In the early spring of 1841, thirteen-year-old Eliza Fisk Harwood of Williamsburg, Virginia, wrote a letter to her friend Tristrim “Trim” Skinner so crammed with news that it was practically unreadable. What she considered to be her most important news, however, were two parties she had recently attended. At the Twelfth Night gala she had appeared as a “a great belle” and had danced so long that she had worn holes into her new satin shoes and hose; then, at the Fair held in February at the Court House, she had watched, fascinated, as a gang of college boys gathered around the whisky punch bowl and recited a hilarious poem. Eliza was so impressed by the students’ parody of the 1777 mock epic poem, The Belles of Williamsburg, that she copied out all twenty-eight stanzas of the doggerel verse into every spare centimeter of white space in her letter. Continue reading
Williamsburg April 5th 1841 [Tazewell Hall]
Conscience, my dear friend has severely reproved for thus neglecting to answer your truly welcome letter, and I sincerely hope that you will not think the phrase “out of sight, out of mind” applicable to your humble servant; for I can assure you it is not, but quite the contrary, if you knew how much pleasure your letter gives, you would certainly write oftener.
We heard of your beloved sisters death through Mr Badham soon after it happened and you can readily imagine the surprise and sorrow felt on hearing such unexpected and melancholy intelligence. We can indeed sympathize deeply with you and our only consolation is, that she has left this world for a better home. Continue reading
Camp on last Saturday’s battlefield – June 5th 1862
My dearest Wife
I know that you have felt very anxious about me on account of not hearing from me since mine of Sunday morning, but I recollect having written you therein, that I might very possibly become so situated as not to be able to write you for some days.
Sunday proved to be the most fatiguing day of this regiment’s military experience. We reached Richmond at 10 o’clock A.M., stopped in the street at the market till 12 & then marched through a most sultry heat, & over a crowded dusty road for 3 & a quarter hours. At the end of half hour just out of the city all knapsacks & blankets were piled up & left under guard, & at the 3 & ¼ hours end the whole crowd was so heated & exhausted that a halt became actually necessary. For the last hour the dusty road had given way to one of deep mud & slush lined with broken wagons – buggies – [unreadable] and carriages & foot passengers had to go around by detours to keep from marching in mud a knee deep. After ½ hour rest we marched on again and were halted near this place where we lay down at 5 o’clock for a rest and nap. It was on the scene of the yesterday’s battle. Continue reading
Cardenas Island of Cuba Jany 6th 1851
My Dear Child
Well here am I in the place attacked some time since by the famous Lopez I left Norfolk on the 20th Decbr & arrived here on Saturday after a boistrous passage of 15 days in which I encountered two most terrific Gales The third day out to the southard of the Gulph Stream began the first gale in which the Eliza Fisk was thrown on her beam end & the Sea makeing a complete breach over her & all hands. We had to throw over the greater part of the Deck load & cut away the hoist board to right her. We had the axes all ready to cut away the masts had she not come up by throwing over the deck load. After we had made all snug I went up in the rigging to view the mighty ocean lashed by the tempest to its utmost fury & it was indeed a grand sight. I thought I had seen the mountain wave before but found all I had ever beheld was a calm to this We lay too in this gale 36 hours, & lost the boat which had all my best provisions & vegitables in her including half a fine Venison I caught in the Jas River coming down (loaded in Richmond). This was indeed a loss as I had only two stews before the gale. The foresail was blown to ribbands & all the Small things about the deck are now floating in the mighty deep after the gale Continue reading
~Beginnings: the Lowthers~
Thomas Harvey Skinner insists in his memoir of his brother – quite disingenuously – that Joseph Blount Skinner’s marriage to Maria Louisa Lowther had nothing to do with his success. Tom claims that the union did not advance his brother’s career or add to his wealth, and that “Joe B” attained his substantial holdings purely by his own hard work and intelligence. In fact, Maria Lowther provided Joe B with not only valuable access to her social network but also a tidy package of property.