As references to “Lieutenant Haymaker” in 1865 make clear, Mollie Scollay communicated with more than just one prisoner. What do you think this meant in the context of nineteenth century courtship and wartime experience? Was Mollie preparing for the possibility that Wash Nelson had died as a prisoner during the months-long gap in their 1865 correspondence? Does it reveal something else about captivity and wartime experience?
Historians answer questions with a careful combination of evidence and context. As long as civilians were within the lines of the United States army, they had access to the postal service and could send and receive letters with relative ease to prisoners of war. Confederate prisoners and civilians utilized this network to ease the physical, emotional, and spiritual discomfort of captivity. Read the following excerpts of other letters exchanged between other Confederate prisoners of war and southern women, and prepare to discuss what communication with Lt. Haymaker probably meant to him, Mollie, and Wash.
J. D. Roberdeau, Johnson’s Island, Ohio to Catherine Hooper, Alexandria, Virginia, May 18, 1864, Catherine Hooper Letters, 1864-1865, Small Manuscript Collections, Box 5, no. 10, Arkansas History Commission, Little Rock, Arkansas.
Your very kind letter of the 7th inst. and the box were handed [to] me yesterday. I accept the articles it contained with the assurance that their appreciation is greatly enhanced by having been persented [sic] by a estemed [sic] friends. I know not how to thank you for your kind offer to furnish me with some shirts. At present, I have enough to render me comfortable, at least. Should I need any, [I] will avail myself of the offer having been a prisoner of war nearly twelve months, you may readily imagine, my first wish to be “home again.”
Joseph S. Stewart, Point Lookout, Maryland, to “Miss Katherine Hooper,” June 30, 1864, Catherine Hooper Letters, 1864-1865, Small Manuscript Collections, Box 5, no. 10, Arkansas History Commission, Little Rock, Arkansas.
Miss Katherine Hooper:
I receive your letter of the 30th of June, in which you stated that my brother was dead. I was sorry to hear of his death but he is out of this troublesome world. I hope, from the way you wrote, that he was willing to die and prepare to meet his god.
I wish you to write whether he got to hear from me before he died or not. You are highly complimented by many for taking the pains to let me know my Brother was in Alexandria for I wouldn’t have known where we was nor where he died if you had not written to me.
Will you please send me some of his hair in your next letter? I want something to remember him when I leave this place and I will remember you whenever in South Western Virginia.
When you get these few lines, please, write to me. I would like to hear from you any time.
I will have to bring my letter to a close by saying, “Goodbye, Miss Catherine.”
Q. S. Carter, Lt. 15th Ark Inft., Fort Delaware, to Catherine Hooper, July 4, 1864, Catherine Hooper Letters, 1864-1865, Small Manuscript Collections, Box 5, no. 10, Arkansas History Commission, Little Rock, Arkansas.
I being a prisoner of war and being cut off from home and friends and having no lady friend to write to, I hope you will not take it as an offense for me to seek your acquaintance.
I am a mess-mate of A. Q. Armstrong, Lt. 46t Ala. Regt. and also was a room-mate of Col. Cameron during his imprisonment and learning your name and address from friend A. Q. Armstrong and becoming tired of this dull life of mine without a lady correspondent, I hope to gain your friendship, at least, so as to get a letter from you now and then which would be received as a kind favor by me as I have born this dull, monotonous life for upwards of 13 months so I shall close this, perhaps uninteresting letter.
Joseph S. Stewart, Point Lookout, Maryland, to Catherine Hooper, July 8, 1864, Catherine Hooper Letters, 1864-1865, Small Manuscript Collections, Box 5, no. 10, Arkansas History Commission, Little Rock, Arkansas.
You said in your letter that my brother did not get the letter that I wrote him before his death. I am sorry that he did not get the letter for he wanted to hear from me so bad. He heard that I was killed in the Battle of Gettysburg, but if I ever see him I will have to meet him in another world, and his request was, you said, for his friends to try and meet him in Heaven. I hope, by the Grace of God, to meet him there. I wish I could write you a letter that my mind would let me do, we are not allowed to write more than one side of this kind of paper. I wish I could write more, I got the stamps you sent me, by which I was accommodated very much.
These lines leave me in good health, hope that they may find you well. You must excuse me for writing your names wrong for I didn’t know hope you wrote it. It was Mrs. and I wrote Miss.
A. J. Brown to Fort Delaware, to Mrs. Kate Hooper, November 18, 1864, Catherine Hooper Letters, 1864-1865, Small Manuscript Collections, Box 5, no. 10, Arkansas History Commission, Little Rock, Arkansas
Having learned your name and address from a friend, I take the liberty of writing you a few lines. I am unfortunately a prisoner of war and cut off from all m[y] friends and acquaintances, consequent[ly] am compelled to seek friends among strangers. I am at this time very much in need of a small amount of money which I though[t] it probably you would send me. We have a sutler here who keeps many articles which is very difficult to do without viz. paper, stamps, envelopes, tobacco and many other things. Thus you can have an idea the value a small amount would be to a person in my condition. If you cannot send yourself, please direct to a person who you think will.
J. J. Christie, Johnson’s Island to Catherine Hooper, January 17, 1865, Catherine Hooper Letters, 1864-1865, Small Manuscript Collections, Box 5, no. 10, Arkansas History Commission, Little Rock, Arkansas.
I received your note, ½ plug of tobacco, 13 buttons, ½ sleeve button, one piece ending for a collar pin, and three dollars on yesterday. they all came on very good time.
The $3 just suited me as I had just gone in debt that much for material. I will fill your bills early as possible. I can not make the collar pin until I get some black gutta percha [rubber].
Can you send me a very large rule? It is extremely hard to get here and costs so much that I can hardly afford to buy it.
Material of every description costs very high to but it here, I am very busy all the while. I am chief of my mess, numbering 136 men, to whom I issue their daily rations, after which I sit down and work on jewelry until my hands get cramped handling such very small tools. I then get my [books] and study a long lesson each in French and Geometry which I recite and by this time night comes on. I am studying to make myself useful when the war is over and to have a way of making money, in case, I should lose my property by the war. I cannot see, for the life of me, how it is that some officers here still sit down idly all the day long neither working nor studying and when mail days come around, write to friends for money and clothing without the slightest prospect of every being able to repay one farthing. If you have any prisoner friends of this class, would it not be well to push them up in this way. A little work will do them no harm while it might do them much good in the future.
I will send you my jewelry in small lots by mail.
Did you receive the five common rings I sent you? I have recd no letter from you, only the note that came from Lieut. McDowells Box and that said nothing about them.