May 29 1864 – John J Haun to Mollie Burns

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John Haun expresses his pleasure that the gift he made for Mollie has reached her safely and describes to her the circumstances leading up to his corresponding with an unknown Union girl, Nannie McClelland.

Sunday morning
May 29th 1864

Camp Chase, Ohio

Dear Friend,

Your kind favor of the 17th1 was received on the 24th. I was delighted to know you were in good health and that the ring had reached its destination in safety. I was fearful it would not reach you not on account of its value—but I am somewhat like the fair sex, I dislike to be disappointed even in trifling matters. You say you will not wear it until somebody’s return home. It is likely somebody may never return; you would never get to wear it according to your doctrine. However you can use your own discretion concerning it. I am pleased to know you appreciate it so highly. (I have been a prisoner ten months and expect to be ten more.)

Mary, I received a letter yesterday from my Ohio duck. What do you think of that? A Union girl. too. Now if you will treat me right clever and write to me often perhaps I will let you see her letters. I know you would like to see them wouldn’t you? The correspondence commenced in rather a singular way by my writing letters for a prisoner to her, a mess mate of mine who was left at her father’s house wounded for a short time. I never saw her but I think she is a nice girl. She says she hopes I will not go into the Rebel army again. She wishes to send me something to read if I will accept it— but I will bet she is not half so pretty or fascinating as somebody I know. She is well educated judging from the letters she writes.

I was not aware I had a grandma living. If I have, I was somewhat surprised to find such an elderly lady wearing rings, but tell grandma I have not forgotten her or the pleasant little chat we had on the steps one evening. Is your uncle Will at home or not? I suppose all the town boys have been drafted or left home so the girls are without beau for the present. Is H.H.W. still in town, and what are you doing?

You are a little selfish, sure enough. You can do silly things whenever you please, but I must not dwell I suppose. I will have to submit to you as I generally do. The old song says it is the devil’s hell on earth for a woman to wear the breeches. Be careful or I will have to don a certain kind of apparel I once spoke of in a letter to you. I know you do not wish to exchange with me just yet.

Is it Tom Barkley’s daughter that is going to marry Mr Wells? I thought she was but a child yet, too young to marry. Tell me where the Wells are from. They must be worth catching, marrying so soon after coming to town. I must close for the present. Mary write soon and give me all the news. My respects to Tom L. and best love to Chalk.2 while I remain truly your friend. Love to Dora.


Metadata: Sender’s location: Camp Chase, OH

May 24 1864 – Nannie McClelland to John J Haun

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John Haun’s pro-Union pen pal Nannie McClelland writes to thank him for the gift of a homemade ring, offering to send him newspapers and inquiring about his past life.

Cumberland, Ohio
May 25th 1864

Mr Haun,

Your letter arrived safely last Saturday and with it my ring. You shall be pardoned for delay this time, but you are right about disappointment—I had expected your letter a week sooner, and as I turned from the Post Office with out it you might have seen a shadow of disappointment on
my face, thinking perhaps my letter had failed to reach you, or that you had been exchanged, which would have been heralded with much more interest than my letter.  Of course I will accept your ring as a token of “friendship” and will prize it very highly, you do not know how much. I think of it and I so admire your work, it being the prettiest of the kind I ever saw—just my taste, plain and neat. I wear with it two plain gold rings and with each one of them there is considerable romance connected. One friend is no more, while another is in Libby prison1 and yet another in Camp Chase. Don’t you think my “friends are scattered like roses in bloom”?2

I am afraid my thoughtless and ill timed remarks concerning yourself and family may have hurt your feelings. If so I am very sorry and hope you will forgive me, won’t you? Just when you wished to present the ring it was enough to wound anyone’s feelings especially if they are sensitive like myself. I do not doubt that you are in every respect worthy of my friendship and will judge you accordingly should we ever meet. I could not under any circumstances greet you as a friend, for such as been the effect of our romantic correspondence that, though years should pass and I might be wearing caps, you would still see on my finger the ring presented by J.J. Haun.

I do not think you would be troubled by a history of your life. I have come to the conclusion to take your word for it. I thank God and good parents that I, too, have a character unstained, and could you look in my heart you might know I have no cause to be ashamed of anything cherished there, or of my past life. But I had to laugh when you defended yourself about the flattery so well. I presume I will have to accept it as due praise and “no fakery.”

I agree with you that there are few persons who do not have some dark moments. If I had never been taught to feel for those in affliction I might be as sad sometimes, but this terrible war is enough to depress anyone’s spirits. I know you think how sorry I am for you and wish I could be permitted to make your prison life less wearisome, or acknowledge your kindness in some other way than thanks–but still we might be placed in worse circumstances. While thousands are falling every day, and making hearts and homes desolate, you are yet spared, for no doubt some wise purpose, perhaps soon to return to your home. I hope so and hope you will never enter the Rebel army again, yet very many others think they are right, no doubt.

I have just returned from taking a horseback ride, my chief source of enjoyment—but without a beau as good ones are scarce, the best being gone to the army. Do you ever get anything interesting to read in Camp Chase? I will send you some papers if they will be accepted. Oh did my last letter go unpaid? If so I shall feel deeply mortified. I was just out of stamps but gave a little boy money to pay postage and a dime for taking it to the office. Mr Floyd told me he received no money and the letter went unpaid, but he is always teasing me so. I should feel very bad to know any letter would go to a prisoner without a stamp. It was no fault of mine if it did.

Your friend,

Nannie McClelland

Metadata: Sender’s location: Cumberland, OH | Recipient’s location: Camp Chase, OH
Note: “Dated May 23th 64, Received May 28th 64”

February 8 1864 – Mollie Burns to John J Haun

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Mollie updates John on local news, and gently teases him about marriage.

At Home
February 8th 1864

My Friend,

How shall I begin to write, having such a piece of news to tell you? Aunt Ell and Mr Price, are at last married after a courtship of six years. They have purchased the house on the corner by us of Mr McDonald, and were married in their own house. I believe every boy in town was there. I did not know anything about it until after breakfast that morning, and then a party of us went to Lexington with them. She kept it very still.

Mrs Webb told me at church yesterday she had received a letter from your ma which she intended forwarding to you after answering it. She has also received a second one from your friend in Pennsylvania. He spoke of writing to you. Also your friend Betty is growing very pretty indeed, She has learned a new piece of music, something about, “I love Dixie, right or wrong,”1 and says if I would come up she would play it for me.

The boys gave aunt and uncle Price a beautiful serenade. She set quite a table for them. E. Connon is much better, and has some hopes of his recovery. Mrs Stoughten is living with them, Mr McDonald having purchased the place where she lived. Thornt Sinclair was put in the vault yesterday. He died very suddenly after two days illness, of the spotted fever. Three or four have died of it in the neighborhood of the Stamp. It is a dreadful disease. Little Frank Lemon is not expected to live through the day. He talks so much about his pa. Tommie is in very delicate health also. Poor Mrs Lemon takes it so hard, his pa being away, and he was so devoted to him.

We have our new library now, and there is a concert at our church tonight featuring all of our best singers, and a gentleman and his lady from Ohio. The proceeds will go to purchase a Melodian2 for our church.

Your letter was received two weeks ago today, Monday. You tell me to bear in mind it is leap year, and you will answer all questions put to you. Well now, I am the last one to ask any questions. Talk abut starving to death by degrees—this child loves to eat too well for that. If you could see her I know you would think so anyway. Dora tells me to give you her love, but I tell her she shan’t send her love to you, but may only send her regards. She still insists on sending her love. She is looking every day for her Paris flame Lucian Denington. He has been two years in the United States service, and is just from from the army with one year longer to serve. Buddie is so mad because Dora sacked him. He will not speak to any of us. Most of all the boys that are in the Federal army from Georgetown are now here on furlough. Gabbie H. is on a visit to Indiana.

We have had some of the coldest weather ever felt in Kentucky and some of the most beautiful, the last two or three weeks, just like spring. It made us think of visiting the old mill, and flowery island, fishing and so on—but one of our number I fear, who was always ready to go with the girls, on such excursions, will be sadly missed this summer: Betty Clark, Harry’s wife. She is very low with the consumption.

Just to think, the third of this month was my birthday. I suppose you remember my age, 22. Being a member of the sisterhood through necessity seems to stare me in the face like some grim monster—although rumor, untruthful madam as she is, has me engaged to two or three different persons. But then, when this cruel war is over, there will be a few old bachelors left (no insinuations of course). Then some of us may conclude to disband our sisterhood, although there will still be some left.

I had quite a nice little chat with Joe Elgin the other day. He inquired after you and wished to know when I had heard from you. I told him I must have been one of the many friends of yours forgotten, as you had never honored me with the scratch of a pen. “Yes,” he said, “I believe you are a truthful young lady.” But I was, with him as Mrs Well, very ignorant of your proceedings.

That old fellow that came in town from the crossings, with all that drove of cattle, the day Will Webb was in the Court House, has acted just as hateful as Eaf O. Johnnie S. and some others. He is in the neighborhood of Joe Lemon, John Lemon and some others. You know he is such a consummated old villain they will not let him rest in that place with what he had left. He is still collecting more and says he intends paying us a visit again in the spring, but they are preparing to catch him, and I for one, you know, hope they will catch him. I did not know whether you had heard it and thought I would tell you.

Write directly you get this, and believe me, as ever, your true friend,

Mollie Burns

Metadata: Postmark: Georgetown, KY | February 2 1864
Sender’s location: Georgetown, KY | Recipient’s location: Camp Chase, OH
Notes: “Dated Feb 8th 64, Received Feb 11th 64”

October 12 1863 – John J Haun to Mollie Burns

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In this chatty and flirtatious letter, John Haun teases Mollie about marriage, stolen kisses, and sharing her letters with his messmates. He gives his opinion of the gossip included in her last letter, and, in a moment of seriousness, describes the death of a mutual friend.

Prison No. 1, Barracks No. 9
Camp Chase Ohio

October  12 1863

Dear Friend,

I received your anxiously looked for letter on the seventh. I had began thinking my letter had not reached it’s destination and was just on the eve of writing another when it came. I owe you an apology for such a long delay in responding, but the delay was unavoidable as I was taken sick shortly after receiving your letter and was unable to write sooner. I am about well again and have been moved to another prison as you will see from the heading.

I never thought for a moment if you would disregard your promise concerning your Bourbon visit. Therefore, I looked for this letter with more eagerness if possible than any other. Well, you give a glowing description of your visit and things about Paris. Surely times must be getting better in Kentucky since the departure of so me of her rebellious subjects. I am so truly glad to learn you are enjoying yourself so finely, if I cannot myself.

So Sam L. is married at last! I thought that would have taken place ere this. Nothing preventing but a slight intoxication on his part as I understand. It seems the girls are all marring for fear there will be no one to marry when the war is over. I suppose the Misses Wills are the most fashionable and wealthy merchants of the town, I believe the girls generally fancy merchants. I thought Mat was in Canada with several others from town but it seems I have been mistaken. I remember the name of Colcord very well but have forgotten his features. At any rate I suppose he is a good fellow, as bachelors are generally, and not cross and crabbed as some people term them.

I saw Wallace Graves immediately after he was killed, literally torn to pieces by a shell. I suppose Mr Graves takes it very hard losing both of his boys within a few months of each other. It is truly a sad sight to see the boys brought home in such a way.

I have had very good health until recently, but nothing very serious and I will be well soon, as you know. I am a healer. Mollie, this is truly cold gloomy place.

The reason I asked Fannie L. if she knew Mr Grimes is this. One evening while taking my accustomed walk I overheard part of a letter read and the name of Miss L of G Town. When I began to inquire I found it was Tom.

Of course I will have to wait until you have a wedding before I can get an invitation. I should like very much to come home but my Uncle Sam will not let me. I have not forgotten the ring nor the associations connected with it. Those days will long be remembered by me. As one has said we seldom forget incidents in life that give us a great deal of pleasure or pain, as the case might be. You accused me of stealing when I left home. That is pretty hard but I suppose I will have to plead guilty before so fair an accuser. But just tell me what man is there that could withstand such a temptation with such a delicate morsel set before him. “Not I” I must confess. I believe my reservation would fail me on such an occasion no matter how much I might try to resist. I am confident when you take another view of the case my sentence will be comparatively light. If we ever should chance to meet again I might commit the same offense. If I should, just punish me as my crime deserves and I will not complain.

Mollie, take warning of poor Fitzsimmons when you marry and do not whip your husband and cause him to commit suicide.

I read your letter to one of my mess mates by way of retaliation. Retaliation is fair in war, you know! I received a letter from S. Harris a few days ago. He was well and said Eph was in his mess, and S.K. Bangs, J. Shermitt and some others I am not acquainted with. I sent your kindest regards to him. I received your first letter the evening they left for Camp Douglas.

Does Mat Saunders drink as hard as he was used to? Ask Dora how Buddie is, and  whether he is at home or not. I have not written or received a letter from home since I left Kentucky. I heard through Mrs S. West that my parents were well. Several pictures have been received by mail but they were badly broken, hence the reason for my tasking you to send it. I have finished your ring and it is pronounced the neatest one made in prison. I would send it in this letter but there has been so many put in letters that have never been received at home. If I do not meet with an opportunity to send it by some individual soon I will send it by mail and risk the chances of its arrival, for you know I want to you to have it. Rings have a way of getting out of letters that leave here unless put in the especial charge of Captain Tiffany the letter deliverer.

I shall commit another theft when I see you, so you can get your punishment ready when you see me. I must close as I have run out of space,


(Do not put off writing because I did.)

Metadata: Sender’s location: Camp Chase, OH