Item description: Letter, 2 February 1863, from Ruffin Thomson, 18th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, to his “Pa” (William H. Thomson).
More about Ruffin Thomson:
Ruffin Thomson was the oldest child and only son of William H. Thomson and Hannah Lavinia Thomson. He studied at the University of Mississippi and the University of North Carolina, leaving school in 1861 to enter the Confederate Army, serving as a private until February 1864, when he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Confederate Marine Corps. After the Civil War, he studied medicine in New Orleans and began a practice in Hinds County. In 1873, he married Fanny Potter. In 1888, he went to Fort Simcoe, Washington Territory, as clerk to the Yakima Indian Agency, hoping to recover his failing health, but instead died soon after his arrival.
[Transcription available below images.]
Feb’y 2nd, 1863
My dear Pa,
Tomorrow one of our company leaves for Mississippi, and I take the opportunity to break the already too long silence on my part. It really seems to me unaccountable how I could have failed to write you for so long a period of time. Very soon after the battle I prepared an elaborate account of what I saw of the fight, to send by one of our boys who expected to leave each day. Delay after delay occurred, and finally he failed entirely of getting off. By this time my letter had gotten too old to send, and I wished to recast it. In the meantime our duties became very onerous. Picketing and working on the entrenchments, etc., kept us busy. And until we got into our present delightful quarters I have not actually had tie to read the papers. Now it is quite different. We have all the time one could wish for attending to correspondence, reading, etc. My last was dated Dec. 1st. At that time my health was not good. I was much reduced by my diarrhea that had begun to assume a chronic form. This, I am glad to say, has entirely disappeared, and my general health is much better than it has been for a long time- in fact, I am a well man, both bodily and mentally; for how could it be otherwise since the dark clouds have begun to break, and signs of peace appear. The news from Charleston Harbor alone is enough to cure a man of his ailments. I look confidently for an early peace. Still, we must be prepared to meet the last onslaught of men made desperate and reckless by constant defeat. Rest assured that Lee and his army will be ready, let the odds be as they may.
We are now located in this place, apparently for the winter, doing picket duty. Our splendid accomodations are the more appreciated because of the hardships to which we had become accustomed. Men who have not slept inside a tent for ten months are apt to understand the blessing of houses, and feel duly thankful for the unwonted comforts of a tight roof and a plank floor. I am satisfied that no brigade in the Confederate service has accomodations equal to ours. We are quartered in the splendid brick mansions of the opulent and luxury-loving citizens of Fredericksburg, which have been vacant since the approach of the hostile armies at this point. Since room is no object, we are not crowded in the least. Each mess has its room, or more if necessary, ready furnished with every needful thing. Men who have not slept in a bed for near two years can now have the chance of spreading themselves out on couches of down. I will give you some idea of my place of abode, and from one example you may know the condition of all.
My mess, four in number, has a snug little room upstairs in the wing of a find brick residence. It is furnished with everything we could desire for our comfort – chairs, tables, bureaus – everything, in fact. Wood we get out of the cellars, water is conveyed within ten steps of our room by hydrant. Our commissary department is different, but we make the most of it, and eke out our rations by the judicious investment of a few dollars in such articles as we can get in town. We draw bacon or beef, flour and salt, with an occasional morsel of sugar. Today our bill of fare for dinner was as follows- boiled pork with parsnips and carrots (very fine) , hot rolls that would grace the table of a prince, with genuine coffee and sugar, and tomato catsup, vinegar, pepper, black and read, to flavor. This repast was eaten out of china dishes, on a table, with knives, forks and spoons, and chairs to sit in. Each man has his glass, and out water pitcher is of the finest cut glass.
Elbridge is our principal cook, and a capital hand he is. We have him to thank for our rolls, which cannot be beat by any lady in Mississippi, and I know there is not a girl of my acquaintance who can equal them. they are just like the light-bread Ma used to bake and just as good. An old lady in town supolied us with the yeast to give us a start. The parsnips and carrots we found in the garden and are very fine. A little butter is all that is wanted to make them as good as home, and that is saying “a heap”. Being the first to discover them, we took good care to lay in a supply. Coffee we can get by paying twenty-five cents per cup. What we had four dinner cost $2.00. We don’t indulge in luxuries of that kind often. Green pork is $1.00 per pound, sugar $1.50, milk $1.00 and $2.00 per gallon, eggs $1.50 per dozen, soda $5.00 per pound, sausages $1.00 per pound, butter $2.50, rice .25, etc. We occasionally have rice puddings, custards, cakes and many other delicacies, all of our own manufacture, and all of a quality that would astonish some of the young ladies of our country, could they but see them. They had better be taking new lessons in the gastronome art if they want to appear to advantage when we return to our homes.
I am very comfortably clad now, since I received the bundle brought by Lewis. A man needs but few clothes when he becomes accustomed to doing without them. So much flannel and possessions of one sort or another are unnecessary, if one would only school himself to do without them. I got a pair of shoes from the quartermaster’s department the other day, but there is a hold in one already. My old shoes with half-soling would be as good as new. I take them to a shoe-maker tomorrow. He charges only $6.00 for the job. It is the best I can do. If you can send me a pair the first chance as near like the others as possible. I received $60.00 by Lee and it came in good season.
I requested I. D. Pitts to carry home one of my trunks if he could find it; also to get a good yankee overcoat, if he could get one cheap, for if you wished it, or for me another winter. Please pay him for it, as I did not give him the money.
Many thanks to the young ladies who knit my gloves, helmet, etc. My jeans shirt and drawers are invaluable. I never wear a coat except in the rain. I prize my gaiters very much. the pepper flavors many a dish – there is nothing it does not improve.
I am in need of nothing in particular now. Should you have the chance, send me a box.
Love to all.
Your affectionate son.,
I receive a good many papers. They are very acceptable.