These two letters were written by 1st Class Fireman John Haggerty (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 Haggerty (1862-1928) and John T. Haggerty (1864-1956) who John called “little fat tie.” [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 Haggerty 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. These letters were written in May 1865 following the war but before the crew of the Carondelet was discharged. 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 Haggerty’s gravemarker in the Sacred Heart Cemetery in Dunbar, Fayette County, Pennsylvania, appears in the on-line TribLIVE News.
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
On Board of the U.S. Gunboat Carondelet
Off Paducah, Kentucky
May the 11th 1865
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
[Direct to:] John Hagert, U.S. Gunboat Carondelet, Cairo, Illinois
TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
On Board of the U.S. Gunboat Carondelet
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 Maggine, 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
U.S. Gunboat Carondelet