“Dear Lady…I Salute You”: John V. Hadley’s Letter Greetings & Closings

Finding a good romance in primary source letters can be a rare delight. There are lots of hints in letters about “crushes” (to borrow a modern term), particularly in younger soldiers’ letters. But every once and a while, a collection of soldier letters holds that clear progression from “I think he LIKES her” to “Yeah, this soldier is in love.”

When I read John V. Hadley’s letter collection last year, it was like finding a primary source romance novel—19th Century style, of course. Hadley of the 7th Indiana Infantry seems like a good man from what we can piece together from his letters and written interactions with Miss Mary Hill, and getting to watch their romance unfold through the pages of his letters across three years is an experience. There is one final letter that he wrote in 1865, confirming that he survived the war and a brief imprisonment before going home to his dearest.

John V. Hadley, post war photograph

Instead of highlighting just one letter or a few of the excerpts this Valentine’s Day, I wanted to share the salutations and closings of Hadley’s letters across the years as he wrote from camp, hospital, and battlefield. Even when the content of his letters was “typical soldier,” the continually changing forms of the beginnings and endings of his letters is a way to track the growing relationship and then romance between John Hadley and Mary Hill. For the purpose of this blog post, I have not included every salutation and closing, but rather have chosen the ones where there is noticeable change (or something slightly odd and funny). He signs his name in a variety of ways, including the abbreviation “Jno” for John, which is not a typo. I have also standardized the format of the letter dates to simply reflect one of the typical ways that Hadley wrote that detail.

One of my favorite closings in this collection is “I salute you” which Hadley uses rather frequently. Not only does it carry the military tradition in the wording, but “salute” could also mean a gentle kiss of greeting or farewell, and I’ve seen the word used that way in mid-19th century literature. Which version of the word did Hadley mean to imply? There’s something a unique and special if he intended it both ways, a hint at his affection and a nod to his military duty.

If you’re one of “the few, these happy few,” signing a Valentine today, perhaps Lieutenant Hadley’s words will give you some extra inspiration! (And if not, have a piece of chocolate anyway…)

September 21/61

Mollie J Hill

My dearest friend – under rather peculiar circumstances I am found in my tent this morning, writing my first letter as a Soldier. I say as a Soldier. Well I think I am this morning in a full appreciation of a Soldiers life – I look like a Soldier – I feel like a Soldier – & act like a Soldier. One week ago to day we left our beloved State to encounter the stern realities of War in the Godforsaken State of Virginnia[sp]….

For the present receive my kindest wishes, & believe me your truest friend J.V.H.

October 25/61

My dear lady….

Hoping to enjoy with you long friendship & that too of the truest nature, I subscribe myself for the present your truest friend J.V.H.

February 4/62

Amiable friend….You will write soon, and believe me as Your dear friend John

[first time he signs with his first name only]

May 1/62

Well Mary why don’t I get a letter? I can’t accuse you of unfaithfulness yet I must own that I have become somewhat impatient about a letter…. I close – write soon & believe me as ever your best friend & wisher J.V. Hadley

May 10/62

My dear lady…. I salute you – Jno V Hadley

July 22/62

Friend Mary – I write to day under very embarrassing circumstances…. [explains that he has heard she is marrying another man and feels that it is not appropriate to continue their correspondence] I cannot write longer – politeness forbids – I could tell you many things but cannot now for this is the third letter at least since I had one from you, excuse my impertinence for you know my honesty. I am as ever Jno.

Aug 17/62

My dear Mollie [All is resolved. Explains that many young men had been deceived by girls at home and his sense of honor and honesty made him write the previous letter.] I have the honor to be your best friend J.V. Hadley

Sept 16/62

My dearest friend….Your loving friend John

[first time love is used in a closing]

Dec 1/62

Dear girl….[looks forward to seeing her soon during a furlough] I am very affectionately Yours, J.V. Had.

Jan 25/63

My dear friend….With a heart yearning to return to assure you of its fidelity I remain faithfully Yours Jno. V Had.

Feb 7/63

Endeared Mary….At present I am devotedly Your friend John

April 26/63

My dear girl…. must close – Happiest Dreames[sp] to night, I salute you J. Vestal

July 26/63

My dearest….I am yours J.V.H.

August 25/63

Darling Mary…. I’m on picket again – got the toothache. I salute you. John

October 21/63

Dearest Beloved…. Dearest I believe love of woman will conquer love of war and if God in his providence will once more lead me to civil life that I will remain there unless I feel that my services are absolutely necessary. May Heaven bless & keep you for the happiness of J.V.H.

January 21/64

Dearest girl…. Yours devotedly, John

January 28/64

Beloved lady…. [tells her he’s buying her a ring] Your Devoted J.V.H.

February 3/64

Dearest Mary…. forever yours J.V.H.

February 14/64

Dearest…. Good night love. Your John

February 21/64

Loved Mary…. Your devoted J.V. Hadley

April 3/64

Dearest Mary…. Mary, will you tell me your age?; if I ever knew I have certainly forgotten. Yours only – J.V.H.

April 20/64

Dearest…. I go to the front tomorrow – only yours. J.V.H.

May 1/64

Beloved Mary, I little expected this letter would be written. I had supposed we would be on the march before this time, but we have no stronger evidence of an early march now than we had a week ago…. Such is war & such I have gotten tired of…. Dearest good night – four month[s] is but a short time, & if life lasts I shall be at your side to assure you how much I am Your devoted Jno

January 31/65

Dear Mary, I have returned – have done my business at Washington – have become a citizen of the State of Indiana & feel fully the liberties I once enjoyed. If God in his goodness will permit I shall be supremely happy to greet my Mary at her father’s house on next Saturday evening. Devotedly J.V. Hadley


James I. Robertson, Jr. and Jane Hadley Comer, “An Indiana Soldier in Love and War: The Civil War Letters of John V. Hadley”, published in Indiana Magazine of History, Vol. 59, No. 3. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1963). Accessed through Jstor.

5 Responses to “Dear Lady…I Salute You”: John V. Hadley’s Letter Greetings & Closings

  1. The word “crush” in a romantic sense is first noticed in 1884 as the slang successor to the term “mash.” So yes, modern slang but not long after the American Civil War.

  2. Pingback: Emerging Civil War

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