1863: Thomas Wesley Newsome to Horatio Nelson Hollifield

An unidentified Confederate Surgeon

The following letter was written in mid-April 1863 by Assistant Surgeon Thomas (“Tom”) Wesley Newsome (1835-1874), formerly a lieutenant in Co. H, 49th Georgia Infantry. Tom was ordered to report to Surgeon H. V. Miller at Savannah in the spring of 1863, his appointment to rank from November 1862. His records indicate that he first entered the service on 4 March 1862 as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 49th Georgia (“Cold Steel Guards) and was promoted to 1st Lieutenant on 7 July 1862. A month later he was wounded in the fighting at Cedar Run and transferred to the Medical Department in December 1862. The last entry for medical requisitions indicates he was still at Savannah in June 1864.

Tom’s letter was datelined from Fort Jackson which was located on the Savannah River three miles east of the city. It served as the headquarters for Savannah’s river defenses after the fall of Fort Pulaski. It had to be evacuated late in 1864 as Federal troops closed in on the city.

Tom was the son of Lorenzo Dye Newsome (1810-1840) and Maryanne Ellafair Brown (1814-1862). Tom was married prior to the war but his first wife, Lonora (Ragland) Newsome, died prior to the date of this letter and their child, Thomas, Jr., born in 1862, was raised by an aunt.

There is nothing in this letter to indicate who it was addressed to but the provenance states that it was mailed to his friend, Dr. Horatio N. Hollifield (1832-1895), of Sandersville, Washington County, Georgia. Hollifield was born in Maryland but came to practice Allopathic medicine in Sandersville in 1856. His Confederate military records indicate he was posted at Bartow Hospital in Savannah early in the war and that he was a “Surgeon for Negroes” in Savannah in October 1862. He was stationed with two companies of the 2nd Florida Cavalry in May 1863 and later attached to Finnegan’s Middle District of Florida. He resigned in February 1865 at Columbia, S. C.

It should be noted that Tom Newsome and Horatio Hollifield collaborated in the authorship of a book first published in 1860 entitled, “Georgia Medical and Surgical Encyclopedia.”


Fort Jackson
Savannah, Georgia
19th April 1863

Dear Doctor,

Your letter of 13th inst. came through in five days and was received yesterday affording me much pleasure to learn of your excellent health, fine spirits, and perfect satisfaction with your new post. I trust everything surrounding you may continue pleasant and conducive to your enjoyment as I have no doubt it will since you have become acquainted with your new associates & learned more of the manners & customs in the “Floral State.” Florida is indeed a nice country. I have traveled through the greater portion of it in a buggy & think I ought to be a pretty fair judge. The people are generally polite & kind to strangers and very warm in their attachments. I think it is advisable for me on going into their midst to conform to their customs at once. It may at first appear awkward to the city gent, but I never found it hard to make myself a “Roman” anywhere.

When I came to take charge of Fort Jackson, I didn’t meet a man whom I had ever before heard of and now I have some of the strongest of friends here. I was up in the city day before yesterday. I saw Charlie Parsons & heard him say something about your books & other things that you left at the Bartow Hospital. I told him to ship them home right away. I saw Byrd also. He has some kind of business in Col. Williams’ regiment but has no rank. There is no kind of doubt about his being married. I know it to be true. Armstrong is at home on furlough. He is quite as much infatuated with a woman that stays at Mrs. Byrds as Byrd used to be before he married the widow. Bastick too is off on furlough. Charlie Parsons is trying to get detailed in the Quartermaster’s Department & I think is likely to succeed. I saw Wils (your brother) 1 who is looking first rate & in good spirits apparently. Bob Parmell was in town as usual about half drunk with his watch in [ ] for $10.00. It is necessary to say that he was unable to redeem it up to his time of leaving for his company.

The health of our command is pretty good so far. If the Yanks will let us alone ten days longer, we will be quartered in the city. Then I am promised a furlough though I don’t know that I shall accept one as I have no desire to go anywhere. My little boy will be to see me with his aunt in a few days. I shall be very glad to see him, not having met him in over six months. June has been sent with his company down to Genesis Pauls. The boys didn’t like to leave much as they was having rather an easy time of it around the city.

I am more and more attached to my post everyday. I don’t think I would exchange it for any that I know of outside of Virginia or Tennessee. How far are the Yankees below you? How far from Tallahassee are you stationed? I have been through that country around Tallahassee a great deal. Write me a long letter & give me a history of any events that may transpire in your travels.

Do you have many sick? But I guess not as the sickly season is not yet set in. But I am in a hurry this evening & must ask you to look over this hastily written scroll & write me a long letter in return. In my next I will tell you some news perhaps.

Your friend as ever, — Tom W. Newsome

P. S. Frank Rudisill 2 has been before the board at Charleston for Asst. Surgeon and I learn was successful. I have seen him since but said nothing to him on the subject. Yours, — N

1 Possibly W. T. Hollingsworth, a surgeon in the 3rd Georgia Infantry.

2 Probably Benjamin Franklin (“Frank”) Rudisill of the 12th Battalion George Light Artillery who served as staff assistant surgeon.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s