Another somber letter of James, written from an unfinished earthwork in Petersburg, Virginia. James is depressed and his mind is filled with thoughts over the care and concern of his family, what he has missed in life by choosing to fight in the war, his future, the war’s future and possible length.
Fort Gregg, Nov. 23, 1864
Your kind letter dated the 10th inst. was received several days ago, but in consequence of the great inclemency of the weather and our moving about from place to place, I have been unable to write sooner. And even now I begin this letter not knowing whether I will be able to finish it or not. We moved here yesterday, expecting to take up our winter quarters at this place but today we had orders to go up the plank road about four miles further, where we remain during the winter, provided there is no other change in the programme. This will carry us about seven miles from Petersburg, which is rather further than we expected to go, but it can’t be helped. I am deeply grieved to hear of your sickness, as well as of our poor little Nan’s. It is indeed very unfortunate at this time. O how I would like to be with you or in any way alleviate your suffering, but that pleasure it seems is denied me. It troubles me beyond measure to know that those whom I hold most dear on earth are suffering, when it is beyond my power to help them in any way. The fact of their being thrown on the cold charities of the world is also an additional source of annoyance to me, especially when there seems to be less and less probability of its ending. I sometimes get to thinking of these things and hardly know what the course to pursue with regard to the future. What will become of us all if this war should last four years longer? as some persons seem to think. It just looks to me like so much of my life thrown away that ought to be spent in supporting my family. Your sickness and Nan’s and the disappointments I have lately suffered have made me quite low-spirited, together with the gloomy prospects of the future. I do hope and earnestly pray that you both may be spared to me, and that by the time this reaches you will both have entirely recovered. I have not been to Petersburg since I wrote you before, but I want to go this evening and visit those friends of mine, Mr. and Mrs. Walden, and mail this letter. We have received a new suit which was presented and sent to us by Capt. Crenshaw from England,54 together with another pair of boots for each man in the battery, which is a very acceptable present at this time, as we were in much need of them. It is a very handsome suit. I am still without an overcoat though, but I think I can get along this winter as I did last. I am very anxious indeed to hear from you again and to hear how you are. Do write to me again as soon as you receive this. I have not seen Willie since I saw him on his return from King & Queen, and do not know what has become of him. The last time I heard from Bet, which was a week or ten days ago, she told me to write to you and try to induce you to come to Richmond; that they wanted to see you and the children very much; but of course you could not go while you were sick. Write me immediately if anything happens, or if Nan gets worse. Pray excuse this hurried letter, as it is very cold, and I can hardly write at all. How is dear little Florence getting on. You did not say a word about her in your last letter. My last letter was written while I was in great disappointment at your not coming over, and I was so anxious to see you that I was fretted at the time though you of course were not to blame. But you must forgive me, dearest. You are so dear to me that nothing I can say ought to give you offense. Remember me to all at Mr. G’s. Give my best love to Columbia. And believe me always
Your devoted husband
J. Harvey Campbell
P.S. May Heaven bless you and us always safely to each others arms again. Do write as soon as possible.