Alabama River, April 26, 1861

I do not know that I can better express my appreciation of the goodness of my gentle and dear Elodie, in being present, this morning, to bid me goodby and God speed, than by writing her a few hurried lines. [1] For I know that to hold communion with her is the sweetest of all pleasures.

We are speeding on our way over the water, and at each revolution of the wheels, the distance between us is lengthened, but the ties which bind us are only increased. I watched you until you passed from my sight in the distance, and saw with pleasure that tho smiles wreathed your face, it was done to cheer and to animate one whose heart was almost bursting with sadness. But I must not indulge these feelings, but must turn to the brighter visions that flit across the mind at the hope of future happiness and our union in those solemn bonds that will make us one in all things. Like Ruth [2] thy country shall be my country, my God shall be your God, and your people shall be my people, and we will have to appreciate in happiness the deferred visions of Hope. Am I not fighting for you, am I not your sworn knight and soldier? If so, you must bid me God speed.

I requested Mr. Dennis [3] to get some of my hardiest geranium plants to have them sent to you. Will you blame me again? I wish these fragrant flowers to be the silent, living witnesses of my love, and I know you will water and cultivate them as the living memorials of my constant fidelity to your heart.

I think our friend, the ex-Lieutenant, is now convinced that I am in love with you. He evidently was shocked at the tableau of last night and seems to have all of the feelings of a jealous nature aroused. But I do not blame him [n]or do I dislike him for loving the same dear and noble lady whom I worship. I will never feel pained at your receiving the attention of any gentleman but am rather pleased. For I am willing and anxious that the beams of the sun which reflect upon me should warm others into happiness. I have no hesitancy in saying that I have confidence that can never be shaken--the same in your love and truth that the follower of Mohammet has in his prophet. We have a large and noisy crew aboard, and what with the noise, frequent interruptions, and the shaking of the boat, I can hardly write, but I know you will take the trouble to read what is written. We will reach Mongom'y tonight, and in a few days will leave for Lynchburg Va. I will write you very frequently, if only a hurried line. I fear you will object to my frequent letters. Your love will make me a stronger and better man, able to resist the vices of a campaign life. And now, good bye. Again, I commend you to God and subscribe myself your own attached,

N. H. R. D.

Montgom’y, April 27, 1861

I snatch a moment, while in the adjutant general’s office, waiting for orders, to write my own loved Elodie, to tell her that in all the turmoil of the moment, her image is ever present.

We leave for Dalton in Georgia this evening, or tomorrow morning, and will remain there one or two days, when we go to Lynchburg Va. We form a regiment at Dalton. I slept on a box with a blanket last night with my company around me on the floor of a [?] I find the change a great one, but the knowledge that you approve what I have done is consolation.

I have your sweet likeness and lock of hair in a locket. If the fate of war decides it, they will be on my person when I fall. Are you happy my dearest under all these troubles? I long again to hear your voice of welcome, and it will increase to the music of love and happiness. Write me at Lynchburg. A letter would hardly reach me at Dalton.

Adieu. I am now called off and must bid you goodbye.

God preserve and keep is my earnest prayer.

Your own betrothed,

N.H.R. Dawson

N.B. I wrote you per Mr. William Knox yesterday, in a letter to Mrs. White.

  1. Elodie and Nathaniel walked to the dock on the Alabama River south of town, where Nathaniel got on a paddleboat. He watched the shore until he could not see Elodie anymore, and then he sat down and wrote this letter. The Magnolia Cadets, Nathaniel's militia group, had been ordered to Dalton, Georgia, where they would be mustered in as Company C of the Fourth Alabama Infantry Regiment. From there they would head to Lynchburg and then to an encampment across the Potomac from Washington, D.C. Two days before this letter, Elodie and her sister Martha sewed the Cadets a company flag, which was presented in a ceremony at Watt's Hall.
  2. Nathaniel is referring to Ruth, of the Bible's Old Testament, who accepted the God of the Israelites as her God and the Israelite people as her people. In Ruth 1:16-17, Ruth tells Naomi, her mother-in-law, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me."
  3. Probably John Dennis, a friend of Nathaniel's living in Selma. 1860 U.S. Federal Census, Selma, Dallas County, Ala. Hereafter, this census will be marked as 1860 Census: Selma.
April 26, 1861


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


Residence (County): 
Dallas County, AL


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Alabama River


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