This letter was written by Thomas Edwin Greenfield Ransom (1834-1864), the Captain of Co. E, 11th Illinois. Thomas mustered into service for 3 months at Vandalia on 30 April 1861 and was promoted to Major before the regiment disbanded. When the regiment reformed for three years service, Thomas was commissioned its Lieutenant Colonel and was promoted to Colonel on 15 February 1862. We went on to become a Brigadier General. Ransom was wounded four times: in a skirmish near Charleston, Missouri, on August 20, 1861; at the Fort Donelson in February 1862; severely (in the head) during the Battle of Shiloh on April 6, 1862; and at the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads, Louisiana, on April 4, 1864. His wounds at the latter engagement were so severe that he was evacuated to Chicago for treatment. President Grant would frequently talk about young Ransom with great affection and respect. Sherman kept a photograph of General Ransom on the wall of his office 20 years after the war. After his death, the community of Ransom, Illinois, was named in his honor. Thomas’ younger brother, Frederick Eugene Ransom—renowned as an artist—also served in the 11th Illinois, Co. E.
The letter is only signed “Ransom” but Thomas and his brother Frederick had distinctively different signatures. Below is a comparison of a known Thomas Ransom signature below the signature affixed to this letter.
I can’t be certain who the letter was addressed to. The treasurer of the Illinois Central Railroad was Joshua Newton Perkins (1804-1876); it may have been him but I think it more likely than not a relative of Joshua’s.
[Villa Ridge, Illinois]
May 31st 1861
I have this morning got “the refusal” of a place in the sutler’s establishment for you as his confidential man & you will have charge of the establishment. I consider this place as good if not the best in the civilian appointments for the Regiment. He will probably not want you—or can get along without you—until next week, but you must be prepared to come on the shortest notice. And as I have blowed very extensively about you, I want you to make a favorable impression at first sight. You will arrange my business in the best possible manner and leave accounts & notes that you cannot send to Chicago with the best man you can find. I am not sure but old man Lacy would be the best but use your own judgement—only get a man that will try to collect—perhaps Hubbard, attorney at Kininundy would be a good man to leave some accounts with. Have all property inventoried & left with a good man with instructions to see low if he has a chance.
Be expeditious & yet neglect nothing as anything left loose will go to the devil of course. We will keep the horse at $51 as I think you can sell him for more money. You will make out bill for keeping “Grown” and file it, and write Wallace fully what you have done & what there is to be done & who you have left things in charge of. How about the pay for April from I. C. [Illinois Central] R. R.? Did you get it?
The Grown horse got lame shortly after he got here and I do not know how it was done. He was unwell all the time he was here & could scarcely move for 3 days after he arrived. I hope he will be brought out before the sale comes off have him attended to.
The Snyder interest must be paid by some means & if possible, I would like to have you do it as I am “broke” as well as “every other man” in the regiment.
Regards to friends. What does Andy Shields say about his matters.
Yours ever, — Ransom