Item description: Letter, 6 June 1863, from George Washington Gift to his fiancee Ellen Augusta Shackelford. Gift writes a few days after the 27 May 1863 explosion that destroyed the ship on which he had been serving (the gunboat C.S.S. Chattahoochee).
George Washington Gift (b. 1833) was raised in Tennessee, and went to California some time before the Civil War. He came home from California in the summer of 1861 in order to join the Confederate Navy. He served on several C.S.N. vessels in the coastal waters of North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Alabama, including the C.S.S. Chattahoochee, based at Chattahoochee, Fla.; the C.S.S. Gaines, based at Mobile, Ala.; the R.E. Lee, off the North Carolina coast; and the Tallahassee, based at Wilmington, N.C. In April 1864, Gift married Ellen Augusta Shackelford of Early County, Ga. After the war, Gift spent time in New York City; in Memphis, Tenn., where the Gift family apparently lived; and in Hong Kong.
Columbus, Ga. June 6th 1863
Since my arrival here I have been suffering with illness induced by exposure after the loss of the “Chattahoochee.” I have recovered however and will leave for Mobile at 12 o’clock tonight and will arrive at that place at 9 P.M. to morrow. On Monday morning I will call upon the admiral and ascertain my fate. I made a visit to day to the cotton and woolen mills in this place and was very much interested in them. I was astonished at myself for not having gone before, as I am a confirmed “sight see’r.” The Secretary of the Navy wishes more officers at Mobile consequently I must go over; however I would much rather remain here, although I will have more and better opportunities at Mobile for getting in the blockade business If I do not go out for a Georgia Company.
The news from Vicksburg thus far is very encouraging and will be all we can wish in a few days. The enemy will be driven from that point and beaten most terribly. A great many think that we are at the turning point in the war if our army is successful in the Mississippi. I feel confident of success. Within the next two days the campaign around Vicksburg will close gloriously for us, and then you will see General Johnston moving his forces with all haste towards Tullahoma, when he will drive Rosencranz before him into Kentucky. Our cause is very bright; everything looks well. But will we get peace by our victories? Will not the enemy commence the raising of new armies for the next year, or will he go to making a new President? I confess that I have little or no hope of peace, there is not an indication on the horizon that would look that way. If our iron clad in the Alabama river were only done we could easily repossess New Orleans and the Mississippi river from the mouth of the Ohio down. What a pity it is that we cant do so.
You see by the style of this letter than I have very little to write about. Being a stranger here I have nothing of a local nature to detail.
Mssrs. Craig and Gilder are getting well quite fast. They were attended to by the ladies with a great deal of care, and I am thinking about burning my foot. After arriving at Mobile I will write at length as I shall then have much to communicate. We have an assistant surgeon here, Dr. W. C. Jones, from Mississippi who went out as a private in Capt. Hamilton’s Company – the “Southern Guards.”
Very kind regards to all and believe me,
Very truly your friend,
Geo. W. G.
To Miss Ellen Augusta Shackelford
Near Bainbridge, Ga.