Nanci Edwards, a Smithsonian Project Manager, shared a letter from her great-great uncle Vidal Thom that he wrote on Thanksgiving to his brother (Edwards’ great-great grandfather) William “Willie” Thom. Vidal Thom was only 19-years-old when he enlisted with the Union army on Christmas Day, 1861 in Nashua, New Hampshire. In this Thanksgiving letter* from Vidal to Willie, we get a glimpse of the thoughts of a young man far from family on Thanksgiving. Stationed at a camp near Bealton Station in Virginia reflects on the holiday.
My Dear Brother,
I suppose you are having a good time today eating chicken pie, plum pudding & C & C. are you not. I hope you art at aney rate for I want you to enjoy yourself as much as possible. I should like to be with you and help you ___ them and I know that you would like to have me ___ but although I cannot be with you to enjoy your luxceries and your company. Still I have many things to be thankful for I am thankful that my life has thus been spared to me and that I enjoy good heath I am thankful that you are all well at home. I am thankful that the good weather still continues which enables the army to keep on the move pressing the enemy back to this den. I hear cannon comanding this morning which sounds down to the Rapidan river.
I am in hopes that our army will be more successful this time and not have to fall back from thier position. If we are successful and the weather holds for a week longer I ___ in hopes that our Army will take Richmond this time. I should like a few gallons of that cider which you say you made and about one barel of those apples. This winter I should also like to have of that pigs legs after it was well pickled. But one thing I feel bad to hear that Willie has gone to Haverhill to work this winter instead of going to school. I wish very much that he would go to school this winter instead of working. I hope he has not let himself for 3 years for if he worlds this winter he must go to school next summer. I supose of course you will go to school this winter try hard to learn all you can and when you are older you will be glad you studied so ___ I have received the papers you sent me and was very glad ___ get them. I received a letter from George a few days ago he was well so ___ yes ____. I hope Mr Simervill will find some trace of our Dear Father.
My love and a kiss to mother I supose you would like to know what I had for Thanksgiving breakfast. Well I had a very good one. I had baked beans coffee with milk in it and bread which makes a good army meal. But I must close, give my love to all enquiring friends and accept the love and best wishes of your loving brother.
I will send you a small piece of military telegraph wire such as is used in time __atter or anytime, when ___ want to establish a line of ____nication quick
Please write soon and often
Through his letters and diary entries, I’ve been able to follow Vidal as he moved through Northern Virginia (where he was captured at Middleburg and then spent some time as a prisoner of war on Belle Island in Richmond), to Cold Harbor, Stony Creek, and then out to the Shenandoah Valley. The last letter that we have was sent from City Point, Virginia, and was dated July 8, 1864. Vidal Thom was killed on July 18, 1864, while on picket duty at Cox’s Mills, Virginia (north of Charlottesville).
*The letter is transcribed by Nanci Edwards and is posted with Vidal’s exact spelling and grammar as recognized.