1865: John Hagerty to Margaret (O’Neil) Hagerty

How John Hagerty might have looked

How John Hagerty might have looked

These eight letters were written by 1st Class Fireman John Hagerty (1842-1918), a native of Donegal, Ireland. John’s parents were Morris Hagerty (1822-1928) and Ellen McGinley (1822-1895). In 1861, at age 19, John married 16 year-old Margaret (“Maggie”) O’Neil (1845-1928), the daughter of James and Mary (Reynolds) O’Neill. They were married at St. James Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Between 1862 and 1887, John and Maggie had at least ten children — the two oldest of which are mentioned in this letter: Mary Ellen Hagerty (1862-1928) and John T. Hagerty (1864-1956) who John called “little fat tie.” [Editor’s Note: Most family records spell the name Haggerty though John clearly spelled his name Hagerty. The difference in spelling led to complications for the family in later years when applying for a military pension.]

A family history states that John Hagerty enlisted as a fireman in the U.S. Navy in September 1864 and served successively on the U.S.S. Grampus, the U.S.S. Great Western, and the U.S.S. Carondelet. The Carondelet was eventually taken to Mound City where she underwent repairs and had her guns removed. Haggerty was discharged in August, 1865.

After the war, John worked as a fireman on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad until 1869 when he moved his family to Dawson, Pennsylvania, where he found employment at the coke works.

A 2006 story about John Hagerty’s gravemarker in the Sacred Heart Cemetery in Dunbar, Fayette County, Pennsylvania, appears in the on-line TribLIVE News.

The U.S.S. Carondelet

The U.S.S. Carondelet

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE

On Board the U.S. Gunboat Carondelet
Off Clarksville
January the 5th 1865

Dear Wife,

I take my pen in hand to inform you that I am well at present, hoping that these few lines may find you and the children enjoying the same blessing. Dear Maggie, this day I got a letter from you dated December the 24th and was very glad to hear that you and the children was well but was very sorry to hear that you was so cold in the old house. Dear Maggie, why don’t you get plenty of coal and try and keep yourselves warm and try and stay where you are till I come home and then I will try and keep you warm. You say that I never speak of my boy John anymore. I have nothing to say but may God bless him and spare him till his father come homes to see him.

Dear Maggie, you would not like to be like Mary Jane Gilmore—to be married 5 or 6 years and have a strange child when you had none of your own. I think Tom has lost the ketch. You say that Mrs. Flinn is high on the back again. I wonder if Jim will say shit again. So Ellen is high on the belly, is she? Well Bully for them. Ho it while they are young for when they are old, they can’t.

Dear Maggie, you are still talking about me leaving home but I hope it is all for good luck for I see in the paper there is a going to be another draft and if I was at home, I would still be afraid of the draft. And if I was drafted in the army, it would be worse than it is. Dear Maggie, you say that this is six letters you received no answer yet. It is very strange for I answer all your letters and I wrote you one on Christmas and one on New Years.

Dear Maggie, as I write, there is a dispatch for us to go down the river. We are a going clear out of this river but I do not know where yet but I will let you know when we get there. I got one paper from McTige and 2 letters since I left home.

Maggie, it is getting dark and I must bid you and my little family good night and God bless you and take care of you till I come home is the wish of your loving husband, — John Hagerty

Direct to John Hagerty, U. S. Gunboat Carondelet, Cairo, Ill.

Give my respects to all enquiring friends, not forgetting father and mother and I am glad that the woman can write your letters for you.

To Mary Ellen, God bless Mama and God bless Pap and God bless Mary Ellen and God bless little John. Good night.

 


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TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO

On Board the U. S. Gunboat Carondelet
At East Port, Alabama
March the 18th 1865

Dear wife,

This morning I wrote you a letter letting you know that I was well and this evening the mail came and I got one letter from you. Your letter is dated the 27th of February and enclosed in it I found one dollar’s worth of postage stamps which I was glad to get them for they are had to get here.

Dear Maggie, it is strange you do not get more letters from me for I do not forget you in the letters. I am glad you and the children are well. Maggie, you will get 2 letters together now. One I wrote in the morning and one in the evening. They both leave here on the same boat.

Dear wife, I have wrote 6 or 7 letters that I have wrote to you and got no answer from them yet and I sent 10 dollars in one letter and I sent another picture of the boat to you. Let me know if you got them.

My love to your Mother and Reynolds and the children. I expect Willie is a big boy now. No more at present but may God bless you and my little pets is the wish of your loving husband, — John Hagerty

John Hagert, U. S. Gunboat Carondelet, Cairo, Ill.

 


TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE

On Board of the U. S. Gunboat Carondelet
Off East Port, Alabama
April the 8th 1865

Dear wife,

I take my pen in hand to inform you that I am well at present, hoping that these few lines will find you and the children enjoying the same blessing, thanks be to God for His mercies to us all.

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Tinclad gunboat Fairplay

Dear wife, the U. S. Gunboat Fairplay came up from Cairo last night and she had a large mail on her and the good news that our troops are in Richmond. Dear Maggie, I got four letters from you. They are dated on March the 20th, 23rd, 25th, and 27th and the postmark the 28th and a letter from my father dated St. Patrick’s Day in the morning. So I have plenty of reading to do now and more spelling than reading for it would take a lawyer to make some of it out. I have been up all night very near trying to make it all out but you have done very well and I do not want to discourage you. Dear Maggie, the next time you write to me, keep your words farther apart so that they will not join each other and it may be that I can read them. And when you write one, let some other one put the directions on it for you. And when you write, make your letters this way, i & p —them is 2 letters that you do not make right. But try again. If you write nothing else but that you and the children are well and I will will be glad.

Dear Maggie, as I write, the drum beat all hands to quarters & I must go up on deck to my post.

It is now one hour and a half since I left off writing and we fired a salute of 36 guns in honor of the great victories won lately. If the news is true here, the war will be over in a month.

Dear Maggie, it was a nice sight to see 10 thousand soldiers stand in a line along the river bank and when we fired 36 rounds, the soldiers gave 3 cheers for General Grant and Sherman. Maggie, it is laughable to see the men on this boat—especially those that are in 2 and 3 years. Everybody is so glad and they think that they will get home before their time is out and so this is a glad day on the Old Carondelet, Everybody is glad from the Captain down to the messenger boy.

So dear Maggie, keep up your heart till I come home and with the help of God, that will not be long now. And if I do not get home before my time is out, that will not be long slipping along now.

So Mary Ellen wishes [her] Pap was at home? Tell her that I will soon come now to her and her little brother. Dear Maggie, do not be so lonesome and the time will pass quicker. You are with your Mother and I hope the day is not far distant when I can pay your Mother and Reynolds for their kindness to you and my children. Dear Maggie, I made out very well all of your letters. There is some of it very hard to make out. Dear Maggie, I got a long letter from my father. He says that if I let him take the furniture or part of it that is laying in Samford Cochran’s old house, that he will move into McGills log house—him and my mother. He says if he had part of it, he could get along and when I come home, he will have enough of his own and he says he will take good care of it till i come home. Everything is so dear now that it would come hard on him to buy everything now. So being as he is my father, I am a going to write to him this evening and let him have the furniture till I come home so he can have them till we need them. And I will inform him that it will not be long till that time.

Dear Maggie, do not get mad at me for doing this for I am very glad that they are a going to a house of their own again. Father says we can get them as soon as we want them again.

Maggie, I see in the papers that there was a very high fresh in the river there and that part of the Valley Railroad was taken away.

I will do what you told me about my whisker. So no more at present. My respects to your Mother and Reynolds and children and may God bless you and your 2 little pets is the wish of your ever loving husband, — John Hagerty

Direct as before.

 


TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR

On Board of the U. S. Gunboat Carondelet
Off East Port, Alabama
April the 24th 1865

Dear wife,

I take my pen in hand to inform you that I am well at present hoping that these few lines may find you and the children enjoying the same blessing, thanks be to God for His mercies to us all.

Dear Maggie, there came a gunboat up here with a convoy this morning. She had no mail for us. She is going down to Cairo in the morning and I will send this to you. Maggie, I sent you a letter every boat that goes down and I have not got one from you since the one that you sent me dated the 27th of March and in 3 days more it will be a month since your last letter was wrote. But I can’t blame you for I expect you have wrote often and the [mail] may be delayed on the way here. So the next boat may bring me 5 or 6 for it is a feast or a famine here in regards to the mail.

Dear Maggie, this is very good weather this 3 or 4 days back and everything looks very nice here. The Rebs is all played out and we have nothing to think of now but home and I hope we will soon get there now.

Maggie, any sailor or soldier that is caught sating anything against Abe Lincoln, he is punished severely for it so as the old saying is, a still tongue makes a wise head.

I think we will leave this post in another week from now. Caven was telling me this morning that we were going down to Mound City next week. We have some repairing to get done at the Navy Yard and I don’t know what will be done with us then but it is most likely they will station us on the Mississippi River somewhere this summer. But when the time comes, I will let you know all about it. They would like if I would take a commission on this boat. They say the war is over and the officers and all will get discharged soon but I am not a going to let them get any hold on me for I want to get home in 4 months more, if not sooner.

Dear Maggie, give my respects to Reynolds and Mother and the children. May God bless you and love you and my little pets till I come home is the wish of your ever loving husband, — Johnny

John Hagerty, U. S. Gunboat Carondelet, Cairo, Ill.

8 o’clock in the evening of the 24th of April. Good night.

 


TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FIVE

On Board of the U.S. Gunboat Carondelet
Off Paducah, Kentucky
May the 11th 1865

Dear Wife,

I am well at present hoping that these few lines may find you and the children enjoying the same blessing. Dear Maggie, no letter yet from you and I never look more for one than I do now. Dear Maggie, in this I enclose 10 dollars to you. I would put more in but I do not like to risk it so I will send you some more again.

Dear Maggie, I am happy to say that the prospect for getting home before my time is out is better than I sent to you for there is a report that all the one year’s men is a going to be discharged soon and I see in the newspapers that the Mississippi Squadron is a going to be reduced to 25 boats and there is one hundred and fifteen boats in the squadron now and the Carondelet is a good deal out of repair and our boilers were examined and condemned so that we expect to be one of the first boats discharged. So I hope to God I will spend my Fourth of July with you and my little pets for the men and officers on this boat think we will be discharged in June sometime. So tell Mary Ellen that her pap will soon come home to her.

Dear Maggie, it seems so long since I had a letter from you for I want to know how you get along up at my Father’s. Maggie, we get the war news every day now. The news boys bring the papers out in a skiff to us so that we are posted with all the news.

Dear Maggie, the time seems very long in passing round to me but the time will soon be around that I am so long looking for. We are looking for a mail every day. When I hear from you, I will write again and that may be this day yet. I would have wrote yesterday but looking for a letter from you.

Give my respects to Reynold’s mother and children and my love and the love of God be with you and my two little pets is the ever loving wish of your husband, — John Hagerty

John Hagerty, U.S. Gunboat Carondelet, Cairo, Illinois

 


TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SIX

On Board of the U. S. Gunboat Carondelet
Paducah, Kentucky
Sunday, May the 14th 1865

Dear wife,

I take my pen in hand to inform you that I am well at present hoping that these few lines may find you and the children enjoying the same blessing, thanks be to God for his mercies to us all.

Dear Maggie, this is Sunday again and no letter from you since that scolding one that you sent me about me giving them things to my Father. It may be that he did not take them and I hope to God that you will have no trouble till I come home. Dear Maggie, if I was not looking so much for a letter from you, I would have one before this for I never looked more for a letter since I left you—only the time you was sick after I left home.  Maggie, we expect to get a mail for sure by tomorrow for our Captain sent one of the officers to Cairo yesterday after it. We expect him by tomorrow on the mail boat. The Captain give him an order to the Post Master at Cairo to send our mail up here everyday while we are here so that after today, we will get our mail regular. There has no gunboat come up here for over a week and that is the reason that we get no mail. But we will get it after today on the mail boat.

Dear Maggie, I expect that you go to the post office pretty often to look for letters but you cannot look more than I do for all for all this week I have been looking very much for a letter from you. Every time that I seen smoke coming up the river, I would hope it was a gunboat but when they would come around the bend, it would be a transport instead of a gunboat for all the gunboats is painted black.

Dear Maggie, all steamboats outside of gunboats is called transports.

Dear Maggie, this is the 14th of May and some of the men on this boat think we will be discharged by the 14th of June and think that we will be discharged in the last of June or the first of July and I wish to God that it was this day. Maggie, I sent 10 dollars in my last letter. Let me know if you got it and I will send you more if you need it and if not, I will take care of it till I come home. But if you want it, I can send 10 dollars at a time to you as I would not like to trust any more in a letter.

Dear Maggie, enclosed in this letter you will find a piece about the Old Carondelet that I cut out of one of the St. Louis newspapers. The Carondelet has done her share in this war and I think they ought to lay her up on the shelf. Dear Maggie, we had indeed hard fighting last December at Nashville and many a poor Rebel fell from the shot and shell of the Old Carondelet and the whole Western ARmy talks well of the Old Carondelet.

Well, dear Maggie, I will come to a close by sending my respects to your Mother and the children and tell Reynolds that I expect to take a big glass of ale on the Fourth of July with him. Maggie, tell pap’s little pet that I will soon come home with candy to her and for her to be a good girl and take good care of her little brother till I come home. Dear Maggie, I have some winter clothes and a pair of blankets that I would like to send home if you send me the directions and where to send them. Well, I expect a letter from you tomorrow and will write to you again. May God bless and protect you and my two little pets till I come to you is the wish of your ever loving husband, — John Hagerty

John Hagerty, U. S. Gunboat Carondelet, Cairo, Ill.

 


TRANSCRIPTION LETTER SEVEN

On Board of the U. S. Gunboat Carondelet
Off Paducah, Kentucky
May the 18th 1865

Dear Wife,

The largest mail that ever came aboard of this boat came today. I received 5 letters and a paper from you. They are dated May the 4th, 5th, 8th, 10th, and 12 and I was glad to hear that you did not have much trouble in getting them things back from the old man.

Maggie, you ask me why I gave them to him. I have got the letter yet that he wrote to me about then and I will keep it till I come home for the war. He talked in his letter, I thought they were all going to lose so I don’t want you to say any more on that subject. And about the money that I was to send to him, is 10 dollars that I owe him—5 dollars that I got that you know of and 5 that I owed him for a long time. And I told him that I would send him some money to help buy things for himself meaning of course the 10 dollars that I owed him and I have not sent it to him yet, nor I will not send it to him till I go home.

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An image purported to be John Hagerty in his Navy uniform posted by a descendant on Ancestry.com

In your letter of the 12th, you say that you got my picture. I was ashore yesterday a little while and I had another picture taken for my sister Ellen. I enclose it in this letter so that you can see it. If you like it better than any of the rest, keep it and send her one of the others. Direct your letter to Dominick O’Donnell, East Liberty, Fayette county, Pa.

Margaret, you say that I speak to loving of you and you say I need not trouble myself for I don’t care for you. One letter you wrote me is as long as a late breakfast and it is all scolding. If it was a good letter, it would not be so long. You say also that you are sorry you married me. Well Margaret, I am very sorry that I am the cause of all your troubles and if I have cheated you out of a good husband, why I am sorry for it. You say in place of getting better, I am getting worse. Margaret, I don’t know why you talk in this way nor I don’t want to know till i come home for I have enough scolding letters now. So as I said in one of my letters about a month ago, if you can’t send me a quiet, peaceful letter, send none for I feel bad enough far away from home without such letters.

I am glad to hear that my boy and girl is getting along so well. I got a letter from McTighe and one from Dominick.

Yours husband, — John Hagerty

 


TRANSCRIPTION LETTER EIGHT

On Board of the U.S. Gunboat Carondelet
Paducah, Kentucky
Saturday, May the 20th 1865

My Dear Wife,

I take my pen in hand to inform you that I am well at present hoping that these few lines may find you and the children enjoying the same blessing. Thank God for His mercies to us all.

Dear Maggie, this is Saturday and I had some of the Negroes scrubbing up the Engine room when I heard my name called out. I went up on deck and I was glad to hear that there was a letter for me. It was dated May the 14th and O Dear Maggie, how glad I was to read it for thank God you made me happy by sending me a letter like this for it is the first one you sent me for a long time that made me feel happy for dear Maggie, sending scolding letters to me when I am so far away from home and friends — it is enough to make me crazy. But thank God you talk like you ought to now.

Dear Maggie, it makes me feel glad to hear that my little pets is getting along so well. God bless Mary Ellen’s little soul. She has no word to send to her pap but she wants him to come home. Tell my little pet that pap will soon be home with her for I think we will be discharged the last of June or the first of July. We are still anchored in the river at Paducah. We have no steam on now. The fires have been let out. We don’t even have general drill anymore and the men does nothing but eat, sleep, and lay around the decks telling old yarns and talking of home.

Dear Maggie, you say that you got both of my pictures. There is another on the way to you. Send it or one of the others to Ellen the first chance you get. Dear Maggie, I don’t like the directions you want me to put on the box but I will put it on anyhow and send it some time next week.

Dear Maggie, do not scold me anymore and you can pull my whisker after I come home. Maggie, I am glad that you paid John Carr for I was a going to send it to him but you have saved me the trouble now. Dear Maggie, I am glad to see you improving in your writing so fast for I can read your letters now first rate. Dear Maggie, the last letter that I wrote to you, I expect it will make you feel bad but I could not help it for I got 4 or 5 letters from you that day and you could not tell which of them gave me the biggest scolding and it made me feel very bad but now I hope it is all over and I will try and not get you into anymore trouble.

Dear Maggie, I think the time very long in passing around. I am very anxious to see little fattie. You say in your letters that Mary Coley’s husband left her. I am sorry for Mary. Maggie, there is trouble abroad as well as at home. Dear Maggie, when I send the box, I will not pay any freight on it as that is the way the other men send theirs and it is the safest way. Maggie, I was agoing to write you a long letter tomorrow but on account of me getting your letter, I sat down and wrote you this one.

Maggie, there is boats loaded with Rebel soldiers everyday going home. When they get  all home, then it will come our turn to go home.

Dear Maggie, the weather is very warm here now and the days long but I can keep in the shade. Well, dear Maggie, I don’t know what else to write at present so I will come to a close by sending my best respects to Reynolds, your Mother, and the children, and tell them that I expect soon to come up and see them. Dear Maggie, I send my love to you and to the little pets and I hope to God it will not be much longer to have the pleasure of embracing you and the dear little pets. And God bless and protect you and them is the wish of your loving husband.

— John Hagerty

John Hagerty, U.S. Gunboat Carondelet, Cairo, Illinois

 


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