Mary Lack was 15 in February 1862 when a Mississippi soldier gave her a Valentine to remember.
"I love you, Mollie, you need not be uneasy," Pvt. Thomas H. Magee told Mary, using his nickname for her, as they stood in her family's parlor in Leesburg.
Then he kissed her.
In wartime, romance blooms quickly. Mary had known Magee -- she called him Magee or, less often, Tommy -- for only three months, but her thoughts turned to a wedding and life with him in Mississippi. After the war was over, all would be well, and they would live in a pretty white house with flowers all around.
For one year, Nov. 24, 1861, to Nov. 11, 1862, Mary shared her feelings with a diary, writing as though she were confiding in her best friend. There was gossip about the town drunks and disgust for the Northern sympathizers. She worried about the cost of seeing the dentist and fumed when she had to take over kitchen duties because her mother was ill.
But mostly she pined for Magee, a farmer from Union, six years her senior.
"Bless his heart, he's the sweetest darling that ever lived," she wrote one day. On another, "Dear Magee, I wish he was safe out of this old war."
In her own way, Mary was also in the midst of the war. Her King Street house trembled when cannons were fired nearby, and the moans of the wounded could be heard as they were carried to the hospital around the corner.
Mary and Magee had met at Sunday services at nearby St. James Episcopal Church when his regiment was camped just outside town. Her parents invited him and several other soldiers to come home with them for dinner, and Magee returned often after that. He and Mary wrote poems to each other and played card games that would forecast their future.
She made him pouches and sewed him hats. He brought her sheet music.
Then, on a windy, cold day in early March, Magee's 18th Mississippi regiment broke camp and left town. "They set fire to all the camps, stockyards, Smart's Mill, the depot before they left," she wrote.
Then she waited for letters, spending time working on patchwork quilts, making a summer dress and helping her mother in the kitchen.
"I wonder where my dear darling Magee is now," she wrote. "God bless him and protect him from all harm."
There were no letters.
Six months had passed when the Mississippi boys again marched through Leesburg.
"The whole Southern army has been passing by here these last two or three days on their way over to Maryland," she wrote on Sept. 7.
She was at the gate, watching the troops, when she saw him.
"Directly he came out to where I was and put his arm around me and pressed a kiss on my lips. My heavens, I felt like I was in heaven."
Then he was gone, carrying the war north to Sharpsburg, Md., and the Battle of Antietam.
Her diary ends in November -- still with no word from Magee.
His service records show that he was wounded on Sept. 17 at Sharpsburg and sent to a hospital in Winchester, remaining on the injured list for the next 10 months.
But he was uninjured during the previous July and August, when, according to those same records, he was on a two-month furlough that he apparently didn't spend in Leesburg. But he was injured again at Cold Harbor on June 2, 1864, ending up at a Richmond hospital, where a finger was amputated. He was out of action through October 1864, then returned to his unit only to desert on Feb. 23, 1865.
Mary did not live to see the end of the war or the fulfillment of her dream -- with Magee or a later love. She died in Leesburg on July 27, 1864, at 18 -- the cause is not recorded, although consumption commonly claimed young lives in those days -- and is buried in the St. James cemetery.
Calendar of Events Richmond: Through March 5. At the Virginia Historical Society, an exhibit, "Old Virginia: The Pursuit of a Pastoral Ideal," on conflicting images of Old Virginia as "moonlight and magnolias" or a society built on slavery. Fee charged. 804-342-9665.
Centreville: 7:15 p.m. today. At the Centreville Regional Library, historian and author Paula Elsey speaks on her forthcoming book, "Stone Ground: A History of Union Mills," at the Bull Run Civil War Round Table. Free. 703-830-2223.
Frederick: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. At the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, historian Adrian Tudor speaks on the signal corps with demonstrations of period telegraph equipment. Fee charged. 301-695-1864.
Alexandria: 12:30 p.m. Monday. At the George Washington Birthday Parade, a call for reenactors representing both sides to march with the Robert E. Lee Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans; meet at Wilkes and S. St. Asaph streets. Free. For information, call Bob Brown at 703-4772.
Arlington: 2 p.m. Feb. 23. At the Arlington House, Robert E. Lee Memorial, the National Park Service Book Club meets with author Mary Coulling, speaking on her book, "The Lee Girls." Free. 703-235-1530, Ext. 228.
Baltimore: 7 p.m. Feb. 26. At the Maryland Historical Society, a talk by author Leslie S. Rowland, director of the Freedmen and Southern Society Project at the University of Maryland, on experiences of African Americans in the military during the Civil War. Fee charged. 410-685-3750.
Ellicott City: 7 to 8:20 p.m. March 1. At the Ellicott City Railroad Station Museum, a Civil War candlelight tour every 20 minutes with period characters and four war scenarios. Fee charged. Advance reservations required. 410-461-1945.
Baltimore: 10:30 a.m. to noon March 8. At the President Street Station, James Warehime speaks on the "Irish Connection and Maryland Civil War Uniforms," hosted by Friends of the President Street Station. Fee charged. 410-437-4467.
Frederick: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 8. At the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, historians Glenn and Gloria Baugher speak on Confederate medical practices, drug substitutions and soldier dental care. Fee charge. 301-695-1864.
Alexandria: 1 p.m. March 8. At Fort Ward Museum and Historic Site, DeAnne Blanton discusses her book, "They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the Civil War." Free but reservations suggested. 703-838-4848.
Leesburg: 7:30 p.m. March 11. At the Thomas Balch Library, the great-grandson of Gen. James Longstreet, Dan Petersen, discusses Longstreet at the Loudoun County Civil War Round Table. Free. Call 540-822-4480.