This letter was written by 24 year-old Hugh Mearns Thomas (1838-1916), the son of millwright Richard Leedom Thomas (1800-1877) and Maria Spencer (1793-1879) of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He wrote the letter to his 30 year-old sister, Rachel Thomas, and mentions his older brother Edward Thomas (b. 1834). At the time of the 1860 US Census, both High and Ed were employed as “chemists” meaning they engaged in the manufacture of pharmaceutical and chemical preparations.
At the time of the Draft Registration in June 1863, Hugh was registered as a 25 year-old single “chemist” with no prior military service so it is confirmed that when he wrote this letter from Annapolis, Maryland, in February 1862, he was employed in a civilian capacity by the U. S. Government, not as a soldier. Presumably he was working as a teamster.
[Header image is US Naval Academy during the Civil War while used as a hospital.]
February 18th 1862
The last time I wrote to Ed, I told him to tell thee to write to me but have not yet received a letter from thee. Thinking it might be on account of thee not receiving any from me and having a chance this afternoon, I thought I would take advantage of it. The weather since we left Perryville has been the most disagreeable that we could of had but we are looking forward for something better soon. We have not received any money from Uncle Sam since I was at home. Ever since we arrived here we have been told every two or three days tomorrow or day after we will be paid but no pay have we seen yet and everyone of us have come to the conclusion to look no more for it until we see it. When it does come, I think most of the men will leave as none seem to like it as well as they used to. If this is the case, I will leave myself most probably and see what can be done in the city.
From accounts we have lately of the doings of our army, I think the war will be decided soon. We had a salute here yesterday when the news arrived from Fort Donelson. Burnsides expedition that left this place about the time we arrived here has also been successful and if all the news we get be true, I do not see how the war can last a great while longer.
Annapolis is not much of a business place and there is nothing of interest here except the Naval Academy as was. It is now used for a hospital for the soldiers and for storing hay and grain in &c. When we arrived here for miles around the town we could see where the soldiers had been encamped. There must have been a large number here previous to our arrival. at present there is only five regiments encamped here besides three brigades of wagons.
Almost daily we can hear the cannons at some distant point but cannot tell what is going on. The supposition of course is always there is a fight going on near by.
Give my respects to Father and Mother and Ed and write to me soon. With much respect, I am thine very truly, — Hugh M. Thomas
Direct care of Wagon Master, Charles W. Stiles, Annapolis, Maryland