This letter was written by James M. Thompson (1845-1894) of Co. C, 46th Georgia, to his mother, Margaret A. Scott (1821-1892). After Margaret’s first husband, James W. Thompson, died, she married John Younger (1800-1854). She was a widow residing in Columbus, Georgia, during the Civil War. The letter is datelined Camp Pendleton, which helped guard Charleston, South Carolina. The letter is of particular interest in that it mentions the use of a negro as a Confederate spy, who was alleged to have been paid $1000 to buy his freedom if he returned from Hilton Head with information about the Union troops and fleet there. Unfortunately I have not been able to confirm the validity of this report.
The following biographical notes come from the Columbus State University Archives which contains a collection of scanned Thompson Family Letters:
“James M. Thompson was born about 1845 and died on February 3, 1894 in Columbus, Georgia. Henderson, Vol. IV, p. 956 gives the Civil War record of James M. Thompson, in Co. C, 46th Georgia Infantry Regiment out of Muscogee County. His widow, Elizabeth (Lizzy) Amanda Parkman Thompson (1844-1922), applied for a Confederate widow’s pension in 1910.
According to the 1850 census, the Thompson family was living in Columbus at household no. 509. The family included Margaret A. Thompson, 29, born in SC, Malvina C., aged 8, born in Georgia and James M, aged 5, also born in Georgia, and William H. Thompson, 17, a carpenter, born in Florida.
In the 1870 City Directory for Columbus James M. Thompson, age 25, was working in a cotton mill and living with his wife Elizabeth 25, and children Hattie T., aged 3 and Clifton M., aged 3/12 months) old. James’ mother, Margaret A. Younger aged 48, was also in Columbus with her daughter, Malvina C. Johnson, aged 25, and her son Eddy, aged 2.
In the 1880 census, Thompson was across the river living in Brownville, Alabama, the mill village that became the northern part of present-day Phenix City, then located in Lee County, Alabama. He was listed as James T. Thompson 35, working in cotton mill, wife Amanda E, and children Hattie T, Clifton M., aged 11, Charles E. aged 8, Elizabeth M., aged 5, and James W., aged 2. James’ mother Margaret was listed in Columbus in 1880 as M E Younger, 59, living with daughter N. C. Johnson 37, and grandson J. E. Johnson, 12.”
After the Civil War, James M. Thompson returned to Columbus, Georgia, where he married Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) Amanda Parkman (1843-1922) in 1866 and pursued a career as a machinist. What the biographical note above does not tell you is that as the years rolled by, James Thompson came to abuse alcohol and when he drank, he became abusive to his wife and children. In 1894, James was killed by his 23 year-old son, Cliff Thomson (a deaf mute), who came home to find his father attacking his mother.
[Note: This letter is from the personal collection of Richard Weiner and is published by express consent.]
Charleston, South Carolina
February 28th 1863
Mrs. M. A. Younger
My own dear Mother,
Yours of the 25th and also Aunt Lizzie’s came to hand and I was glad to hear from you all. I am on guard today and will finish tomorrow morning if nothing happens to prevent me.
Sunday morning and I have just come off guard and cleaned my gun and washed and will now resume my letter to you. There is not much news to write so I will have to fill it up with something else. I stood guard 4 hours last night in the hardest kind of a rain all the time so you know that I do not feel very much like writing.
There was two vessels ran in this port last night from Nassau. They come in pretty often now. I sent the box by express and sent the receipt by mail. I hope you will get them. I don’t know if anyone’s coming now so you can wait awhile and not send it by express. I don’t need them right now. You need not send the socks yet as I have a plenty to do me awhile yet. I will write to Aunt Lizzie before long.
The Yankees did not attack us at the appointed day but it wont be long before it will begin as they are making every preparation for an attack. They are carrying iron down to Hilton Head and are cladding their gunboats down there. The Authorities here gave a Negro $1,000 and his freedom to go to Hilton Head as a spy and return. He got back a day or two ago. He said they had about 70,000 troops down there so you see that they are preparing to attack this place and Savannah both but it will not do them any good as the Mayors of both places will fight them from house to house before they shall have either place.
Remember me to all of my friends and acquaintances and my love to all of the relations. My love to Maria, Manny, and all of the blacks. I must close now as it is getting near dinner or beef time as the boys call it. My love to sister Ebba, William, and Mr. Johnson and reserve a large share for yourself and believe me as ever your affectionate son & soldier boy, — J. M. Thompson
P. S. You know that a letter is not complete without a P. S. So write soon. I write twice a week regular. Goodbye, — Bud
John says when the interest of his letters get up pretty high, he will take the insolvent oath. As you see you can’t make much out of him. — Bud