1 March 1863: “With proper application, why cannot I exchange the snows and mud of Virginia for the dancing billows of the Atlantic?”

Item description: Letter, 1 March 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 Folder 6 of the Ruffin Thomson Papers #3315Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Item transcription:

Fredericksburg, Va., March 1st/ 63

Dear Pa,

John Parson leaves for Hinds tomorrow morning on furlough, and I send this note by him. I wrote but a few days since by mail. I write this principally with a view to renewing my endeavor to get into the navy. If I have to serve my country, why can’t I do it in a branch of the service more suited to my disposition? That I can be equally useful to the cause in the navy I am certain, for with what education I have I know I can easily render myself capable of performing the duties of midshipman, the post I desire. There seems to be an earnest endeavor by the Government to equip a navy, and why can’t I be one of the instruments employed? I have done my duty while on the field as earnestly as I know how and I flatter myself that painful though it was, I have succeeded as well as the best.

My marching is frequently made distressing by shooting pains in my knees, not enough, however, to prevent me from performing my duty. You remember I applied to Gov. Brown last year to lend me his influence in getting the position desired. The time of presenting my name was peculiarly unpropitious. Norfolk and New Orleans were taken, a large part of of our seaboard was lost, and the prospects of the navy department were at a low ebb. And so I suppose I failed. Now our cause on the waters is upheld by a Semmes, a Moffett and other bold men and true; and there seems to be every prospect that our navy will be increased day by day. With proper application, why cannot I exchange the snows and mud of Virginia for the dancing billows of the Atlantic? I have thought on the matter constantly for a long time, and it is the pet scheme of my present existence. Can’t you get me the influence of such men as W.P. Harris, Gov. Pettus and others? Harris is said to be all-powerful at Richmond. As to Gov. Brown, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that he can’t be counted upon, for the reason that his son, Capt. Brown, is violently opposed to losing any of his men, as it detracts from his own importance to lessen the number of his company. It seems a selfish policy for a man to try to keep other men down in order to keep himself up; but selfish and unjust as it is, however, Gov. Brown is too much devoted to his son to do anything to injure his prospects or interfere with his ambition.

These are my reasons for wishing other influence than your friend and neighbor, Gov. Brown. That you will understand them I readily believe, and that you will, at an early day,urge the matter forward to a successful determination, I earnestly hope. The dangers of a live in the navy and army are about equally balanced, I suppose; but suppose the one was doubly as dangerous as the other – why should that be an obstacle in the way of a brave man? Shall a man be made an infantry drudge because of the dangers that may surround any other service? The war will not end tomorrow or the next day, and I want to spend the remainder on the water, and the salt water at that. I have never heard you say anything that lead me to believe that you opposed this desire of mine; and I know that Ma will not place a barrier in the way of the only chance of advancement I ever had! I know I love my country as well as anyone, and will sacrifice as much as anyone for the advancement of the cause; but still it is only natural for one to have some ambition, and it is also natural for one to chafe at the idea of being kept down at the will and pleasure of a subordinate, superior in office, as is the case with me, for in a late conversation with Capt. Brown he informed me of his determination to keep all the men he had. All I ask is, give me a chance, and that too away from the sight or thought of old acquaintances. get me on some sea-going vessel, and I will try to make you and Ma proud of your son, and win a name for the family now extinct. I know you must sanction my desire, and will use your endeavors to gain me the humble position I desire.

I could say more, but it would be a waste of words, as you understand the subject as well as I. I await your earliest letter on the subject with solicitude.

Your son,

Ruffin Thomson

My health is good, in fat, never was better. I guess we are to go to Petersburg very soon. Write soon.

This entry was posted in Southern Historical Collection and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.