In this somber letter, James is thinking heavily about his family and loved ones, their needs, his own future, the probability of a long hard winter, a lack of pay, finding solace in a pocket Bible and the promise of Christ whose blood cleanseth from all sin, and the prayers of loved ones who have supported him through many dangers and temptations.
Petersburg, Va., Saturday-September 10th 1864
My Dear Wife,
Your welcome letter came to hand yesterday which I had been expecting for several days. Nothing unusual has transpired here since I last wrote. There has been no fighting here of consequence, though there is a strong probability that there will be soon, as the indications are that there will be another battle before a week passes over. The result of which fight will probably decide whether we are to spend the winter here in the trenches or not. If we do, there will be great suffering among the troops I fear, for want of wood, as the timber has all been cut down and carried off for a mile or two all around the city to facilitate the purposes of defense and I don’t see how we are to get wood enough to keep ourselves comfortable. But I hope some provision will be made for that object. I have had very little to do recently, my dearest, and when that is the case, my time hangs heavily on my hands, as I begin to think about the loved ones at home and the probabilities of getting there. But I have recently received a treasure in having a present of a beautiful pocket bible, which I prize very highly as I did not have one, and have been trying for some time to get one. This is a great comfort to me. A great many doubts often flit across my mind, dearest, and darken, for a time, the horizon of the future, especially in regard to my having once been a believer, and returning, for a season, to the pleasures of the world, but I receive comfort and consolation from the promise of Christ, whose blood “cleanseth from all sin”, and is not willing that any shall perish, and then I feel as if I could cast myself without reserve on Christ, and believe that he is able and willing to save all who come unto him with full purpose of heart. And especially comforted do I feel when I know that there are those, far off though they may be, whose daily prayers and intercessions ascent to a Throne on high for my temporal and eternal happiness. This thought it is, above all others, that has supported me through so many dangers and temptations. The very next day after I sent my last letter, I received, by Mr. Ellett, the shirt and necktie, which you sent, and which I was very glad to get, as I had not one to put on of any kind. I was very much pleased with both and am wearing the necktie which I think is very neat. And in a day or two I drew two shirts and a pair of drawers from the department, so that I am now well provided which I very much fear is not the case with you and the children. If so, do let me know, and maybe I will be able to do something for you, as next month our commutation for clothing is due, I think, and as I have not drawn all I am entitled to, the balance will be due me, besides which, they owe us four months pay now, which has been raised to $19.00 per month. I do hope you will be able to get Florence home as you seem to be so anxious to see her, though I think rather doubtful whether she will consent to come with a perfect stranger, though she may with a little persuasion. I am very sorry you could not come to Richmond as I know your ma would have been so glad to see you. Remember me particularly to Mr. G. and Ellen, who I suppose is married now, though you did not say anything about it in your last. Also to Lieut. Dew.53 Give my best to Sister Lum, if she has come over, and tell her to write to me she can spare the time. I have heard no more of Willie since I wrote, but presume he is well or some of us would have heard. I feel very sorry for Mrs. Oliver whom I recollect very well. And now, my dearest, I must close, though I have not written half what I wanted to write, as my sheet is very small, but you must imagine the rest. And accept renewed assurances of the undying affection of
Your loving husband