In Camp, Winchester, Virginia, July 8, 1861

I avail myself of the earliest moment after my return to tell you of my safety. I wrote you last on 2d July and sent you by the same mail my likeness.

I had just mailed the letter when news came of the advance of a large army under Gen. Patterson [1] across the Potomac into Virginia, and of an engagement between it and about 4,000 of our men under Gen. Jackson. [2] An order was immediately issued to march and in an hour our brigade was on its way to the seat of conflict. We started at 4 o'clock and marched to Bunker's Hill by 8, a distance of 12 miles. We bivouacked in an open field, having our blankets and the velvet earth for our beds. At one o'clock we were roused by the bugle and were again put upon the march. How can I describe the beauty of the scene? On our right the moon shed its soft rays upon the column of armed men, while upon our left a magnificent comet, with its long nebulous trail, beckoned us onward and threw around us the mantle of superstition. The soldiers all saw in the unannounced phenomenon the "in signo vinces" [3] of the Southern cross and enlivened their march by singing Dixie. At sunrise, we halted for breakfast and, after a scant and hurried meal, marched on to the battlefield near Darksville and were drawn up in the line of battle, awaiting the approach of the enemy. This was repeated Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. And on yesterday, our army returned to their quarters here. During all of this time, we have been without tents and with very scant rations. At night I slept on one of the capes sent us by our good ladies with my shawl wrapped around me, with clothes and boots on. Indeed for one week, I did not pull off my clothes as we expected an attack at any time and had to sleep upon our arms. I laid my head upon a rock, and thinking of you, my dearest, I generally fell asleep and rested quietly.

We expected a fight, but Gen. Patterson, with twenty thousand men, for days declined to join battle with barely ten thousand. Gen. Johnston then properly, I think, returned here, where we will await his approach. The suspense of being in a fight is great, but I have learned to look upon it with indifference. We become accustomed to dangers. Yesterday I was very much fatigued by the march of sixteen miles thro' as hot a sun as ever shone upon us and am suffering this morning from a bruised heel, which is very painful. I am however going into town to see one of my sick men, who has sent for me. I rode a part of the way on a mule, and you should have seen what a figure I cut.

My dear Elodie, at every moment of danger and of trial your sweet face has beamed upon me, and I have been sustained by the knowledge that you approve of what I am doing and looking forward to the time when we shall be united never, I hope, to be separated from each other.

I love, nay, worship you and cannot express the sadness of my heart. I have not heard from you since your letter of the 17th June and cannot divine the reason of your long silence. But as you know I refer it to any other reason than one of indifference and hope soon to have the pleasure of receiving a letter.

I have only time to write you this short letter as many rumors have gone abroad of our having had a battle, and I wish to dissipate your anxiety for the present.

Dearest, I am yours under all circumstances, without change, unalterably yours.

May God in his mercy guard and keep you is my constant prayer.

Ever affty and sincerely yours,

N. H. R. Dawson

  1. Union major general Robert Patterson (1792-1881) would become somewhat infamous for failing to tie up Confederate forces in the Shenandoah Valley under Joseph E. Johnston, thus allowing them to reinforce General Beauregard and helping to deliver a Confederate victory at the Battle of First Manassas. Patterson would be mustered out of the Union army shortly after.
  2. Thomas J. Jackson and his brigade of Virginians would be among the reinforcements that would help turn the tide of the Battle of First Manassas.
  3. In hoc signo vinces is a Latin rendering of a Greek phrase meaning "in this sign you will conquer."
July 8, 1861


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


Residence (County): 
Dallas County, AL


From State: 
From Municipality: 
From County: 


To State: 
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