Item Description: Letter, 3 April 1864, from James Gifford to his parents, describing the burning of Cape Lookout lighthouse, the rations on his ship, his duties, and how to “take snuff” like a Southern lady. Gifford, a United States Navy paymaster steward, served on the United States Bark Release during the Civil War. Gifford’s parents lived in New Bedford, Mass.
[Item transcription available below images]
US Ship Release
Off Beaufort N.C.
April 3rd 1864
I write you these few lines to let you know how I am getting along my health is good I was much pleased at receiving a letter from you to day bearing date of 29th ult. I see by it you have not received the news of its arrival. The best way to work it is to not send it in such a hurry again. On the box it said “through direct” and I find where they put them streight through it takes them long again to get here. We remain in same old position we did when we came out here. Every thing seems quiet around here. There is little trouble around here to day. Some mean rebel burnt Cape Lookout light house last night. The weather has been quite windy for some time back to night it rains some. Our living this month has come quite high for the Doctor the dam’d fool has stuck himself in decatur of the Mess and he has gone in quite strong for high living We have pigs feet, beef tongue, &c We have nice butter for 30 cents per pound and nice white sugar for 16 cents per pound and the doctor goes ashore and buys butter at 45 per lb and sugar at 25 per lb. I would go out of the mess if it was not for one thing the Masters mate has asked me to go into a mess by oursilves but I would rather pay a dollar a day than mess with him. It cost about 20 dollars for my living last month. You asked me what my business is aboard the ship. Week days I do what writing there is to do and when the rations are served out I have some one under me called (Jack of the dust) to do all the serving out while I stand with a pencil & book and set down what they have. Sundays at muster I have to call over the names of the men and read any notice that the Captain may give me All together it is work I like. I have not got up to Newbern yet for we are having a spell of bad weather lately and when we have some good weather again I shall go up. I have found a new way for mother to take snuff When I come home I will bring her a gum stick and show her the southern style of taking snuff. I guess father knows how it is done Will you please let me know whether Josiah is to work on to Nantucket or not Tell Tom Allen to write if he is not to busy. I am glad Dixie is learning to sing and I wish it was summer, so he could hear other birds sing. I cant think of any more to write at present and I will close