Harper's Ferry, June 12, 1861

With a heart full of gratitude and pleasure, I have to acknowledge the receipt, on yesterday, of your letter of 2d June, postmarked 4th June. I hardly know how, my dear Elodie, to thank you for this letter. Its candor, its affectionate tone, have soothed and comforted me under circumstances that have calculated to make me feel unpleasantly the uncertainty of our situation. Just at this juncture when our movements are extremely uncertain, it was indeed pleasant to receive so refreshing a draught from the fine fountain of your heart.

Your replies to my questions are certainly satisfactory and several occurrences have combined to vindicate their wisdom and your own good sense. I will not ask you to marry me until I can have you not near me alone but with me always, and I thank you for having been so candid. I know you would have to be separated from me nearly all the time and your location, with strangers, would be necessarily unpleasant. Mrs. Hardie is an illustration of what you would have to suffer. She is now very sick at Winchester, connected by rail with this place, and on yesterday was very ill, and Mr. H. was telegraphed to go to see her. He applied to Gen. Johnston for leave of absence, but he declined to give it but told Mr. H. if the exigency required it he could resign. This I think, tho' in accordance with military usage, was a terrible alternative to a husband who loves his wife. Mr. H. however did not resign and had to remain. I will not ask you, my dearest, for the happiness it would give me to have you near me, to subject yourself to such an unpleasant position. But I would unhesitatingly in such a case resign my commission and afterwards enter the ranks. When I marry you, I wish to be able to command my own movements.

And now, dearest, upon the subject of your flirtation, I will treat you as you treat me, give you permission to fall in love with any gentleman that offers as I flatter myself that you will find none good enough. I have no ability to doubt when I love immensely, and I love you so entirely, so wholly, that I can have no power to doubt you. I will be ready to make my exit from this world and "to shuffle off this mortal coil." If anything could increase my love for you, the candor, the good sense, and the true affection you have manifested in this letter will have done so. And my heart is overflowing with gratitude and affection. I will not trouble you again with these questions but have the time of our marriage to be fixed by circumstances, only insisting that you will marry me at the earliest time after I am released from my present bonds.

Again, my dearest, you tell me that under no circumstances could you love me more than you do at this time. This is indeed gratifying to a poor soldier, and as it expresses my own feeling for you, I thank you most heartily. Do you imagine how much I love you? I measure your love for me by the measure of my own.

I thank you for your rebuke about Mr. Averitt, as I feel that I was wrong in writing you as I did of him. He loves me, I know, and I must ever consent cheerfully to be kissed by him for your sake. He has placed my trunk with Mr. Williams of Winchester, who has promised to keep it until I can reclaim it. I have the pleasure of knowing his family and have been kindly invited to make his home my home when I go to Winchester. Is this not kind? Mr. A. showed me your letter and of course you must not object as I have answered it candidly. I think he would be much pleased to see his letter in print. He read it to me, at least the descriptive part of it, which was quite pretty, and I think would read well in the Reporter. Now I have pled guilty, and I hope you will say I have made amends. But, I assure you, I would not like to be kissed by any friend three times a day, but I would expect it and desire it in my wife for I am extremely affectionate and think its exhibition, except publicly, is a duty and a most pleasant custom. I hope you understand me on this question of ethics. Dearest, you must never hesitate to speak to me candidly. I think of you as my wife and look forward to my return home as if we were already married. I hope you will not blame for telling you this much. I should really like to know what you think of me from my letters.

I wrote you yesterday and the day before but could not resist the pleasure of having a talk with you as Mr. Ware, the gentleman who takes these letters, will not leave until this morning. I do not think it prudent now to send any articles to our companies as we may move from here, nearer to Richmond, in the vicinity of Manassas Junction. A large federal force is certainly coming down on us from Washington, and one from Western Va. and we may have to retreat before their large numbers. If we do, we will have to give up a part of our present luggage and even some of our tents. You should have seen me in my tent today with one of my lieutenants mending the only pair of pantaloons that your captain now has. Excuse me for mentioning this circumstance as it illustrates how little baggage we have. When one of our officers wishes to pay a visit of ceremony, he borrows a blue coat from some brother officer. The young man, Overton, [1] of whom I write you, is now convalescing rapidly and will soon be well. I am really grateful to God. How I wish I were a Christian. Dearest you know that a good wife will save a bad husband, and I rely upon your prayers and intercessions to sustain me thro' all of these trials. They are made sweet when I think of you as one who approves of my conduct, and who will be ready to receive me warmly and affectionately.

I ordered a friend to have a photograph sent you, and I sent you one from this place, both of which I hope you have received. If I would have imagined that your sister Miss Kittie would have accepted one, it would have been forwarded.

I have written John a letter telling him to observe to the letter my instructions about the flowers and fruit. He will understand my meaning. He will probably carry you with my compliments Motley's Dutch Republic, [2] which I think has been sent to me from New York since I left home. I ordered it for you as I heard you once desired to read it. Ask him no questions how he got it. Please let me know if he delivers it. Continue to write me to Winchester as you have until further directions. Present my most respectful compliments to your mother and sisters and Mr. White and with the assurance of my entire devotion, I remain, my dear Elodie,

Affectionately and sincerely yours,

N. H. R. Dawson

  1. John B. Overton, from Summerfield, Alabama, was a private in Nathaniel's company. In an earlier letter, Nathaniel had described him as "a boy who has made a fine impression by his behavior and bearing. . . . I hope he will get well but fear the chances are against him. I will feel his loss much more than if he had fallen in battle. Poor fellow." 1860 U.S. Federal Census, Summerfield, Dallas County, Ala.
  2. John Lothrop Motley (1814-1877) was an American diplomat and historian whose Rise of the Dutch Republic (1856) proved wildly popular.
June 12, 1861


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


Residence (County): 
Dallas County, AL


From State: 
From Municipality: 


To State: 
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