James writes to his fiancée Mary Frances Campbell while visiting Hampton, Virginia, Old Point Comfort Lighthouse, and Fortress Monroe. Mentioned in this letter as “the belle of Texas” and later known as the Queen of the Confederacy is Lucy Petway Holcomb.
Old Point Comfort, Aug 1st
My dearest Fannie,
The first thought that arises to my mind on taking up my pen is the oft quoted words “Though lost to sight to memory dear,” which apply with al their force to my case in reference to you. For though absent from you, in one sense, I can in my imagination look into the depths of those love-beaming eyes of yours, and feel that I am not forgot.
As far as regards my trip, I have thus far enjoyed myself fully as much as I anticipated. I arrived here yesterday evening about four o’clock, and immediately proceeded in search of something to kill time, which is the principle object at such places as this, and which up to the present moment I have succeeded admirably in doing; for I found some of my friends here from King and Queen and Essex and several from Richmond. There are a great many kinds of amusements here, such as fishing, and dancing, billiards, and bowling which are resorted to as much by the ladies as gentlemen the former of which seem to enjoy playing ten pins amazingly. And this morning I saw the usual parade in the fort of the troops which are quartered here and which was a very interesting and pretty sight to me. The place inside of the fort is about four times as large as the Capitol Square, and perfectly level, with no trees, except on the margin to intercept the view. There is also dancing here every night in the week, which was kept up until a very late hour last night. I did not participate in it, for several reasons, though I could not refrain from taking a peep or two into the ball-room—the appearance of which was quite magnificant, there being several ladies there of very distiguishe appearance. Among the ladies present is one I saw in Texas—a Miss Lucy Holcombe4 who is known in her section as “the belle of Texas” though she did not seem to attract much attention or admiration here as she evidently aimed to do by her dress, which was extravagantly large (in circumference, I mean) and a description of which might interest you, though I confess I am entirely incapable of the task, though I noticed she had on a very high turban. I have been offered an introduction her, tho’ I have not yet concluded whether to accept it. I cannot but think how much more pleasant it might have been, dearest, if circumstances had been such that could have been with me here. It would indeed have rendered my happiness complete. I can enjoy myself it is true, but not to that extent which I am sure I would, if you were with me. All my joys, and all my hopes, and all my anxieties seem to be wound up in you, and in you alone. How dark and uninviting would the future be, if it were not for the prospect of one day, and that not very far distant, of being united to thee. But sentimentality aside, for I fear that I shall tire you with repeating what you already know. Your ambrotype, which I have with me, is at least some consolation for your absence. More than one today have I gazed at it, almost imagining in my forgetfulness, that the original was before me. Write to me, Fannie, as soon as you get this, so that I may here from you by the first of the week. I am as anxious to hear from you as if I had been absent a month, lo! it has been but two days, but I am ashamed to confess my weakness to you, though I would not like to anyone else. If you do not write, it will be a great disappoint to me, as I like to receive letters at any time much more than I like to write them, and more particularly from you. I shall direct this to the care of Vernon Bowis, as I have forgotten the initial which you told me, but I suppose there can be no mistake, as I know of no other family who their names the same way. I do not know yet what day I shall come up but probably not until Thursday for Friday. I think that after a portion of the crowd gets away, which is here now, that it will be more pleasant here. There is a young bride and groom here from Essex, I hear, but I have not seen them. I know both of the parties well. They have been engaged a year or two. I am warned by the little space that I have left that I must close this hastily written letter. You will please excuse the inaccuracies it contains, for my sake, as I have not the industry to copy it. Adieu for the present, dear Fannie, and answer by return mail, if it is not too much to ask, and receive the assurance of the continued love of
Yours, till death