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Collection Title: Cushing (Major Thomas) Letterbook

Collection Number: M297

Dates: April 1799 - May 1800

Volume: .25 cu. ft.

Provenance: Donated on August 16, 1991, by Dr. John D.W. Guice, USM History Department.

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:

Major Thomas Cushing was born in Massachusetts, in 1755. A career soldier, he served as a Sergeant in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. Rising to the rank of First Lieutenant (First Massachusetts Infantry), Cushing was taken prisoner in May 1781, and later exchanged. When hostilities with Great Britain ended, Cushing received further promotion to the rank of Brevet Captain.

Cushing remained in the military and achieved the full rank of Captain in 1791. Rapid promotion followed, as two years later Cushing became a Major in the United States Infantry. Sometime in the next five years Cushing moved to the southern frontier where he resided during the early settlement and development of the Mississippi Territory. Created by an Act of Congress on April 7, 1798, the newly acquired Mississippi region embraced an area of land from the Mississippi River in the west, to the Chattahoochie River in the east. Winthrop Sargent became the first territorial governor, and in August, 1798, the first contingent of United States troops arrived at Natchez under the command of Brigadier General James Wilkinson, the head of the military department of the Mississippi district.

When General Wilkinson traveled to Washington in 1799, Major Cushing was appointed his replacement. Stationed in New Orleans at the time, Cushing left Louisiana on July 25, 1799, arriving at Fort Sargent, Mississippi, five days later. Cushing's time in command of the Mississippi area was spent traveling to the garrisons stationed in the region, including Forts Sargent, Loftus Heights, and Mulberry Vale near Natchez. Cushing remained in command until Wilkinson's return in May 1800. Promoted to Colonel in 1805, Cushing continued to serve in the United States Infantry. In 1806, when Spain threatened to invade the disputed areas of the Louisiana Purchase, Wilkinson dispatched Cushing to counteract any Spanish aggression. In later years, Cushing temporarily replaced General Wade Hampton as head of the Seventh Military district, and during 1810-1811, quelled disturbances in Mobile, as the Florida region passed into the hands of the United States.

In 1812 Cushing was court martialed and tried, although no information is available concerning the circumstances of his arrest or the outcome of the trial. He remained in the army, however, receiving an honorable discharge in 1815. Thomas Cushing died in October, 1822.

Scope and Content:

This collection is a photocopy of the handwritten letterbook of Major Thomas Cushing, commander of the United States forces stationed in the Mississippi Territory at the end of the eighteenth century. The letterbook contains photocopies of correspondence sent and received by Major Cushing between April 1799 and May 1800.

Chronologically organized, the collection is divided into two distinct parts -- letters received April to November 1799, and letters sent July 1799 to May 1800. The two sections of the letterbook are accompanied by transcribed notes which are helpful in deciphering the rather poor quality photocopies. Of additional assistance to the researcher is a typewritten index sheet located at the front of each section, allowing quick reference to the contents. All names of persons and places mentioned in the correspondence are listed alphabetically in the index, accompanied by corresponding page numbers. Added at a later date to both the photocopied letterbook and the transcribed notes, page numbers are indicated in pencil in the upper left and right hand corners of each page.

The contents of the letterbook hold many areas of interest. The correspondence in the collection relates to all matters concerning the day-to-day operations of the Mississippi Territory at the end of the eighteenth century. Examples include details on transfer orders, promotions, monthly returns of the garrisons under Cushing's command, and the returns of the Quartermaster, military, medical, and commissionaires stores. The collection also offers valuable information concerning Indian relations, the movement of troops, construction of garrisons and forts, and shipment of supplies to the Territory. In addition, delays in receiving supplies and the lack of necessities such as medical provisions are discussed.

Included in the collection are handwritten letters from several notable figures of the time, for example Brigadier General James Wilkinson, Secretary of War James McHenry, Quartermaster General Francis Jones, and General Wade Hampton. Also included, is correspondence to and from lesser known figures, such as Captain I. Pastuer, Major Kersey, and Captain Pike, who were commanders of the Garrisons stationed in the Mississippi Territory (Fort Massac, Fort Sargent, and Fort Pickering, respectively).

The letterbook should be of particular note to those interested in the settlement and development of the Mississippi Territory, and to those researching the early history of the United States Army.


Created by: Bobs M. Tusa
Prepared and maintained by
The University of Southern Mississippi Libraries Special Collections
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Revised: December 16, 2004