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Collection Number: 03315

Collection Title: Ruffin Thomson Papers, 1822-1889

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the FAQ section for more information.


Funding from the State Library of North Carolina supported the encoding of this finding aid.

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Size 0.5 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 220 items)
Abstract William H. Thomson, originally of Orange County, N.C., was a physician and small planter in Hinds County, Miss. His son Ruffin Thomson was a student at the University of Mississippi and the University of North Carolina; a private in the Confederate Army; and, in February 1864, a Confederate Marine Corps lieutenant. After the Civil War, he studied medicine and practiced in Hinds County. In 1888, he went to Washington Territory as a clerk to the United States Indian Agency, dying soon after his arrival. The papers consist chiefly of correspondence between William H. Thomson and his son Ruffin Thomson. Early items of William H. Thomson include two letters, 1822-1823, from Thomas Ruffin (1787-1870), giving William advice on his studies, and letters, 1835, from William to his wife, Hannah Lavinia Thomson, describing life in Hinds County, Miss., including mention of slave insurrection rumors. There are also letters from Ruffin Thomson at the University of Mississippi, 1858-1859, and the University of North Carolina, 1859; from Ruffin's sister Brenda Thomson at school, 1848-1849; from Ruffin as a soldier, 1861-1865, serving in Virginia and Georgia during the Civil War, first with the 18th Mississippi Infantry Regiment and then with the Confederate Marine Corps, including much discussion of military life and mention of the death of a slave who served him as cook; and from family members to Ruffin. Also included are postwar letters between William at home, discussing farming and dealing with freedmen, and Ruffin in New Orleans, La., where he was a medical student; letters to Ruffin in the 1880s from University of North Carolina classmates; and a few scattered items relating to Ruffin's later life.
Creator Thomson, Ruffin, 1841-1888.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
No restrictions. Open for research.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the Ruffin Thomson Papers #3315, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Alternate Form of Material
Typed transcripts of approximately 75 letters are included with the originals throughout the collection.
Acquisitions Information
Received from Ruffin Thomson's daughters, Mrs. Ben S. Lowry and Brenda Thomson, in October 1957.
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Biographical Information

William H. Thomson, born in Hillsborough, N.C., lived there and in Chapel Hill, N.C., attending the University of North Carolina. He taught in Alabama and attended medical school at Transylvania University. He practiced first in Tennessee, where he married Hannah Lavinia in 1831. In 1835, Thomson moved to Hinds County, Miss., where he lived thereafter at a place called Spring Ridge, combining medical practice with the operation of a small plantation.

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. After the Civil War, he studied medicine in New Orleans and began a practice in Hinds County. In 1873, he married Fanny Potter. In 1888, he went to Fort Simcoe, Washington Territory, as clerk to the Yakima Indian Agency, hoping to recover his failing health, but instead died soon after his arrival.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

The papers consist chiefly of correspondence between William H. Thomson and his son Ruffin Thomson. Early items of William H. Thomson include two letters, 1822-1823, from Thomas Ruffin (1787-1870), giving William advice on his studies, and letters, 1835, from William to his wife, Hannah Lavinia Thomson, describing life in Hinds County, Miss., including mention of slave insurrection rumors. There are also letters from Ruffin Thomson at the University of Mississippi, 1858-1859, and the University of North Carolina, 1859; from Ruffin's sister Brenda Thomson at school, 1848-1849; from Ruffin as a soldier, 1861-1865, serving in Virginia and Georgia during the Civil War, first with the 18th Mississippi Infantry Regiment and then with the Confederate Marine Corps, including much discussion of military life and mention of the death of a slave who served him as cook; and from family members to him. Also included are postwar letters between William at home, discussing farming and dealing with freedmen, and Ruffin in New Orleans, La., where he was a medical student; letters to Ruffin in the 1880s from University of North Carolina classmates; and a few scattered items relating to Ruffin's later life.

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Contents list

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Papers, 1822-1889 and undated.

About 220 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Folder 1

1822-1849 #03315, Series: "Papers, 1822-1889 and undated." Folder 1

Includes two letters, 1822-1823, from Thomas Ruffin, Hillsborough, N.C., lawyer and later Chief Justice of North Carolina, to William H. Thomson giving advice on studies and revealing that Ruffin aided Thomson in paying for his college expenses; a letter, 1828, from Thomson to his sister, from Cahawba, Ala., where he was teaching school; letters, 1835, from Thomson in Hinds County, Miss., to his wife in Brownsville, Tenn., describing the place he chose for their new home, his medical practice, and rumors of a slave insurrection; and letters, 1848-1849, from Thomson's daughter Brenda written while she was attending school in Memphis, Tenn., and Jackson, Miss.

Folder 2

1852-1859 #03315, Series: "Papers, 1822-1889 and undated." Folder 2

Includes letters, 1852-1853, from Brenda Thomson; correspondence, 1858-1859, between William and Ruffin Thomson while Ruffin attended the University of Mississippi. Of interest is a notice, March 1859, concerning Ruffin's suspension for possessing and discharging a pistol on campus, and correspondence, 1859, between William and Ruffin Thomson concerning Ruffin's experiences as a student while Ruffin attended the University of North Carolina.

Folder 3-4

Folder 3

Folder 4

1861 #03315, Series: "Papers, 1822-1889 and undated." Folder 3-4

Includes correspondence between William and Ruffin Thomson concerning secession and Ruffin's experiences in the 18th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, particularly his bout with the measles resulting in his discharge from the military. Following his discharge, Ruffin wrote a series of letters to his father detailing his experiences of delivering supplies to his regiment in Leesburg, Va., and his plans to re-enlist if he found he was strong enough for camp life.

Digital version: Letter from Ruffin Thomson to William H. Thomson, 6 August 1860

Documenting the American South

Folder 5

1862 #03315, Series: "Papers, 1822-1889 and undated." Folder 5

Includes letters from Ruffin Thomson detailing his return to his regiment, and letters from various camps in Virginia, including Gordonsville, Orange County Court House, Yorktown, Richmond, Fredericksburg, discussing living conditions, clothing needs, Mississippi friends in the Army, and the death of Ruffin's personal cook Preston, a young slave sent by Ruffin's father earlier that year.

Folder 6-7

Folder 6

Folder 7

1863 #03315, Series: "Papers, 1822-1889 and undated." Folder 6-7

Includes letters from Ruffin Thomson concerning his experiences at various camps in Virginia, including Fredericksburg, Petersburg, and Richmond; letters from camps in the Atlanta, Ga., vicinity; letters expressing his desire to transfer to the Confederate Marine Corps; and orders for Ruffin to appear for examination for a commission in the Confederate Marine Corps.

Folder 8

1864 #03315, Series: "Papers, 1822-1889 and undated." Folder 8

Includes papers relating to Ruffin Thomson's commission as a second lieutenant in the Confederate Marine Corps, and letters from Ruffin concerning living conditions and his experiences as an officer while stationed at Camp Beall, Va.

Folder 9

1865 #03315, Series: "Papers, 1822-1889 and undated." Folder 9

Includes letters from Ruffin Thomson while stationed at Camp Beall, Va.; orders for Ruffin to travel to Greensboro, N.C., to procure supplies; copies of papers relating the surrender of Robert E. Lee; and correspondence between William and Ruffin Thomson while Ruffin attended medical school in New Orleans, La.

Folder 10

1866 #03315, Series: "Papers, 1822-1889 and undated." Folder 10

Includes letters from William H. Thomson about farming, relations with freedmen working on the farm, crops, and a suggestion that Ruffin Thomson travel to Germany to recruit laborers for Mississippi plantations, and letters to Ruffin from University of North Carolina classmates, including Fergus McRee, James B. Mitchell, and Tim E. Cooper.

Digital version: Letter from J. B. Mitchell to Ruffin H. Thomson, 20 December 1866

Documenting the American South

Folder 11

1867-1879 #03315, Series: "Papers, 1822-1889 and undated." Folder 11

Includes letters, 1867-1869, from William H. Thomson about home affairs; letters to Ruffin Thomson from University of North Carolina classmates, including James B. Mitchell, S. E. Capers, W. A. Mitchell, and Lewis Bond; and a deed, 1879, to land in Hinds County, Miss., owned by Fanny M. Thomson.

Folder 12

1880-1889 #03315, Series: "Papers, 1822-1889 and undated." Folder 12

Includes an 1881 obituary of William Thomson; an 1888 letter from Ruffin Thomson from his post at the Yakima Agency, Washington Territory; and letters and papers from others at the Agency about Thomson's death and burial there. Among the writers were T. C. Gordon, Thomas Priestley, William G. Coe, and Priestley's wife Mary and daughter Kate.

Folder 13

Undated #03315, Series: "Papers, 1822-1889 and undated." Folder 13

Includes fragments of two Civil War letters written by Ruffin Thomson; a list of men who deserted from or were discharged from Ruffin's company; and a picture of an unidentified man, presumably Ruffin Thomson.

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Processing Information

Processed by: Staff, 1992

Encoded by: Peter Hymas, December 2004

Funding from the State Library of North Carolina supported the encoding of this finding aid.

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