10 February 1863: “When we first began the life of a soldier our biscuits would have given a mule the despipsia; now rolls, light and luscious, grace our table.”

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.]

Item citation: From the Ruffin Thomson Papers #3315Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Item Transcription:

In Winter Quarters
Fredericksburg, Va.
Feb’y 10th, 1863.

Dear Pa,

I wrote you some days since by hand. I hope it will relieve you and ma of the anxiety you have felt on account of my long silence. How I could have been so criminally negligent I do not now see. I was in good spirits and fine health all the time, and my hands full of employment. When we were not on picket or entrenchment duty there was always something to do in the mess, we not having a servant. I am nevertheless to blame, and I hope I shall never again give you cause to complain.

Wesley Lewis arrived some days since, bringing a letter, and an amount of interesting news. We were not expecting him until spring, and I fear he will fail when hard times and hard marching commence again. He gets along very well here, for we have every comfort, no hard duty to perform. He brought my box as far as Richmond. He could get it no further by himself, and left it and his trunk in care of Capt. Leonard our regimental commissary, who proffered his services in getting them to the company. By virtue of his office he has greater facilities than anybody else in getting baggage through. I hope he may not lose the box, etc; still, I have my fears. He is already behind time. Wes is messing with me. He and I, Mumford and Steward of Dry Grove, constitute the mess, a convenient number for sleeping, and small enough to be pleasant. We live as well as we can wish, considering the means at our disposal. When we first began the life of a soldier our biscuits would have given a mule the despipsia; now rolls, light and luscious, grace our table. There is a corresponding improvement in the meat. We are not content with it cooked up the same way every day. Each meal sees a variation. Living as we do, I cannot help being in fine health. I shall be in good plight for the spring campaign.

By the way, there is a rumour current that our division (McLaw’s) will march in short time up the river. That there is some move contemplated is certain, but I should think we would be left to guard the place, being already here. For several days past great activity has been noticed on the Yankee side of the river, troops have been embarking on board the cars in great numbers. Of course, we could make nothing out of it, beyond mere conjecture, until today, when some head wiser than the rest, discovered it was only a Yankee Trick, or in other words, that they put troops on the cars in our sight to make us believe they were going away, when in fact, after going a few miles away they disembarked and returned. By this they hoped to induce our generals to send large reinforcements to North Carolina, thus weakening our line here, thereby making it vulnerable to an attack. I give you this as the ” last” – I hope we will not be moved, anyhow, until late in the spring.

Our picketing is lighter than ever before, and it is rendered so by our comfortable quarters. We go on every third night, stand four hours at night, same in day. After dark we go to the water’s edge, and in the daylight fall back to the houses, and watch from a window in some elevated position. Altogether we are as pleasantly located as we could desire, too good to last long.

I had my terry shoes half-soled today, and they seem as good as new, Jesse Thompson was over a few days since, also, Gus Bracey. Jess Saw my little trunk as he came on – it is same. we do not fear it all. All have been Vaccinated. One of our company took it in a mild form – I believe you called it
It scarcely stopped him.

I hear Mollie Hodges is married – hope she did as well as I could wish. I am all anxiety to get my box. I know there is something good in it.

Much love to all, Your son, Ruffin Thomson

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