Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-x

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Introduction

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pp. 1-34

On April 12, 1865, Captain George Washington “Wash” Nelson Jr., a Confederate prisoner of war, had just heard that Middleway, West Virginia, where his cousin and fiancée, Mary Nelson “Mollie” Scollay, lived, had been the scene of a battle the previous August. Wash was perplexed. The two had been in touch during the months since the battle, but Mollie had said nothing of it. “Where were you, Mollie, when bullets were flying through your house and the porch blown up?” he asked in a letter....

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Editorial Method

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pp. 35-38

This volume presents the entire collection of fifty- five extant letters that George Washington Nelson Jr. (Wash) and his fiancée, Mary Scollay (Mollie), exchanged between 1863 and 1865. They are housed in the Nelson Family Papers collection at Virginia Tech’s Special Collections Library (Blacksburg, Va.); copies are also held at Long Branch Plantation (Millwood, Va.). There are five letters from 1863, twenty-six from 1864, and twenty-four from 1865. Envelopes for many of these letters exist in...

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CHAPTER 1. 1863: From Soldier to Prisonern

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pp. 39-47

Wash Nelson had been off fighting for the Confederacy, communicating with Mollie intermittently. He had recently visited with her at her home in northern Virginia, though the circumstances of his absence from the army are unclear because the sources do not refer to an official furlough or pass. Perhaps Wash took advantage of his position on General William Nelson Pendleton’s staff and surprised Mollie with a visit without leave. Because Wash’s command moved frequently, Mollie often did not know...

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CHAPTER 2. Winter and Spring 1864: From One Prison to Another

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pp. 48-62

This is the first of two chapters of correspondence from the tumultuous year of 1864. Wash was imprisoned at Johnson’s Island and Mollie remained at her home in Middleway. As war raged on around them, the couple shared news and stories about their families and friends, as well as their private and intimate yearnings. In particular, both wished for an exchange of prisoners. Each move to a new prison brought Wash a brief glimmer of hope, only to be dashed by the prospect of prolonged...

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CHAPTER 3. May– December 1864: “There Is Always Some Jonah”

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pp. 63-80

As Mollie’s letter dated April 5, 1864, indicated, the lovers expected to be reunited in that year. Yet one thing prevented this reunion: the slipshod exchange efforts being pursued by the Union and the Confederacy. Wash was frequently on the move in the spring and summer of 1864. In May 1864, Wash was a patient in Hammond General Hospital at Point Lookout Prison. Having recovered from his illness, he returned to the prison at Point Lookout the next month and was assigned to the officer’s camp....

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CHAPTER 4. Early Spring 1865: Silence and Anxiety

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pp. 81-96

What Wash and Mollie felt and experienced after Wash’s final letter from Fort Pulaski on Halloween Day, 1864, is difficult to know for sure. Indeed, Wash’s removal to Morris Island and Fort Pulaski made it more difficult to send and receive letters. While the reason for this difficulty is unclear, letters leaving prisons were likely more restricted because there was no land route for mail transportation. It is also possible that part of the retaliation included stricter mail regulations. While the causes were...

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CHAPTER 5. Spring to Autumn 1865: Surrender and Allegiance

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pp. 97-118

By the close of April 1865, the war had ended and Wash faced pledging an oath of allegiance to the United States. He and Mollie waited anxiously for his release from prison and return home, a homecoming that did not occur until June. Thereafter, correspondence between Wash and Mollie no longer left each other’s hands unsealed so that the eyes of a prison inspector could read them. No longer confined to a single-page restriction, Wash wrote about his thoughts and emotions even more than...

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CHAPTER 6. “A Dark Record of Suffering and Oppression”: Wash Nelson’s Memoir

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pp. 119-138

After the war, Confederate veterans and their sympathizers struggled to understand defeat. In particular, they wondered how God would allow “the Yankees”—whom they perceived as a morally inferior people—to achieve victory over the morally superior South. After men returned from army and prison life, their experiences haunted them, and we see the specter of war vividly in the following story Wash wrote in 1866 about his captivity. Juxtaposed with his letters, the memoir is a portal into the...

Acknowledgments

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pp. 139-140

Select Bibliography

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pp. 141-144

Index

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pp. 145-149