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Manuscript Collection

Collection Title: Spight (Thomas) Letters

Collection Number: M47

Dates: June 1858-November 1887

Volume: 21 Items

Provenance: Donated by Rosewell G. Lowrey.

Copyright: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical/Historical Sketch:

Thomas Spight was born on October 25, 1841, near Ripley, Mississippi. His father, James Munford Spight, was an early settler of Tippah County. Spight received a good education, attending La Grange Synodical College in Tennessee, but his college studies were interrupted by the start of the Civil War. He enlisted as a private in Company B ("Walthall's Brigade"), 34th Mississippi Infantry, in 1861, and by the age of 21 he was captain of his company. In December 1865 Spight married Mary Virginia Barnett. After the war Spight continued teaching and studying law and by 1875 he had been admitted to the bar and was practicing in Ripley, Mississippi. He was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives and served 3 consecutive terms, 1874-1880. In 1879 he established the Southern Sentinel, a newspaper in Ripley, Mississippi, and later served as district attorney for the Third Judicial District from 1884-1892. In 1898 he returned to politics and was elected as a United States Congressman, representing the 2nd District until 1911. Spight then resumed his practice of law and religious and civic activities until his death in Ripley, Mississippi, January 5, 1924.

Scope and Content:

This collection consists of fifteen handwritten letters, three pages from Thomas Spight's diary, two envelopes and a death announcement for Mattie Gilliam. Eight of the letters are dated from December 14, 1860, to February 5, 1865, and were written by Thomas Spight to Virginia Barnett, his cousin, whom he later married. Spight wrote the letters while serving in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. The letters were written from encampments in Mississippi, Kentucky, Georgia, and possibly Tennessee. They generally discuss Spight's experiences in the Confederate Army, his love for Virginia and news of friends and relatives. Two January 1861, letters written in Bowling Green, Kentucky, discuss the prospects of an engagement with Union forces and the relations of the United States and the Confederacy with England and foreign nations. A June 1862, letter written from near Tupelo, Mississippi, focuses upon the advancing Union forces and the plight of the Confederacy. A March 1863, letter seems to be optimistic and relates some of the activities of General Van Dorn's Calvary. A February 1865, letter talks about peace efforts between the opposing sides.

The pages from Spight's diary cover the period from March 18-April 14, 1865. In those pages he records his unit's march from Augusta, Georgia, northward through the mountains of western South Carolina, into North Carolina. He recounts a train ride from Charlotte to Raleigh, North Carolina, on which prisoners of war were returning home and the strong feelings the event caused. A significant topic of interest was the reorganization of the Army of Tennessee which General Johnston was attempting during this period.

In addition there are seven letters sent to or from Thomas Spight, Virginia Barnett or one of their relatives between 1858 and 1887. The first of these was a June 25, 1858, letter from Mrs. F. A. Barnett to her daughter, Virginia, while the latter was visiting relatives. It deals primarily with family matters and news of friends and relatives. The second letter, dated May 15, 1860, was written by L. D. Holcombe in Ripley, to Thomas Spight and it includes information about preparations for war and news of their friends. A November 20, 1861, letter from D. I. Hill at Camp Fisher, Virginia, briefly discusses war news and relates Hill's knowledge of affairs in Tippah County, Mississippi. A May 16, 1865, letter from Mattie to "Ma" relates family news. Virginia Barnett wrote Thomas Spight on August 9, 1865, and expressed her fondness for him and her desire to return home to Tippah County. Finally, there are two letters from "Mollie A." (Virginia's cousin in Spring Creek) to Virginia Spight in Ripley, Mississippi. The letters are dated September 30, 1883, and November 28, 1887, and they generally report family news. The latter letter contains a clipping reporting Mattie Gilliam Newman's death. She was Virginia's cousin and had died suddenly ten days after her wedding.

The materials in this collection are arranged into three groups. The first group contains eight letters from Thomas Spight to Virginia Barnett. The second group consists of the papers from Spight's diary. The third group contains the seven miscellaneous letters described in the paragraph above. All items are arranged chronologically within groups.


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Revised: October 30, 2003