Matt Ruen, Scholarly Communications Outreach Coordinator at University Libraries.

Letters featured in Episode 2 are available below:

Letter from John Bennitt to his wife Lottie, August 21, 1862

Letter from John Bennitt to his wife Lottie, October 23, 1862


Additional research for this episode:

Questions? Comments? Let us know!

To The Letter S2 E1: An Introduction

We’re so pleased to bring you Season Two of To The Letter!

To the Letter is a podcast brought to you in collaboration with University Libraries and the eLearning and Emerging Technologies Department’s Digital Studio at GVSU. On this podcast, we bring correspondence from GVSU’s Special Collections alive. In each episode you will hear (in their own words!) letters written by the people who lived through history and the stories behind them.

This season, we’re discussing the letters of John Bennitt, a Civil War surgeon from Michigan. Bennitt is voiced by Matt Ruen, Scholarly Communications Outreach Coordinator at GVSU.

Letters featured in Episode 1 are available below:

Letter from John Bennitt to his wife, Charlotte “Lottie”, Dec. 1861

Letter from John Bennitt to his wife Lottie, Aug. 21, 1862


For more information about John Bennitt, or if you are interested in reading all of these letters in their entirety, our Curator of Rare Books & Distinguished Collections, Robert Beasecker, edited a book called “I Hope to Do My Country Service” that contains all of the letters, with additional footnotes. It is available through Wayne State University Press.

Questions? Comments? Tell us what you think! Contact Leigh at rupinskl@gvsu.edu or leave a review on iTunes or Spotify!

To the Letter Episode 15: The End

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Well this is it! The big finale. After enlisting in 1941, Joe has made it all the way to 1946…and is still writing to Agnes. ❤

To the Letter is a podcast brought to you in collaboration with University Libraries and the eLearning and Emerging Technologies Digital Studio. Joe Olexa was voiced by Kevin McCasland.

The final letter featured in Episode 15 is available below:

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We have really enjoyed getting to share Joe and Agnes’ story with you through this podcast. Are you interested in learning more about the Veteran’s History Project? Visit https://www.loc.gov/vets/. Have questions or comments about this week’s episode or the podcast in general? Send them to rupinskl@gvsu.edu. Want to see the Olexa Letters in person? Visit GVSU Special Collections & University Archives at Seidman House, Allendale, MI.

Thank you so much for listening!

-Leigh & Jackie

To The Letter Episode 14: Concentration Camps

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Although Joe may not have been directly involved in the liberation of any concentration camps, he certainly knew what was going on and talked with survivors. This episode we’re talking about the Holocaust.

To the Letter is a podcast brought to you in collaboration with University Libraries and the eLearning and Emerging Technologies Digital Studio. Joe Olexa was voiced by Kevin McCasland and Agnes Van Der Weide was played by Tracy Cook.

Letters featured in Episode 14 are available below:

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, May 4, 1945

 

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, May 31, 1945

There is a lot more to be said on this topic than we had time for – if you’re interested, we highly recommend checking out the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The BBC History article mentioned in the episode is also worth reading. Have questions or comments about this week’s episode? Send them to rupinskl@gvsu.edu. Happy listening!

To The Letter Episode 13: Hurt Again at Hürtgen

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In this episode we investigate exactly what conflicts Joe’s been a part of and how he ended up wounded and in hospital once again.

To the Letter is a podcast brought to you in collaboration with University Libraries and the eLearning and Emerging Technologies Digital Studio. Joe Olexa was voiced by Kevin McCasland and Agnes Van Der Weide was played by Tracy Cook.

Letters featured in Episode 13 are available below:

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, Apr. 8, 1945

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, Apr. 21, 1945

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, Apr. 27, 1945

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, Apr. 29, 1945

Joe’s been through quite a lot! Have questions or comments about this week’s episode? Send them to rupinskl@gvsu.edu. Happy listening!

To The Letter Episode 12: Wounded in Action

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Previously, Joe was wounded during the invasion of Normandy. Wounded again, we dive into what Joe’s medical experience might have been like.

To the Letter is a podcast brought to you in collaboration with University Libraries and the eLearning and Emerging Technologies Digital Studio. Joe Olexa was voiced by Kevin McCasland and Agnes Van Der Weide was played by Tracy Cook.

Letters featured in Episode 12 are available below:

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V-Mail from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, Feb. 9, 1945

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Letter from Agnes Van Der Weide to Joe Olexa, Feb. 11, 1945

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, Feb. 14, 1945

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Letter from Agnes Van Der Weide to Joe Olexa, Feb. 22, 1945

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Letter from Agnes Van Der Weide to Joe Olexa, March 8, 1945

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, March 9, 1945

We learned so much researching for this episode! Tune in next time to learn more about what Joe’s been doing in the military. Have questions or comments about this week’s episode? Send them to rupinskl@gvsu.edu. Happy listening!

To The Letter Episode 11: Peace on Earth

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It may still be summertime around here, but in Episode 11 we are all about the holiday season!

To the Letter is a podcast brought to you in collaboration with University Libraries and the eLearning and Emerging Technologies Digital Studio. Joe Olexa was voiced by Kevin McCasland and Agnes Van Der Weide was played by Tracy Cook.

Letters featured in Episode 11 are available below:

 

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, Dec. 16, 1944

 

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Letter from Joe Olexa to Agnes Van Der Weide, Dec. 28, 1944

 

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Letter from Agnes Van Der Weide to Joe Olexa, Jan. 18, 1945

 

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Letter from Agnes Van Der Weide to Joe Olexa, Jan. 24, 1945

 

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Letter from Agnes Van Der Weide to Joe Olexa, Jan. 30, 1945

What do you think of Christmas traditions from WWII? Have questions or comments about this week’s episode? Send them to rupinskl@gvsu.edu. Happy listening!