Todd-Dawson-055

Transcription: 

Winchester, Virginia, June 23, 1861

I return the favor, my dear Elodie, and devote a part of this Sabbath morning to you. Your letter of 16th was received this morning and gave me infinite pleasure. I spend the Sabbath as you spent the last—in messages of love.

Last evening orders were issued to cook three days rations and to be ready at a moment’s notice to march. Most of the night was spent in making preparations, but as yet no orders have been received and we are still in a state of painful uncertainty. The report is that the enemy have crossed or are about to cross the river at Williamsport and that we are to go in search of them, but no definite intelligence of the fact has yet reached Gen. Johnston. If we leave we go without our tents, with our blankets alone. Such are some of the perplexities of a soldier’s life.

None are permitted to leave camp today, and the men are lying in groups among the shade trees. I was anxious to go to the Episcopal church as the communion was to be administered but could not obtain leave. So, dearest, I will commune in feeling with you and imagine myself seated at your side. To read your letters is indeed a pleasure and tho their sad tenor makes me sad, it is a melancholy that is pleasant to know that one heart, far distant, beats its prayer for me and watches anxiously for my safety is so flattering that it is truly a pleasure. I love you all the more ardently and am only pained sometimes by the reflection that I have caused you much of this pain and anxiety from the selfishness of having made known to you the state of my feelings before leaving home. If I had smothered the flame, you might now be happy in the love of some other who would not be so far away, and your own happiness would have been unimpaired by the dark shadows that now haunt and annoy your repose of mind. But, my dearest, even if the fruition of the bright dreams that have crossed my path since our engagement will never be realized, I trust that the cloud will be lifted from your brow and that the time will arrive when you can contemplate their memory without painful associations. It will be your duty to do so, and I pray that you will not deprive yourself of all the beautiful flowers that surround us in life when we bow cheerfully and submissively to the desires of God. It is my wish that you should be happy. But I have found so far in life that I have been more fortunate, as you know if you are acquainted with my history, than I had any reason to deserve, and I still hope that you will have my life and health to add to your happiness. I feel very hopeful of this, and I am now sanguine that the war will not be protracted to a long time, and I will take no unnecessary risks.

I rejoice to know that you think me in the path of duty and that you would not have me idle at this time when the enemy has invaded our borders. What I have done will be a satisfaction to myself in after years and will be a benefit to my children. And you, my own dear angel, will feel your face glow with pride at knowing that your husband has faced dangers and hardships and made sacrifices in the cause of his country. I love and admire you for the beautiful patriotism that you manifest for your own native Kent’y. and hope, for your sake, that she will yet refuse to bow to the thralldom of the Federal government. When I think of your noble feelings and pure impulses, I am made to feel that I prefer your love and domination in preference to the approval of all the women in the world. You are peerless and without equal in my heart. I thank Willie for his good wishes and hope he will pray for something more substantial next time.

Winchester is quite an interesting place as it has many associations connected with Gen. Washington in colonial times. As the young surveyor, he traveled over all of this valley and surveyed the lands. As the commander of the Va. troops in 17[] he built fort London, the remains of which are now distinctly visible and are the site of four large private dwellings, once of which is the handsome residence of Mrs. Dandridge, the widow of Col. Bliss, and daughter of Gen. Taylor. I went all over the old fort yesterday evening. The well blasted from the solid rock, nine feet in diameter, which was dug by Washington for the garrison, is still used, and I drank from it a delightful cup of cold fine water. The home where Washington spent the first night he was in the vicinity is on the farm of Mr. Baxter who told me he would not take any sum for so valuable a reminiscence of the olden time. The town has a large number of young ladies, many of whom come out to see our dress parades. Yesterday evening I walked back with a young lady who was introduced to me and found her quite pleasant. She is a refugee from Washington City, as are several others here who have been obliged to leave their homes. What would you have thought if you had heard me speaking of your praises? I frequently speak of the fair Southern sister of Mrs. Lincoln and always, as you know, in her praise. Gen. Johnston’s wife was a Miss McLean of Baltimore.

I notice what you say of M[] T.S. I never could see why he was allowed to darken a gentleman’s threshold. He is a love, envious man, and I pity you or any lady who is obliged to be polite to him. He tried in every way, during the last canvass, to excite the lower classes against me. I am obliged to administer a rebuke from which he has not yet recovered. He has never since been able to look me in the face. I have but one feeling and that is of contempt for him. I wrote you that Mr. Averitt was engaged to Miss May Williams. Has he written you of the fact? I like him. He is a very innocent man but knows little of human nature. All his geese are swans. He will speak in the most rapturous terms of a hot roll or a fried chicken. I preserve my terms generally for important subjects.

I appreciate your long letters and hope you will not cease to write them. You are indeed a heroine to meet all the difficulties in your way in writing to me, and I certainly appreciate your early rising for the purpose of finishing the letter.

While here, let me ask you to take good care of your health—go to bed early and rise early, especially should this rule be observed in summer. Keep from the sun and from the dews of night, and you will escape all sickness. Is not Dr. Cabell your physician? I intend to have him as mine. Indeed he is now employed to see to the health of my servants. You must observe his directions. I have dined twice at the hotel here, and it has made me completely averse to camp life, as the luxury of a clean cloth and knife and fork has something extremely fascinating to me. I frequently wish myself at my own board and especially when my fair angel will grace its head. Near ten months are still to pass before my return, unless peace is made. I have an idea that congress will make peace in some way or shape. I think Mr. Lincoln is willing to make a compromise. I thank you for your offer to make the head dress for me, but I will not put you to the pleasant task as I have a cap with a havelock to protect my neck from the sun.

The person who spoke of you as a recluse is certainly not one who thinks or speaks unkindly of any one, particularly of you. Mrs. McCraw, mother of my friend Lieut. McCraw. He is a fine officer and a perfect gentleman. We stay in the same tent and are almost like brothers.

I am glad Mr. White is not here for his sake and for yours and Mrs. White’s. Tell him by all means to remain at home. I will do his part of the fighting.

I am glad you approve my continuing at the law as my profession. You must now urge me to persevere for I am very lazy. You told me of your acquaintance of Mr. Johnson of Tennessee the evening of our moonlight walk. Oh for such a stroll again. Have we not been unfortunate in having had so little opportunity of seeing each other? But dearest this denial has made our love stronger and firmer. And now, goodbye. God bless and protect and keep you and may He in his wise providence deal with us mercifully.

Ever sincerely and affty yours,

N.H.R. Dawson

Date: 
June 23, 1861

Author(s)

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

Recipient(s)

Residence (County): 
Dallas County, AL

From

From State: 
Virginia
From Municipality: 
From County: 
Frederick

To

To State: 
Alabama
To Municipality: 
To County: 
Dallas

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