Todd-Dawson-034

Transcription: 

Selma, May 27, 1861

Matt and Kittie have gone to ride, Mother to attend a Union Prayer Meeting [1], so I am entirely alone and take advantage of being so and will acknowledge your letter of today but not attempt to express the pleasure it gave me to hear from you. Indeed, you have good cause to think strangely of my seeming negligence and silence, but I assure you it is owing altogether to the mail for I have written often and always long letters and many since the 9th, yet I am astonished to find that your confidence in my constancy could be shaken for a moment by anything, much less such an occurrence as not receiving your letters in good time, but I must confess I would think something was wrong if I was so long without hearing from you, but after all your protestations of love and faithfulness I would attribute your silence to anything else than inconstancy. As there is nobody here and besides I am not in demand, hereafter you need have no fear of losing me. You will find me here waiting for you when you return no matter when or how long that time is if I am living in this great world. I would like to know what you are doing just at this moment. I am sitting on the porch (but Mother has just joined me) writing to you and thinking how nice it would be to have you with us. Maybe I wouldn’t enjoy exceedingly a good long talk, I won’t say chat, with you, and it makes me feel right sad when I think it may be so many months ere we meet again.

After tea.

Ella Watts came over just as I commenced the last time and as she was very disconsolate I was occupied some time in cheering her, often saying I did not think we would have any war, which would cause her face to brighten and much to my silent amazement she would exclaim, “do you really think so?” in a tone that expressed she had more confidence in what I was saying than I had myself. A few days ago I met several girls with their faces and eyes crimson with the tears they had been shedding, and they all acknowledge how many hours they indulge in tears for the departed Blues. I know I must be considered hardhearted, but I return the compliment thinking they are very silly to show their grief to public eyes and think those who say the least oftener feel the deepest. I regard my grief as too sacred to be seen by every eye and am selfish enough to enjoy it entirely alone when I have the inclination to indulge which I very seldom do as I think matters will not be improved, and I have a great dread of an unhappy person who is a tax on any one, and you know the habit might increase. I am afraid of being like Mrs. Hardie, not only miserable myself but causing those around me to be so too. But I do pity her, poor creature. Mr. Hagood and another gent have made their appearance so I must give up writing until tomorrow.

Tuesday night, May 28th.

It really seems as tho’ this letter is doomed never to be finished, and I feel discouraged about it and think I will end it this time before leaving again for anything or anybody. I found in the morning paper a telegram to the effect that Saturday was spent at Harper’s Ferry, fighting hard. I was never more surprised and startled in my life and tried to dismiss the subject from my mind as unreliable and thought the hours to pass until Bro. Clem came would never end so great was my suspense, and when he did arrive it was to tell me there had no such news been received here and it was false. I believe to know and realize the worst is not more terrible than this suspense and every day to me it becomes more and more insupportable. Would that all was over, and we could tell what was to be done and once knowing be prepared to endure the worst, but so it is—we are never satisfied and I do confess I never was less so in my life. The state of affairs do not suit me more than many others.

Kittie is writing to sister Mary (Mrs. Abe Lincoln), and I requested her to mention the fact of my being interested in you and should you fall into the hands of the blk. Rep., hope you will be kindly received with care, but I am fearful since Ellsworth's death that the Southerners will fare badly if they get within their clutches and hope you will keep as far as possible from them.

Selma is so quiet that one passing thro' would imagine it was ready to be inhabited, the town finished, the carpenters and builders departed. Kittie declares it to be the last place in the world, and I think is perfectly willing to leave now for some other place more congenial to her tastes. The gaiety of Springfield and the extreme dullness of this place must indeed be striking, but I imagine it is the same everywhere now. I could not mingle with gay society and feel grateful that all is so quiet around me, and I am not worried with company for the ladies are working or grieving I think as very few visits have been paid in the last week. Last night John brought me a bouquet of Cape Jasmines and a waiter of apples. They reminded me of Kentucky and are so nice that I do not know whether to keep them to look at or eat them. I did not know before apples grew anywhere in the neighborhood of Selma.

I went to see Mrs. Parnell a few evenings ago and a cousin, Miss Serena Parnell, [2] who is living with her. Mrs. P. told me she heard I was going to marry Col. D. and I would not tell you for any consideration the complimentary speeches she made about you, and I agreed with her in all, for fear of making you too vain and that ill-becomes a man, and besides would encroach upon our rights, for that one trait belongs to woman as her prerogative exclusively. I am writing a long letter and have been reminded by Mother that it is growing quite late, and I will take her hint and finish this [but] not before begging you always to overlook all deficiencies in composition and penmanship.

As I received no letter today I will look for one tomorrow and hope hereafter you will receive all I write you. Goodbye. May god in his mercy watch over and protect you from all harm, granting us a speedy reunion is the prayer of your ever affectionate,

Elodie

Footnotes: 
  1. As might be imagined, Elizabeth "Betsey" Todd was by 1861 consumed with worry by the drift of events. Kentucky seemed stuck in neutral, and if she didn't return soon she would be a sixty-year-old widow cut off from home and all its securities. If she did make it back, she would be cut off from her Confederate sons and daughters. Elodie, whom she always counted on as a companion in her old age, seemed firm in her decision to marry a man she didn't know. Mary had invited her to the White House, and there was no good way to say no, though she would obviously have to say no, because most of her sons were in the Confederate army. She probably hoped Kentucky would secede, but she attended Union prayer meetings because they were one of the few places where people were still praying for peace. Berry, House of Abraham, 71.
  2. The Parnell family is mentioned often in the correspondence, but they could not be identified definitively. Probably they are J. M. Parnell, identified as a farmer in the 1850 U.S. Federal Census, Lexington, Dallas County, Ala.; his wife Amanda; and their children, J. C. Parnell and S. G. Parnell, who is likely the Miss Serena Parnell, a friend of Elodie's, who would have been twenty-four at the outbreak of the war.
Date: 
May 27, 1861

Author(s)

Residence (County): 
Dallas County, AL

Recipient(s)

Unit: 
4th Alabama Infantry
Rank: 
Captain
Residence (County): 
Dallas County, AL

From

From State: 
Alabama
From Municipality: 
From County: 
Dallas

To

To State: 
Virginia
To Municipality: 

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