Harpers Ferry, May 14, 1861

Since writing you from Strasbourg--not Port Royal as the letter was dated yesterday--I have passed quite an eventful time. We marched 18 miles to Winchester and arrived during a heavy storm of wind, rain, and hail and were all wet. I walked the whole way tho' a horse and buggy were provided for me thro' a friend, as I wished to share with my company all of their hardships. My feet were so blistered and swollen, and I was so much fatigued, that I got a room at a hotel and went to bed and was unable to come on here until this morning. I am very lame, have taken violent cold, and have been in bed, or rather on a blanket, since reaching the place, until within the last 20 minutes when I got up to write my own dear Elodie, if it were but a short note.

On the cars this morning, Mr. Hardie, who remained at Lynchburg to join his wife, handed me your long and welcome letter of the 6th May. I was sick, sad, and low-spirited, but it acted like a panacea, and I read it over several times. How affectionate you are to think me so generous in sharing wreaths with you. Is not all that is mine yours? Are you not, dear angel, the loved and promised partner of all my joys? How then am I generous in bestowing what is yours! I love you fondly and truly, and every hour but adds to the depth of that love. I hope and pray that I may return to be blessed with the wealth of your love.

About your writing to Mr. A., [1] you will use your own discretion. He is a friend of both of us but is indiscreet in his friendship, and it might be well for you to turn him over to Mr. White. I have no means of knowing what will be the result of our difficulties. Rumors of all kinds prevail. Last night the troops were kept under arms all night from apprehension of an attack. About seven thousand troops are now here engaged in fortifying the heights, and I do not think the Federal army will attack us. Among the troops is a regiment from Kentucky under Col. Duncan. [2] I will endeavor for your sake to make acquaintances among them. There is, I hope, a probability that peace will yet obtain. I pray so for our happiness. Is this not selfish in me? I have not been able to see anything owing to my indisposition. When I do, I will write you of the scenery.

I bear all of my privations without a murmur as my own brave Elodie would have her lover and future husband bear all things well and patiently. My dear Elodie must not fear that the fascinations of the Virginia ladies will steal my affections from her. I have had opportunities innumerable in Ala. and elsewhere to win the favor of the fair women of the South, but none have ever been able to do it but your peerless self. I could tell you some things that might surprise you at the attempts that have been made to win me to the smiles of some ladies by their friends, but these are not my secrets, and I cannot discuss them even to my own affianced Elodie. I hope you will never have reason to regret that you have confided to me your heart. You may not admire the style of my letters, but you must excuse the unstudied language of my heart. You love naturalness, and for that reason you tell me that you admire yourself. I did not know you had so much egotism, but as I agree with you in this case you are excused.

There is no truth in the report about Mr. Brown being a spy, and you will see a note of mine in the Reporter in regard to it. [3] I left word with Mr. Williams [4] to send me his paper and have received it occasionally. I see Dr. Mabry is of the opinion that he is one of the two gentlemen who alone can represent Dallas. [5] I wish I were at home to undeceive him. Tell me, do you wish me to be a politician or do you wish me to pursue my profession? I wish to pursue that path in life which will most contribute to your comfort and happiness. To live for you will be the sole object of life, and, to do this, I must consult your feelings and wishes. I do not think it would be right or just to resolve upon any step in life now without consulting you. I regard you now as almost wedded to me as far as affection and mutual promises can bind us, wanting only the ceremonials of the church. It is singular that you should have been five days without a letter from me as I have written you almost daily and will continue to do so whenever I am able. You cannot write too frequently. The only pleasure I have is to receive one of your letters and next is the pleasure of writing to you. Tell me of yourself, how you think of me. It is flattering to know that you are sad on my account. You never told me when you first thought of me in your heart. Tell me, how did you come to fancy such a [illegible] man? I have been made to think better of myself since you loved me. Mr. Simpson [6]--you remember him at Montgomery--he also came down the river with us, is a Lieutenant in a company here with Alabama. He has spoken to me of you in very flattering terms. You are known widely and favorably as the sister of Mr. Lincoln, and I am proud of such an angel. I used to comply with your request to write you only two lines but have been beguiled into a long, prosy letter, but it has run along so imperceptibly that it has in a measure relieved the soreness of my bosom, the aching of my heart. I am so hoarse that I can hardly speak. I hope by tomorrow to be well. Write me at Harper's Ferry. Your letters to Lynchburg will be forwarded. Mrs. Mason's daughter, wife of Senator Mason of Va., came to the hotel yesterday evening to take me to their home. [7] What think you of the captain? I know Mr. Mason.

And now goodbye dear girl. I will never cease to love you and to dream of you with my last sighs.

Ever your attached,

N. H. R. Dawson

P.S. Does John supply you regularly with flowers? He is trustworthy, and you may occasionally tell him that I am well. I told him he must make you his friend, and I hope he has not forgotten the injunction. I wish I could personate the flowers and be with my own dear angel.

Goodbye and God bless you.


  1. James Battle Avirett.
  2. A wealthy lawyer from Louisville, Kentucky, Blanton Duncan (1811-1902) was the son of Congressman Garret Duncan, who went to Europe in 1861 to avoid choosing sides. At thirty-five, Blanton had no such hesitation, and formed the First Confederate Kentucky Infantry regiment with no prior military experience. Pierre Fricke, Confederate Currency (London: Shire Publications, 2012), 21.
  3. The Selma Reporter, a local newspaper.
  4. Philip Williams, of Winchester, Virginia, an attorney and father of Mary Williams, whom Averitt married in 1862. 1860 U.S. Federal Census, Winchester, Frederick, Va.
  5. Dallas County, Alabama, had its county seat in the city of Selma.
  6. John Simpson Jr. was a lieutenant in Company H of the Fourth Alabama; he would be killed at the Battle of First Manassas. Joel Campbell DuBose, Notable Men of Alabama, vol. 2 (Atlanta: Southern Historical Association, 1904), 240.
  7. James Murray Mason (1798-1874) was a former U.S. senator; he was married to Eliza M. Chew (1798-1874), and together they had eight children: three daughters and five sons. For more, see Robert W. Young, Senator James Murray Mason: Defender of the Old South (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1998).
May 14, 1861


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


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Dallas County, AL


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