Francis W. Pickens and the Politics of Destruction

By John B. Edmunds Jr. | Go to book overview

8. The Rose of Texas

S he was preeminent for her beauty, intelligence and accomplishments. She was, most deservedly, the belle of the South."1 These words written by Benjamin F. Perry reveal that Lucy Petaway Holcombe, the lady whom Pickens met at White Sulphur Springs, Virginia, while vacationing there in the summer of 1857, was in no sense ordinary. Her fame as the celebrated beauty of the period was widespread, and when Pickens met her, every other pursuit gave way to his desire for her.

Pickens was going through a middle-age crisis, and his notebook reveals that he was lonely and melancholy. While on a trip to Florida in the spring of 1855, he wrote of how sweet the journey up the St. John's River would have been if he had had "some lovely being with whom to repose." His loneliness was manifested in his poetry and other writings. While in New York City in September 1855, he spent the day visiting the tombs at Greenwood Cemetery and "wandering through the enchanting spot--I apparently love gayety and laughter, but in truth, I love the very depths of melancholy too."2

The vulnerable Mr. Pickens was completely infatuated with Miss Holcombe, who was visiting the Springs from Marshall, Texas. Throughout the fall of 1857 his energies were diverted from political pursuits to amorous ones, as he persistently courted the "Rose of Texas." He sent her numerous letters but received few in reply. For a lock of her titian hair, Pickens sent "white and spotless pearls as an emblem of . . . pure and delicate love."3Pickens was now fifty and seeking a wife, but never had he imagined that he would have the opportunity to court such a magnificent, spirited, and intelligent beauty as the "lovely lady Lucy." They became secretly engaged shortly after meeting in August; the engagement was tenuous, however, especially after Lucy returned to Texas and informed her father. The courting continued through the winter and spring of 1857-58.

Actually, Lucy was intent on capturing a man like Pickens, and she had even gone to the Springs with her mother for that express purpose. Earlier in her life she had known love, but her beau, Lieutenant Crittenden, was executed after being captured in August 1851, while participating with General Narciso Lopez in an expedition to Cuba.4 In memory of Crittenden and Lopez, Lucy wrote a romantic account of the starstruck expedition. Choosing the pen name H. M. Hardiman, she entitled her tale The Free Flag of Cuba: or the Martyrdom of Lopez. A Tale of the Liberating Expedition of 1851

-137-

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Francis W. Pickens and the Politics of Destruction
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Preface xi
  • 1. Young Radical 3
  • 2. a Provocative Course 21
  • 3. a Vile Association 47
  • 4. Harbinger of Doom 71
  • 5. a Litany of Destruction 95
  • 6. an Insolvable Dilemma 112
  • 7. a Mere Office-Seeker 120
  • 8. the Rose of Texas 137
  • 9. a Fire-Eater Down to the Ground 150
  • 10. Governor and Council 167
  • 11- "There Can Lay No Peace for Me" 173
  • Notes 183
  • Bibliography 223
  • Index 241
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