In today’s world of technology, most people email or text instead of writing letters in order to communicate. However, during the War Between the States, letter writing was the primary mode of sending information. Thus, this letter, written by Mary Louisa (Mollie) Paine to Lieutenant Hanibal Paine, is a treasure, and reading it gives us insight into the life and times of families during war time. This is also part of our history which allows us to be “up close and personal” with the parties involved so that we can understand their life first-hand.

According to my research, Orville and Elvira (Locke) Paine lived on a large farm east of what is now Evensville, in Rhea County. Their children included the following: Horatio, Flavius Joseph, Eveline (Eva), Hannibal, Mary Louisa (Mollie), Angelina (Ann), Alfred (Buck) and Susan. Hannibal Paine (1839-1867) was in Captain John Crawford’s Company (26th Tennessee Regiment), and was elected Lieutenant. Mary Louisa (Mollie) Paine (1842-1896) was a member of the Girls Confederate Company (Spartans) that was organized during the war. She was married to Dr. Richard W. Colville.

The Paine and Colville letters can be found in a Rhea County Historical and Genealogical Society publication, “A Personal Look at the Civil War in Rhea and Meigs Counties, Tennessee. This letter, written by Mary Paine to her brother, Hanibal, was one hundred and fifty-seven years old this past January. The letter follows, in its original form, including misspelled words; correct spelling and other explanations are in parenthesis.

LETTER FROM MARY L. PAINE

TO LT. HANIBAL PAINE

Near Washington, Jan 29/63

Dear Brother

I received your letter sent by Lieut Knight on last Tuesday. He came over and took dinner and staid (stayed) about two hours with us. He said that he would come back and see us again before he went off if he had time. The ammunition you sent to Buck (Alfred Paine, another brother of Mary’s) all came safe, also a package of letters. Buck was much pleased to get it for ammunition is very scarce and hard to get about here. We will send you the articles you speak of wanting.

We received a letter from Joe (Flavius Joseph Paine, another brother of Mary’s) dated the 25th. He was at Greenville (Greeneville, TN) when the letter was written. The election had not come off. He said that the company was going to start to Washington County on a scout and would be gone about six days enforcing the conscript. Lt Col Bean is still in Washington. He has not been out to see us yet. I do not care if he does not come at all for I think he is a coward and managed to keep out of the battle. He says he never wanted to be in a hard battle.

But I must tell you about the candy stew that they had at Uncle Frank’s (Franklin Locke) last Friday night. Miss Jennie and Manurva had been up above town on a visit and came back there and asked if they might have one there. She told them she did not care if Uncle Frank was willing. She said she had no idea that he would be, so they waited until he came home and then they begged him until he agreed that they might have one there. So they went on home and came back that night with several other girls and had a fine time they say. But I will tell you who was there and then you can guess what a time they had. There was Miss Jennie, Manurva Sharp (?), Ann Gillespe (Gillespie), Jane Locke, Mollie Kelly and Isabel Cunnyngham. Bean was the only young gentleman that was there.

Mother and Ann (Angelina, sister of Mary’s) went over the next Morning. Ann said she had a long conversation with Bean and enjoyed herself finely. The girls all left soon after they got there and Bean stayed until after dinner and then went down to town. He said the commander of that Brigade of cavalry had gone to Knoxville to get them all furloughed for thirty days. I think they had better disband at once and come home for there is some of them always at home. I do not believe that they will ever do much fighting. I think they have several cowards among them.

There was a man here last Saturday that said he was very well acquainted with you. That he saw you while you were in Prison at Johnsons Island and that he would like very much to see you. He had been wounded badly in the face also in the arm and the first finger on his right hand was off. He said that he was wounded and taken prisoner at Shilo (Shiloh). We prepared him some dinner and he eat and seemed very thankful to get it. He said his name was Chomley and that he was in search of employment. He said he wanted to work on the farm. He went on towards Knoxville from here.

I wrote you in my last letter that there was a courier here, but it was a mistake, it was one of Seats men. He was so drunk that he did not know what he was telling. He said he was a courier and that he was going to stay 15 weeks. He also said that the man that was with him was wounded but he too was only drink (drunk). They staid (stayed) all night and left the next morning and I was not sorry of it for I had got tired out with the cavalry.

There was one of Capt Robinsons men of Bledsoe staid (stayed) with us last night. There is also two of Morgans men here tonight. They have been up about Sweet Water (Sweetwater) on some business they say.

We have sent John McDaniel word that he had better go to his company. I expect he is able to go if he was anxious to get back. But I believe I have written you all that I can think of. We are all well and in fine spirits. We would be glad if you could get off to come home. I hope that you will have a chance to come before long. Some of us will write again in a few days. Write soon.

As ever your Sister,

Mary

From further research, I found that a candy stew was a form of entertainment which was classified as a social event, sometimes spontaneous, to entertain guests and children. Candy Stews could also be well planned, having meals and activities, and be for birthday parties, or rewards for school, church and other groups, as well as social events. Also included in these events might be taffy-pulling and molasses pulls, with both males and females attending. However, some of these candy stews could be more involved, including supper and games.

By reading this letter, we gain an insight to war time in Rhea County, and one family living in the middle of history. It is interesting to read about people, places, and events in the lives of our Rhea County ancestors during the War Between the States, and to see how families lived during this time in our history. Because of the picture of life shown in old letters, we see that it is very important to preserve our history. Therefore, we should study the past in order to live in the present and prepare for the future.

Pat Guffey can be reached at pat459@charter.net