1862: John Thomas Read to Laurena Caroline (Rankin) Read

This letter was written by John Thomas Read (1825-1900), the son of Sion Spencer Read (1791-1845) and Hardenia Jefferson Spencer (1804-1889) of McMinnville, Warren county, Tennessee. John attended the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia in 1852-1853 and was practicing medicine in McMinnville when the Civil War began. He received an appointment in the CSA service as a surgeon and by January 1862 he was attached to the 16th Tennessee Infantry. In May 1862, John failed to pass his examination as a surgeon and, as a consequence, lost his commission. By April 1863, however, he was reinstated as a surgeon  by the Confederate States Senate. After the war, he resumed his practice in McMinnville and then built and managed the Read House Hotel in Chattanooga in 1872.

John’s older brother, Lycurgus W. Read (1822-1846), was killed in the Battle of Monterrey in the Mexican War. He also had a younger brother, Lieut. Edmund Cole Read (1834-1862) of Co. C, 16th Tennessee Vols., who died from wounds received at the Battle of Perryille.

John wrote the letter to his wife, Laurena Caroline (“Carrie”) Rankin (1827-1903). She was the daughter of David Rankin (1799-1862) and Zilpha Roberson (1809-1882).


John T. Read’s Hotel in Chattanooga after the Civil War

Addressed to Mrs. Jno. T. Read, McMinnville, Tenn.

Pocotaligo, South Carolina
January 18, 1862

My dear Carrie,

Yours of the 11th was received day before yesterday just after Mr. Spurlock left and as I had just written to you by him and some of the officers here expected a fight yesterday or today, I have deferred writing until now that I might assure you that we were alive yet and liking to remain so a great while if we live until the Yankees attack us here.

As to the Harrin Acct., that is correct and he has an acct. against me for corn &c. which Mr. Rankin can settle if he wishes. Otherwise, it can be left until my return. W. Turner’s acct. is correct and the Kilgore acct. is the one he speaks of the Sheriff’s receipt for the collection of. The Alley’s note has been paid, I think. I have concluded to pay the Bank draft as the calls are made and devote my means from now on to the payment of Stubblefield’s debt after store accts. &c. are paid. I owe each drug store in McMinnville a small acct. if you should have the money to spare any time, pay them.

As to your keeping boarders is concerned, there is nothing wrong in the matter but [ ] in you to make an effort to be independent yourself. The only thing I wished to impress upon you was that I did not wish you to break yourself down in trying to support yourself & family in my absence when I was off at a good salary. If not too much labor to you, I think it best that you have company. I will send by Mr. James Spurlock in three weeks $200 to pay on the G. J. S. debt provided he does not want the negro. How has the hog speculation of our kin turned out? I hope they will make money.

Mr. James Spurlock expects to be back here in two or three weeks and occasionally until spring opens. He will bring us some butter and lard. If it has not already started, don’t trouble yourself about the matter. I will have enough money to pay my score. The butter, apples & cakes came safely and were very nice and we all appreciated them highly after being so long deprived of such things.

I am glad you are having such pleasant times with music, dancing, &c. I have promised Bob and Hacket a dance if we should all get home. Try and have Laura to learn how to dance. I hope by the middle of May next to be able to dance a little myself. I think it the most innocent amusement of any other for the refined.

Charley has received your letter but he is now as formerly a very quiet young gentleman [and] rarely speaks to any one outside of his own mess. And as to his answering your letter, you has as well expect the millennium.

I am glad that sister Laura has written to Ma. Write to her yourself and tell her to write to me and I will answer her. I saw some two months since when one or more of the [Rankins?] were wounded in some battle but Bob said neither was our kin. I would like to know more of my relatives than I now do.

As to your visiting your parents now, I have nothing to say. Go if you think best. In May next, several of us expect to go over to the Valley on a big fishing excursion when I would like to have you along very much, and amongst the rest, Uncle Jim Spurlock. He has some notions of renting my farm. Say nothing about the matter now as it is all uncertain and in the future.

We now have less than four months to serve and the nearer the time of freedom approaches, the more heavily the times drag. There are now indications of a desire upon the part of some of the officials to re-enlist our troops. I think they are generally disposed to loan their guns &c. to the militia for six months—at least if the war continues and the rest of the present Tenn. troops are like ours just now the militia will have a chance to show their valor during the next summer.

We have damp, disagreeable weather here just now. Usually the days are very warm and the nights rather cool. The regiment is in unusually good health and unless the Yankees spur up a little, I expect the most of us will come back home in good health & spirits in May and the girls may look out as I think the boys are determined to marry at sight or on the wing or almost anyway as they have been deprived of female society so long they are almost desperate now.

If your boarders give you no unnecessary labor, keep them, as I see nothing wrong in your course save the labor to yourself.

[     ]. I would write to her but the most of my time is occupied and when I have time, I prefer writing to you. Give my love to my relations and accept for yourself my warmest regards, — Jno. T. Read

I have written to Mr. Rankin about the corn &c.




About Griff

My passion is studying American history leading up to & including the Civil War. I particularly enjoy reading, transcribing & researching primary sources such as letters and diaries. View all posts by Griff

One response to “1862: John Thomas Read to Laurena Caroline (Rankin) Read

  • Tyler

    Thank you for posting this! I am actually the historian for the Read House and have done extensive research into the history of the hotel and the family that established it. I would love to talk more about this letter. If you get this could you email me at tylerlogue24@yahoo.com? Thank you and have a great day.

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