Camp near Lynchburg, May 9, 1861

I have just read over your notes of 21 and 24th April [1] with a chapter of the bible from the bible you gave me. The sweet words of love and confidence in your notes are a comfort and a solace. You promise me your love unalterably and under all circumstances and sign yourself "your own Elodie." These indeed are flattering expressions, and I long to receive another letter in which you will sign yourself my own Elodie. Why is woman so jealous of expressing her feelings, so guarded in telling the promptings of her heart? If it were treason to love you, I could be found guilty from any one of my letters for I cannot conceal the fact. Probably you do not like my style of writing, but I cannot help it & even as my wife I would love & write to you as passionately. I adore and worship you above all things and would willingly labor seven long, weary years to win your love.

In you, I see all that I want in a wife--the winning modesty, the cultivated intellect, the witching simplicity and ingeniousness of truthfulness and sincerity. How welcome will be the hour when I shall lead you from the altar to my home to bless me with your love and affections. There you will be the gentle Egeria [2] who will woo me from evil and from sin and train me in the paths of goodness and Christianity. In my library, how sweet in the long winter evenings to listen to your conversation or to hear your voice upon the piano or the guitar. Gentle, dear Elodie, how happy you have made me. How much I owe you for having consented to be mine. What induced you to love so undeserving a man, one whose head has been steeped in the waters of sorrow and misery, whom the world only knows unfavorably as a cold, selfish man? Take the enigma and be prepared to realize the rashness of the act.

I have no news. Troops are pouring in by every train. 1000 Miss. arrived yesterday, and still they are coming. 5000 Va. troops are collecting here. The rumors of war and our destination are very conflicting. I hope these difficulties will be settled without war, but I am almost alone in the opinion. It may be that my anxiety about you makes me think so.

The ladies visit the camp in large numbers every evening. I am vain enough for your sake to think that they look favorably at me, but I am very careful to tell them that I have no heart to give away. Is this right? I have met with much kindness from various persons, some of whom I have known heretofore, having met them in my travels. I have just declined an invitation to tea as I do not feel disposed to take the trouble to dress for such an occasion; indeed, I have no desire to extend my acquaintance beyond the circle of my own dear Elodie. I was up until three o'clock last night visiting the sentinels [and] have drilled four hours today. At three I turn out again and will be on the pace till 7 o'clock this evening.

The drums are just beating, and I am called away from the pleasure of conversing with you. I will try to write you frequently, and you must remember that it will be done even at the expense of duty.

We are all well except a few men with colds. My boys are greatly attached to their captain and point me out on all occasions as the handsomest officer to the ladies in the regiment. I bear the flattery for your sake.

And now goodbye. God bless and protect you always, my dear Elodie.

Ever and affectionately yours,

N. H. R. Dawson

P.S. Please remember me very kindly to Mrs. White. No one here suspects our engagement. Is it suspected in Selma?

  1. These letters, written while Nathaniel was still in Alabama, do not survive in any known collection.
  2. In Roman mythology, Egeria was the nymph and consort to the second Sabine king of Rome, whom she advised on matters of law and religious ritual. Her name became synonymous with that of a wise female advisor to a male leader.
May 9, 1861


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


Residence (County): 
Dallas County, AL


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