Sometimes a “Dear John” Letter is really a Letter to “Dear John”

Joined
Aug 6, 2016
Messages
1,062
#1
"Dear John"

“Relating to your fears about Pa forcing me to write you and break off the engagement existing between us, I will say that you may rest satisfied, that he will never request me to write you on any subject. I do not think he will say anything more to me on that subject for a while.”

Love Jennie
July 8th, 1861 (Her 1st letter to her sweetheart)


fullsizeoutput_fc8.jpeg


John Nathan Coleman was born September 19, 1835 in Sparta, Georgia. In December 1854 at 19 years of age John moved to Texas. He becomes a wealthy merchant through his company “J.N. Coleman & Company.” As the Civil War approaches John believes and becomes active as Texas moves toward secession. Although he supports Texas in this effort the 1860 census reveals he owns no slaves.

He enlists in the South Kansas-Texas Regiment on June 3, 1861. The regiment will be known as the Third Texas Cavalry and within a year Coleman would rise to the rank of Captain as Assistant Commissary of Subsistence May 10, 1862. He obtained his highest rank on December 8, 1863 when he was promoted to Major and Brigade Commissary.

Virginia Eliza “Jennie” was born July 11, 1845 the daughter of Judge George B. and Eliza Adkins from Marshall, Texas. She was their 2nd child, and first daughter and would be joined by another sister and brother. Due to her father’s position as Judge and his ownership of a local hotel, the Adkins family had a slightly higher standard of living, but this was Texas in the mid-1800’s and a frontier town. She was 16 when she met 26 year old John Coleman and it was to be the love of their lives. When war began they were secretly engaged and their love story is told through their letters.


In Their Own Words

On September 19, 1861 John writes - - -

“To-day is my birthday and I have spent it in issuing Subsistence stores to the regiment for seven days. If I mistake now two years from today you promised to change your name. Jennie have you thought of it to-day? It is about all I have thought of.”

From Camp Wigfall he writes on December 13, 1861 - - -

“I never felt less like writing than to-night and there lives no one but you would could get me to write. I have been here near two weeks and rested one day only, and prospects bid fair for me to continue to work for some time”.

In the same letter he writes about Brother John who suffers from serious illness and fever and is being cared for by some ladies [ladies you’re going to enjoy this] - - -

“He thinks himself better but yet in danger. Neither his physician nor I think him in any danger whatever. The ladies with which we remain are very kind - they show that women, although the first sinner, the first tempter, is willing to sacrifice all to comfort and sustain him upon whom she first brought sin”.

Apparently, Major Coleman’s time of service ends in June, 1862 as Jennie writes him on April 21st, 1862 - - -

“Since writing last I have reconsidered the matter relative to your reenlisting, and I beg of you not to enter the service again. You will perhaps think I have lost my patriotism but my country is a dear to me as ever, but first in my affections is God, secondly you and then my country.”

It’s always interesting in reading letters between couples, the insecurity that naturally creeps in when there is such a long separation. John writes on January 10th, 1863 - - -

“Now my dear one instead of getting tired of and ceasing to love you I will say that not an hour passes that I do not think of you and still you believe I have forgotten you. Since you complained of my speaking so lightly of Miss Mollie Stone last fall I have not called on a young lady and rarely ever speak to one, only on business when I call at houses on the road. What greater evidence would you have to convince you that I am satisfied with the choice made.”

It had been awhile since John had heard from Jennie so he continues to write in this letter - - -

“I hope the above sufficient with other letters lately written are then enough to change your mind and cause you to once more write me, ‘I know you still love me’. God being my judge I would rather die than to cease loving you.”

A strange thing happened last night - I slept in a house in a real feather bed. What a difference - two blankets on the wet ground and a feather bed. We have been so long without tents and cooking vessels that we can sleep in mud holes so the water don’t run over our nostrils and eat raw beef or pork just killed so it is salty and a little warm.

“My health is better than in two years . . . even my baldness is passing away and a beautiful black hair is once more covering my head,” Coleman wrote. “My whiskers have also returned much blacker and have grown four inches long.”

January 11th (the next day) he pleads - - -

“I think I am entitled to a real love letter such as you used to write when we were first engaged. I think you have punished me enough for past bad conduct and it is time now to treat me kindly by writing a real devoted letter such as that true and devoted heart will dictate; yet my darling woman one, twice give full vent to your feeling or I shall think that you have commence to love some other person - ‘tit for tat’.”

Jennie’s Reply - February 8, 1863 - - -

“I really don’t know what to make of you. I thought every thing was going on so smoothly between us, and that you had long since ceased to doubt me, but I see you are again jealous. Why is it that you cannot trust me?”

‘Yes my cherished one I know you still love me, and your letter has led me to believe that you love me more than ever. You will never have any cause to quit loving me, for when I become your wife, I intend by help from God to do my duty, faithfully to the end.”

then she addresses and answers his health issues and his “beautiful black hair” - - -

“I am very happy to know you are enjoying good health, and that your hair is growing out thick and black. After all I will not have a gray baldheaded husband. But I don’t like very long whiskers.”

“God bless you my dearest; though I am separated from you by hundreds of miles, my heart is ever with you, my prayers daily offered up for you, my good wishes ever exercised in your behalf. I know I have yours in return. May God comfort you in your hours of sadness and protect your precious life.”

On August 9th, 1863 Major Coleman finally writes Jennie’s parents - - -

”For sometime an engagement has existed between your daughter and myself, and I embrace the present opportunity to request your approval of the engagement, and to ask your consent our marriage at some future day.

When I left Marshall two years ago, if my business had been settled, I would have had between five and six thousand dollars with which to commence life. With proper economy and industry I feel confident of my ability to support and maintain a wife becoming my standing in society.”


His answer was received in a letter to Jennie October 4, 1863 - - -

“Your father has given me the unkindest cut of all, by refusing to answer my letter. If had withheld his consent of our marriage I should have liked it better than no letter at all.”

The letters continue as the war continues, but Jennie and John are faithful to the end. They faced many challenges during the 4 years of separation, as did many couples.

* * * * * * *
The war had not been as kind to the Adkins family for Jennie’s older brother, George Jr., died on April 8, 1864, he was 1 month shy of his 21st birthday. He was killed during the Battle of Mansfield, (Battle of Sabine Crossing) in Louisiana. His last letter to his young wife is poignant as he told her that - - -

“he would soon fight his last battle, that he would be killed in that fight”. {5}


August 2, 1865

For 4 years and 2 days, Major John Coleman served in the Confederate army. He was blessed with the greatest gift - he survived and was paroled on May 15, 1865. Less than 2 months later he had another blessing in his life when Jennie met him at the alter at the Methodist Church in Marshall and became his wife.

They would make their home in Marshall and he would go back to his mercantile business. Census reports that by 1870, they had a net worth of approximately $2,000.00 ($30,000.00 in today’s money). The had six children.

Unfortunately, death which escaped Major Coleman during the war years, was not so kind in civilian life. He suffered a tragic industrial accident causing him to lose both his legs and would die shortly after the incident, October 16, 1880. He was 45.

Jennie lived another 52 years and she never remarried. 3 children survived her and she saw the birth of 15 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren. She was a member of the Methodist Church in Marshall, Texas for 71 years. She joined forever with her “first and only love” in 1832. She was 87 at the time of her death. Her final words to her family - - -

"I have lived my life; I am ready to go. Don't grieve for me.
Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of.”
{6}

First_Methodist_Church,_Marshall,_Texas.jpg

Methodist Church
Marshall, Texas

(Public Domain)

* * * * * * *


Sources
All quotes from letters are taken from my 1st source - Baylor University Coleman;
John Nathan Coleman and Virginia Eliza “Jennie” Adkins Papers - - -
1. http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/tx-colm/id/198
2. http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/tx-colm
3. https://www.baylor.edu/mediacommunications/news.php?action=story&story=177310
4. https://www.baylor.edu/content/services/document.php/164455.pdf
5. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/5836471/george-b_-adkins
6.
https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/114280477/virginia-elizabeth-coleman
 

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Karen Lips

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Jun 24, 2008
Messages
3,946
Location
Waxahachie,Texas
#2
"Dear John"

“Relating to your fears about Pa forcing me to write you and break off the engagement existing between us, I will say that you may rest satisfied, that he will never request me to write you on any subject. I do not think he will say anything more to me on that subject for a while.”

Love Jennie
July 8th, 1861 (Her 1st letter to her sweetheart)


View attachment 311774

John Nathan Coleman was born September 19, 1835 in Sparta, Georgia. In December 1854 at 19 years of age John moved to Texas. He becomes a wealthy merchant through his company “J.N. Coleman & Company.” As the Civil War approaches John believes and becomes active as Texas moves toward secession. Although he supports Texas in this effort the 1860 census reveals he owns no slaves.

He enlists in the South Kansas-Texas Regiment on June 3, 1861. The regiment will be known as the Third Texas Cavalry and within a year Coleman would rise to the rank of Captain as Assistant Commissary of Subsistence May 10, 1862. He obtained his highest rank on December 8, 1863 when he was promoted to Major and Brigade Commissary.

Virginia Eliza “Jennie” was born July 11, 1845 the daughter of Judge George B. and Eliza Adkins from Marshall, Texas. She was their 2nd child, and first daughter and would be joined by another sister and brother. Due to her father’s position as Judge and his ownership of a local hotel, the Adkins family had a slightly higher standard of living, but this was Texas in the mid-1800’s and a frontier town. She was 16 when she met 26 year old John Coleman and it was to be the love of their lives. When war began they were secretly engaged and their love story is told through their letters.


In Their Own Words

On September 19, 1861 John writes - - -

“To-day is my birthday and I have spent it in issuing Subsistence stores to the regiment for seven days. If I mistake now two years from today you promised to change your name. Jennie have you thought of it to-day? It is about all I have thought of.”

From Camp Wigfall he writes on December 13, 1861 - - -

“I never felt less like writing than to-night and there lives no one but you would could get me to write. I have been here near two weeks and rested one day only, and prospects bid fair for me to continue to work for some time”.

In the same letter he writes about Brother John who suffers from serious illness and fever and is being cared for by some ladies [ladies you’re going to enjoy this] - - -

“He thinks himself better but yet in danger. Neither his physician nor I think him in any danger whatever. The ladies with which we remain are very kind - they show that women, although the first sinner, the first tempter, is willing to sacrifice all to comfort and sustain him upon whom she first brought sin”.

Apparently, Major Coleman’s time of service ends in June, 1862 as Jennie writes him on April 21st, 1862 - - -

“Since writing last I have reconsidered the matter relative to your reenlisting, and I beg of you not to enter the service again. You will perhaps think I have lost my patriotism but my country is a dear to me as ever, but first in my affections is God, secondly you and then my country.”

It’s always interesting in reading letters between couples, the insecurity that naturally creeps in when there is such a long separation. John writes on January 10th, 1863 - - -

“Now my dear one instead of getting tired of and ceasing to love you I will say that not an hour passes that I do not think of you and still you believe I have forgotten you. Since you complained of my speaking so lightly of Miss Mollie Stone last fall I have not called on a young lady and rarely ever speak to one, only on business when I call at houses on the road. What greater evidence would you have to convince you that I am satisfied with the choice made.”

It had been awhile since John had heard from Jennie so he continues to write in this letter - - -

“I hope the above sufficient with other letters lately written are then enough to change your mind and cause you to once more write me, ‘I know you still love me’. God being my judge I would rather die than to cease loving you.”

A strange thing happened last night - I slept in a house in a real feather bed. What a difference - two blankets on the wet ground and a feather bed. We have been so long without tents and cooking vessels that we can sleep in mud holes so the water don’t run over our nostrils and eat raw beef or pork just killed so it is salty and a little warm.

“My health is better than in two years . . . even my baldness is passing away and a beautiful black hair is once more covering my head,” Coleman wrote. “My whiskers have also returned much blacker and have grown four inches long.”

January 11th (the next day) he pleads - - -

“I think I am entitled to a real love letter such as you used to write when we were first engaged. I think you have punished me enough for past bad conduct and it is time now to treat me kindly by writing a real devoted letter such as that true and devoted heart will dictate; yet my darling woman one, twice give full vent to your feeling or I shall think that you have commence to love some other person - ‘tit for tat’.”

Jennie’s Reply - February 8, 1863 - - -

“I really don’t know what to make of you. I thought every thing was going on so smoothly between us, and that you had long since ceased to doubt me, but I see you are again jealous. Why is it that you cannot trust me?”

‘Yes my cherished one I know you still love me, and your letter has led me to believe that you love me more than ever. You will never have any cause to quit loving me, for when I become your wife, I intend by help from God to do my duty, faithfully to the end.”

then she addresses and answers his health issues and his “beautiful black hair” - - -

“I am very happy to know you are enjoying good health, and that your hair is growing out thick and black. After all I will not have a gray baldheaded husband. But I don’t like very long whiskers.”

“God bless you my dearest; though I am separated from you by hundreds of miles, my heart is ever with you, my prayers daily offered up for you, my good wishes ever exercised in your behalf. I know I have yours in return. May God comfort you in your hours of sadness and protect your precious life.”

On August 9th, 1863 Major Coleman finally writes Jennie’s parents - - -

”For sometime an engagement has existed between your daughter and myself, and I embrace the present opportunity to request your approval of the engagement, and to ask your consent our marriage at some future day.

When I left Marshall two years ago, if my business had been settled, I would have had between five and six thousand dollars with which to commence life. With proper economy and industry I feel confident of my ability to support and maintain a wife becoming my standing in society.”

His answer was received in a letter to Jennie October 4, 1863 - - -

“Your father has given me the unkindest cut of all, by refusing to answer my letter. If had withheld his consent of our marriage I should have liked it better than no letter at all.”

The letters continue as the war continues, but Jennie and John are faithful to the end. They faced many challenges during the 4 years of separation, as did many couples.

* * * * * * *
The war had not been as kind to the Adkins family for Jennie’s older brother, George Jr., died on April 8, 1864, he was 1 month shy of his 21st birthday. He was killed during the Battle of Mansfield, (Battle of Sabine Crossing) in Louisiana. His last letter to his young wife is poignant as he told her that - - -

“he would soon fight his last battle, that he would be killed in that fight”. {5}


August 2, 1865

For 4 years and 2 days, Major John Coleman served in the Confederate army. He was blessed with the greatest gift - he survived and was paroled on May 15, 1865. Less than 2 months later he had another blessing in his life when Jennie met him at the alter at the Methodist Church in Marshall and became his wife.

They would make their home in Marshall and he would go back to his mercantile business. Census reports that by 1870, they had a net worth of approximately $2,000.00 ($30,000.00 in today’s money). The had six children.

Unfortunately, death which escaped Major Coleman during the war years, was not so kind in civilian life. He suffered a tragic industrial accident causing him to lose both his legs and would die shortly after the incident, October 16, 1880. He was 45.

Jennie lived another 52 years and she never remarried. 3 children survived her and she saw the birth of 15 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren. She was a member of the Methodist Church in Marshall, Texas for 71 years. She joined forever with her “first and only love” in 1832. She was 87 at the time of her death. Her final words to her family - - -

"I have lived my life; I am ready to go. Don't grieve for me.
Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of.”
{6}

View attachment 311775
Methodist Church
Marshall, Texas

(Public Domain)

* * * * * * *


Sources
All quotes from letters are taken from my 1st source - Baylor University Coleman;
John Nathan Coleman and Virginia Eliza “Jennie” Adkins Papers - - -
1. http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/tx-colm/id/198
2. http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/tx-colm
3. https://www.baylor.edu/mediacommunications/news.php?action=story&story=177310
4. https://www.baylor.edu/content/services/document.php/164455.pdf
5. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/5836471/george-b_-adkins
6.
https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/114280477/virginia-elizabeth-coleman
Thanks for sharing. So touching.
 
Joined
Aug 6, 2016
Messages
1,062
#5
Thank you all for discovering the love between John and Jennie. I found their letters so - - - human. They wrote what was on their hearts never dreaming their words would ever be public, and at the same time gave us an insight of their emotions and helps us view relationships during the war when this was the only form of communication. Their interactions are priceless and how wonderful that it continued until in “death” they did part.
 

Northern Light

Lt. Colonel
Forum Host
Joined
Jul 21, 2014
Messages
10,696
#6
They wrote what was on their hearts never dreaming their words would ever be public,
This is something that I struggle with when reading diaries and letters. We can become so intimately involved in the lives of people, in a way that we would not be able to even if knowing them well in life. As interesting and as informative as such things can be, it often strikes me as very intrusive into the intimate lives of the writers. Although they are long past caring, one might assume, it makes me feel uncomfortable.
As they were kept, and not destroyed, I suppose that means that they did not have an issue with others reading them, but there might be circumstances which precluded that destruction. Oh dear, "tis a puzzlement"!
 
Joined
Aug 6, 2016
Messages
1,062
#7
Maybe General George Henry Thomas knew what he was doing when he requested all his letters and such be destroyed as he didn't want history picking through his life. However, I feel the same way, yet what an insight their letters give us today.
 



Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Top