11 April 1863: “The giant mind of Lee is even now, I confidently believe, moulding plans of attack, should Hooker fail to advance…”

Item Description:  Letter, dated 11 April 1863, from Ruffin Thomson to his father, William H. 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.

Item Citation:  Letter dated 11April 1863, from folder 6 in the Ruffin Thomson Papers #3315, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Item Transcription:

The duties of a marine officer are similar to those of the infantry. In fact, regular marines are sharp shooters on board ship. As yet they are employed to man heavy batteries defending the principal seacoast cities. I feel competent to fill the position.Fredericksburg, Va.,
April 11th, 1863Dear Pa,

The last I received from you came by Hester. It is gratifying indeed to know that you all continue in health and prosperity. It leaves me free from that bane of many a gallant soldier – the thought of home going to ruin and property destroyed. It is cheering, too, to perceive the growing self-reliance and confidence of the Southwest, ’tis there that most troublesome enemy is to be met and overcome. Here every thing is safe. Hooker does not seem to know what to do. All the known routes to Richmond have been tried, and certain destruction awaits him on any of them. To remain Idle during good weather is equally dangerous. Before this can possibly reach you operations will have begun – one or the other party must take the offensive. The giant mind of Lee is even now, I confidently believe, moulding plans of attack, should Hooker fail to advance, and his 9 months men be permitted to retire from the field. A very few days will determine the character of the campaign.

You say that everything has donned the emerald livery of spring. How different it is with us. It was only the other day we had quite a fall of snow. There is nothing green- the buds are beginning to swell, and the martins appeared day before yesterday. What a difference! Give me a home among the hills of middle Mississippi in preference to all the lands I have yet seen.

Charlie Hester could not get the cake and wine though. Someone stole the wine, and the cake becoming damaged, they ate it. Carrying articles of that kind in hand in very burdensome, as I know from experience.

A short time since I wrote you a hasty note on the subject of my appointment as midshipman. I had just learned from the Senator Brown that appointments were made under the age of 18 – this of course leaves me out, so I wrote you to that effect, in order that you might not waste your time in trying to attain an unattainable object. Senator Brown also informed me that the marine corps was incomplete, and would advise me to apply for the office of lieutenant of marines; said if I would draw up an application to the President direct, over my own signature, get the endorsement of my officers, and send it to him, that he would attend to it for me. Seemed to think that there was every prospect of success. I did as directed. Capt. Brown’s recommendation was flattering in the extreme. I handed it next to Ccl. L, Who being engaged at the time, said he would attend to it. In a few days I called to him to know his action in the matter. He informed that he had forwarded it. And he the explained to me that he would subject himself to a court martial by letting an application go to Richmond except through the channels prescribed by an order from Gen’l Cooper, Adjutant and Inspector General. The course to be taken is as follows. Col. Law approves and sends to General Barksdale. General B. ditto to Gen’l Kershaw (temporary Division Commander) – Gen’l McLaws ditto to Gen’l Lee who forwards to Richmond. Should any one of the generals disapprove, the document goes no further, and is returned by the same route to Capt. Brown, whence it started. If it is successful, the information is conveyed in like manner. As soon as I became aware of this, I wrote to Brown, detailing the circumstances. This document started on its errand about two weeks ago, and I’ve not heard of it since, and the inference is that it has received the sanction of the generals above named, or – it has been overlooked at some of the offices through which it had to pass. Hope bids me be of good cheer – my judgment forces upon me the latter interpretation. We will await later developments.

My general health is good, but I’ve had a cough for more than a week which distresses me at times.  It is not continuous, but comes on by spells, and is so violent that it almost causes me to vomit. These spells do not last long, and do not seem to be consequent upon exertion, but come at irregular intervals. The discharge of phlegm is small. I apprehend no danger from it – warm weather will doubtless make it all right.

My love to all –

Your son

Ruffin Thomson

And Miss Gina Bracey is married? She got the best of the bargain, think you?



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