Civil War Letters of
Lt. Thomas J. Rankin
Above is a photo of the sword carried by 3rd.Sgt. / Senior 2nd. Lt. Thomas Jesse Rankin of Company F. The sword is an 1850 Foot Officer's Sword. The sword rests now at the historic John Ford Home in Sandy Hook, Marion County, MS. Our deepest thanks go to Chris Watts for providing the photo to us. To read some war time letters written by Lt. Rankin please use the menu to your left and select "Rankin Letters". Click on the photo to view a larger copy of the image. The provenance of the sword is unclear and any help would be appreciated. The hilt states it as made in New York.
The provenance of the sword is unclear and any help would be appreciated. The hilt states it as made in New York.
|The original letters from which the content on this page was created are held at the McCain Library and Archives of the University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg. The transcriptions are the work of George Purvis and the University of Southern Mississippi is not responsible for any other materials or content on the website. Transcriptions posted here by permission of George Purvis and are copyrighted by George Purvis. No content on this page may be copied without the written permission of Mr. Purvis.|
|Transcribed By: George Purvis|
NOTE FROM TRANSCRIBER: I typed these letters as close to the original letters as possible. I have noted where I made changes therefore the misspelling and run together words are not typos.
Dear Sarah, I avail myself of this opportunity to inform you that I am enjoying tolerable good health. I felt pretty bad this morning but am better now. The health of our company is improving some, all of our boys have left the hospital but a good many of them are unwell yet. Only about twenty five are able to perform guard duties. One more of our company Marion Bryant breathed his last night before last-poor fellow. I fell sorry for him but the will of the lord must be fulfilled. Poor James Mckolsky I have heard of his death. It makes me fell sad to hear such men as him dying. He was a fine man and a good soldier, never grumbling but always ready to perform his duties. The typhoid fever is in this Regiment and we are to move in a few days to try to get rid of it. Three soldiers and four citizens have died with it this week. Major Genl. Lovell was here last Sunday. He reviewed this part of the seventh Regiment in the morning. I think he formed a very poor opinion of some of the companies especially those from Marion County. Some of our men had on clothes that didnít look like they had been washed in two months. The Genl. didnít like the looks of such chaps and told the captains to have them in a better fix next time. Old Doctor Stone of New Orleans was with the Genl and recommended the removal of these camps to get rid of the fever. Capt. Rankin and some others have been looking out a location today. I expect we will commence moving in a few days. I expect we will go about three miles from here. We received our pay today but are about as bad off for money now as ever. The money was in fifty and hundred dollar bills and four or five of us had to club together to get paid and will have to send it to the city or somewhere else to get change before we can get our money arranged. We have to get another uniform I expect the women of Marion County will have their hands full making them before long. I want our county to get better praise the next time the Genl. comes than it did Sunday last. I have spent nearly all of my money since I left home and if we donít get change before I will be without money. I bought a piece of cloth and sent it home I donít know whether you got it or not. Our election for Lieutenant hasnít come off yet and it will be rather doubtful who is elected but thing is certain the Captains favorite will not get the office. The Captain says he is reported to be a very tight man and hereafter he is going to carry it out. I can say he didnít treat me right once but as he is my brother I will forgive him but I donít think I will ever support him again in an election. I understand he is opposed to my running for Lieutenant but am going to run through this time if I donít get three votes. I have been looking for Docks wagon here all day but it hasnít come yet and it is nearly dark. I want some corn meal and some potatoes and I expect I have some with it. If you need any salt and lard send to Joes and get it. Joe is to let me have two sacks of salt and some lard he said he told Sarah Ann about it. I will send you some more oranges by Docks wagon. You must make those hogs fat before you kill them. Kill some of those wild ones over the river when you get out of meat. You and Sarah had better give out coming down unless the health of this country gets better. Nothing more give my respects to everybody.
Your affectionate husband,
Camp Goode Nov.27th 1861
Dear Sarah,I received your letter of the 24th tonight which found me as well as usual. I am really sorry to hear that Henry gets no better. I was in hopes I would hear that he was getting better, but alas, I was mistaken. It was a hard trial for me to give up our other little boy and now to lose Henry would nearly kill me, but the will of the Lord must be done and we must reconcile ourselves to his will the best we can. I know now our little boy is now in Heaven and if I and you never meet again in this world my prayer is that we may meet him there. It is reported here that we will leave this place before many days for Columbus Kentucky or some other place. I donít know how true the statement is but one thing is certain great preparations are being made in Kentucky for a big battle, which if it proves victorious on our side will probably bring about peace. A part of this Brigade is in Kentucky by this time and we may follow them shortly. I would hate to go there very bad now unless I could see you and Henry once more then I wouldnít care much about going, but as I am in the service of my country, I am willing to go where I am needed most and if I fall in the defense of it may my fall be Heavenward. I know it would be very hard for me to go where probably I would never see my family again, but rather than submit to Lincolnism I would rather die. Thursday morning, the 28th I went to town this morning and I couldnít get any raisons at all. There are none in the place. I sent you one dozen oranges by Bryant Rawls and Henry shoes the others are for Mary Ford. Jim says to send them to her by Jake next Saturday evening. I send enclosed a note for L. Warren which I want you to send him, if he pays you any money send it to me. Look among my papers and get his account and send it to him with the note. If he donít pay it I want you to keep the account if he does pay it give him a receipt for the money. If Mr. Widdon has not come back yet you must send someone after the mule and send that Edmondson account to him for collection. If we donít leave before Christmas you must try and come down then. I donít know that we will leave here yet it is only camp news and may not be true, nothing more.
Yours as ever
Camp Aggravation January 5th,1862
Dear Sarah, This will inform you that it is impossible for me to come home. The Col. told me some time ago that he wont grant a furlough to any man without a very strong recomendation from his Captain, he said that business was no excuse at this time. He said that the country was at stake now and self interest must be sacrificed for itís benefit. I will state to you what kind of recommendation I got this morning. I was asked who was going to carry the buggy home, I replied that I would do it if I could get a furlough. What kind of answer do you suppose that I received? Why here it is in full: If that is what you are after you had as well dry up. It was very hard to take, but I had to swallow it. I saw another man who has been sick for the last three weeks afterwards and ask for a recommendation, his answer was (so I am informed) go along to play, sit around here awhile and you will get well. I hope I may live these twelve months out. I want to be on equality once with these cursed officers. They may make all they can off us this time, they never will get another chance. I know I ought be at home at this time, not only on your account, but my business is in such a condition that I would like to straighten it up at this time. I donít know that I shall live to see this affair settle, and case I should not I want my business so arranged so that you and Henry will get all that I posess. I wanted to get titles to that land, and make some arrangements about settling up for it and make father titles for the land he bought and get his note for the same, but as it is I cant get to make any arrangements about it. I will wait a while longer and try again for a furlough, probably I may succeed next time if times get better. I am of the opinion that a good many of the officers here are of the opinion that we will have a fight here before long, but I donít know what makes them think so unless its because forty Yankees landed at Biloxi the other day and raised the U.S. flag. I am not the least alarmed about a fight a fight here, it is my opinion if this regiment has any fighting to do it will be at New Orleans, or some other point on this coast but not this place.They may land at some point on the coast and fortify themselves and get us into a fight in that manner, but they are not going to land here. One rascal from Ship Island started up Jordan River yesterday for the purpose of buying provisions for the Yankees. Some woman on the Bay found out what he was after and informed against him. Last night the Col. sent one Lieut.and twelve men in pursuit of him. They caught him about fifteen miles up the River and brought him in about 1 Oclock today. He is undergoing examination now. I donít know how he will come out but if he be proven to be a spy he will be shot or hung. He is a native of the coast, he had with him when caught bacon and colard greens and some other things. I think it would be a good idea to hang him and a good many more of these coast rats. There are numbers of young able bodied men around, who are making no preparations at all to fight the enemy if they should attempt to land here. I donít suppose half of them have a gun, if they have I would as soon believe they would use them for instead of against the Yankees. It is generally supposed here that the Yankees will make a general attack on the southern states now in a few days, it is supposed they are going to have another fight at Manassas and from there go on to Richmond and at the same time another expedition is to start down the Mississippi for the purpose of attacking NO. This is only camp news and I donít put any dependence in it. Lincoln has given up our ministers to England is the latest news from him. I was certain from the first that he would give them up when the English government demanded them of him. I believe this is all the news that I have. I expect Mr. Moody will take old Tony this year, he wrote to me to know if he could get him. If he takes him I expect he will send after him in a few days. I send you a box of oranges by Mr.Temples who is going to carry up the buggy, he has been discharged from the SharpShooters because he cant talk. The oranges in the basket are for Sarah Ann.. Nothing more at present this leaves me nearly well. I still have a bad cold but am not sick with it. I will write a few more lines in the morning.
Your loving husband
Nothing new this morning. The man that was taken up yesterday was put in jail. I was misinformed about what he had when taken. He had potatoes and not meat and greens. I understand that the Col. says he will not give a furlough to any man on any condition except cases of inability. There are a good many out who have stayed over their time. He says he would send after them but he cannot spare the men out of ranks at this time. I believe he expects a fight here or probally he may talk in that manner to keep from being both ired about the furloughs. If John Ford comes down to fix the press and hasnít commenced work on it tell him I have concluded not to have it fixed. I thought when I wrote to him about it I would be at home myself. I think when all of our men get back there will be some chance for me to get off. There are about twenty five of our company at home now and no telling when they will get here. Sarah take care of things the best you can and rest assured that I will come home whenever I can. Joes wagon will be here this week and I will send you some things by it. I have two barrels of Molasses one of sugar and a half barrel of rice. I will send you some oranges then and apples if I can get any. Those oranges I send with the buggy are very nice if they donít rot. I got a letter from Wm. Warren last evening he says he will be over this to fix those *tables* you can get your uncle James to have some *recovered* for you.
*** unsure of these words GLP ***
My Dear Wife, I have written you several letters since I left home, but I donít know whether you have received any of them or not. I have never heard from home since I left. I would be very glad to hear from you, but our regiment moves about so much that I canít expect to get a letter soon. I am still in tolerable good health, I have a bad cold. There are a good many of the company sick. The Capt Joe & Jim and I are all sick but not dangerous. Ed is complaining Harrison is not well. This is quite a sickly place and a great many are dieing.*Clemon* Thigpen was sent home yesterday. I havenít any news to write, I hardly ever hear anything here. I sent this letter by *Gabe* he starts home today. This is the first letter I have had a chance of sending direct home and I hope you will get it. Sarah be of good cheer and look to God for me to safely return home. Harrison says he would write but he feels to unwell. Give my respects to all friends, great preparations are being made for a battle. Fortifications are being thrown up and such like. I donít think there will be any fight here. Nothing more
*-----* unsure of name or
Dear Sarah, I will inform you again that I am at Corinth. I went out on picket duty last Wednesday and got sick. On Saturday I returned to this place. I took cold in an old tooth and my jaw rose. I never suffered so much in my life with all my teeth as I did with this one. It gave me the fever *neuralgia* and in fact I was in misery all over. I had it pulled yesterday and I feel a good deal better this morning. I left the Regt.at Monterey. Capt Rankin had twelve men with him the other Captains had about the same number each. The Yankees were in hearing when I left. I heard their drums on Friday night and Saturday morning. Thursday the Yankees fired on the 10th Miss. Regt. Wounding six or seven and taken ten of their picket guards prisoners and burned up their tents. The Yankees taken our men by surprise and fired into them with their cannon and grape shot before they knew what was up. Our men got away the best they could and came very near being taken prisoners. The Yankees were about 7,000 strong our forces about 350. I was on picket about three miles from the place the Yankees were at. I expected they would get after me but they didnít. There was some fighting on Friday between the cavalry but I donít know what damage was done. I understood that twelve prisoners were sent in here on Saturday morning from that direction. Our Brigade was to leave Monterey yesterday morning to go seven miles west of there. I heard from them yesterday evening they expect to by Wednesday if not before. The Yankees are cutting up pretty smart out there, but I donít think they are coming out here unless they have a very large force. We are pretty well prepared for them here and our troops are coming in every day, but still I am not anxious for another fight. I have seen enough to last me the balance of my days. I think though there will be a good deal more hard fighting before this war is ended, and that before long a big battle is daily expected in Virginia, and from all appearances another will be fought not far from here before very long, unless some proposition for peace is made before long and that will hardly be done. We heard last night that there was a fight in Alabama yesterday. The Confederates gaining a victory, I donít know how true it is. We also heard several days ago that the Yankees had possession of New Orleans. If it is sop they will soon have possession of the Miss. River and then I think our army will soon be in a bad fix for something to eat. I havenít much hopes of our succeeding in freeing ourselves, but God alone knows he may yet bring us out all right. Unless he extends his blessing upon us we are a ruined people. We cannot do much without his help. Our enemies outnumber us too many and have the advantage of us in every respect. I hope God smiles upon us and help us drive the enemy from our land and help us to establish an independent government. Our forefathers struggled a long time for independence and finally gained it by the blessing of Heaven. We may gain ours in the same way, but in no other there will have to be a great deal more suffering before our independence is established. I hope through it will be settled before long in some way. I could live almost any way if I could only get home a free man again. I want to get off to myself where nobody lives and tend to my own business and let war and politics alone hereafter. I think I will know how to enjoy myself if I get back home safe. I donít know when I can come home there is no chance to get a furlough now. The sick are being sent off down the RailRoad some of them to Jackson, Miss but still they canít get home. I see no chance for me to get home unless I resign and I canít do that only on a surgeonís certificate. I will be apt to come home when my time is out if God will only spare that long. Harrison got here Saturday evening, he is still mending. The health of the Regt. Is not improving much, the men all look bad Dolph Forbes will hardly live unless he takes a change in a few days. Harrison brought word that Fletcher Ford died in Brookhaven. I didnít think when he left here he would ever get home. He was very sick at Monterey and walked most of the way from there through mud and water half a leg deep. That trip made most of us sick and many an one of us will never get over it if we live. Poor Fletch I am sorry for him. He tried hard to get out to the battle but couldnít, and is now gone from this world forever. I hope though he was prepared to meet his relatives in a better world. Four of the SharpShooters have died since the battle. Billy Fortenberry, W.H. Thornhill, F. Ford, and Duncan Smith, several more a pretty sick. There are several of the Marion Men tolerable bad off A.J. Forbes and Lev Cameron are the most dangerous. I think Dolph would mend if he could get something fit for him to eat. Jesse Warren went out with a wagon this morning to get chickens butter for our company. Dock and Ed are still puny. I think they are mending a little. Harrison says old Fanny has the prettiest colt he ever saw. You must take good care of it. It will make you a fine mare some day if it lives. If that big colt of mine gets to cutting up any mischief you must have him stabled and make some of the Negros ride him. You must have all the old mares and colts put in the field below the house. Donít have that big colt put in there with them. Make the Negros keep up the bars and fence and keep other peoples stock out of the field. Have a place fixed so the horses can get water out of the river. Nothing more, write soon I will write again in a few days.
I remain yours as ever,
*Neuralgia*----my wife an RN says this is an inflammation to the nerves in the tooth--GLP
My dear wife, Having an opportunity, I will drop you a few lines this morning to inform you of what is happening up here. There has been no big fight here yet but still the talk is on the big fight will come off in a day or two. I have nearly come to the conclusion that the Yankees are not going to fight us here unless we meet them outside the breastworks. There was a great stir among the troops yesterday. I thought probably they were going out to attack the Yankees, but the fight hasnít commenced yet and I canít say that it will shortly, though we remain in daily expectation of it. All the troops have orders to keep three days cooked rations on hand. I expect something will be done in the course of a week. I havenít been on any duty in a week. I donít have but a little fever, but I am so weak I can scarcely get about. I tried to get a furlough the other day, but the orders are so tight now a man as well try to a discharge as a furlough. Some few of the sick are still going off to the hospitals below here on the railroad. There are so many of our men gone it is useless for anyone else to try to get off and those that go off make it convenient to stay. Seven of our men have been struck from our muster roll and ten more according to orders will be struck off today. The orders are to this effect: all soldiers that have been absent over their time seven days are to struck from the roll, forfeit all their pay, their names to be sent to the governor and they will are brought under the conscript act and if they can be caught are sent immediately to a place of rendezvous unless they have a good excuse for not coming. None of our men that are absent have ever sent back a certificate and they had better get back pretty soon. Our company will go down pretty fast if many more are stricken from the rolls. Our company elected their officers the other day, I was elected Capt. Jim Atkinson first Lt., John Magee 2nd Lt., N.C Forbes 3rd lt. We are to be examined today to see if we can get commissioned. I donít want any office myself but the boys would elect me anyhow. I donít know that I will stand the examination. I hardly believe that I know enough to be a Captain. If I am commissioned I am confident I will have to resign before many months unless we get away from this place. If this fight ever comes off, I am going to try get off home if I am living. I am going to try again next week perhaps times may be different by then. I would like to be home the best in the world. I donít know what I would give if I could get something from to eat. I think it would help me. If any of the people of that neighborhood send anything up here for the boys, you must try and send me and Harrison some butter. I would like to have some chickens, but it would be a bad chance to get them here. Harrison is getting a little better. I havenít heard from the boys at the hospital since I wrote before. I am looking for some of them back every day. Hoping I will have the pleasure of seeing you and Henry shortly, I will now close.
Your affectionate Husband
PS May 16th 1862... Father arrived yesterday evening. I read the two letters from you. I was glad to hear from you but quite sorry to hear that you and Henry were unwell. It appears like you never can get well I am sorry you are in so much trouble about me. I hope though I will soon have the pleasure of seeing you and my dear boy. You must cheer up recollect we have a Father in Heaven who will protect us. We must look to Him for our safety and hope to meet in a better world if we never meet on this earth anymore. I look and pray to God to protect us and spare me to get back home again. I will write to you again by father when he leaves he starts tomorrow.
Thomas Jesse Rankin died in Brookhaven Mississippi, June 10, 1862. He did not live long enough to be commissioned captain.
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