CIVIL WAR TEAR CATCHERS

19TH CENTURY ART OF MOURNING© E-MAIL almglm@comcast.net

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The U.S. Civil War brought new levels of sorrow to the Victorian era. For example, on June 3, 1864, one of the bloodiest days in the war, nearly 16,000 casualties were reported. In the battle at Cold Harbor, General Ulysses Grant's troops assaulted those of General Robert E. Lee. Battles pitted family, friends, and neighbors against one another. Throughout this period of American history, Victorian traditions of mourning and loss were both helpful for healing and nearly impossible for many to closely follow.
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Stories of soldiers leaving their wives or new brides with a tear bottle can be found in literature of the day. Some husbands are said to have hoped that the bottles would be full upon their return, as an indication of their wives devotion. Sadly, many of these men never made it back home.

During the Victorian era, mourners sometimes collected their tears in gold decorated "tear bottles" to keep as a remembrance for the next of kin.  It has also been said that the widows would go to the grave on the anniversary of the first year of death and sprinkle the tears on the grave to signify the end of the first year of mourning.