Winchester, Virginia, July 11, 1861

Yesterday I was gratified by receiving your long letter of the 3d and 4th inst., and I can find no words to thank you for the consolatory love and tender affection which it breathes. It was handed to me at a moment of excitement as the order had just been given to strike tents and prepare for battle. Under these circumstances you can readily imagine how grateful I was to commune with you. We expected an attack yesterday but were disappointed. We expect it today, but I am skeptical upon the subject as we have so frequently been disappointed. Our tents are all struck, the knapsacks packed, and the men engaged in cooking rations for twenty-four hours. I have breakfasted and am writing you with a pencil as my trunk has again been sent to my kind friend Mr. Williams at Winchester. We will make a stand here, but I doubt very much if we have a battle for some time to come. Our flag has been placed with Mr. Williams for safe-keeping as we could not carry it and take proper care of it in our marches. I did not wish to see it ruined. A company is not allowed to take a flag into battle. Mr. Boykin Goldsby [1] is the bearer.

How grateful I am to know that you have such proper feelings in regard to amusements at times when your friends are in danger. On the day of the 4th we were all day in line of battle and on that night slept on our arms. It would mortify me to think that at such a time, you could enjoy the festivities of a ball room or even sing with a contemptible person as Mr. Hobbs. He has no standing with those who know him.

I thank you for your affectionate expressions. They were not necessary to remind me of your love, my dear Elodie, for that is as true in my belief and confidence as any fact registered by the recording angel in the book of Time. To doubt you would make me insane, as I regard you as my own betrothed, whom God has given me, the ceremonials of the law alone being wanting to make us in the eyes of the world what we are in our own opinion. I look upon you as my wife, bound to me by all the ties of love, and I wish the requisites of the law had been complied with. No human power, except your own statement, could convince me that you did not love me. Hence I regret the remarks of my friend Mr. Pegues, but I hope you will not permit them to trouble you. I have no desire to see you secluded or to deny you the attentions of any gentleman, as I know you will be the last to encourage any thing like courtship. Above all things in the word, I desire to live and to return to you safely and trust that a kind providence will vouchsafe it.

I am really glad that you have such feelings about Mr. Lincoln. I have never been able to entertain for him any unkindness, save as an enemy to my country. I have never believed the slanders upon him as a man and accord to him the respect that is due a gentleman. It would indeed be strange if you felt otherwise and did not love your sister.

You speak of my desire to gratify all of your wishes. It is the greatest pleasure I have to think that I can do so, but you must remember how little I have done, and how you almost denied me the pleasure of doing even that little, and how chary you have been in permitting it. When I am anxious to give you myself, you can imagine how small other things are in comparison.

I will send you letters by the first opportunity, as they may be lost. Indeed, I will send them enclosed to Mr. White by mail as soon as I get my trunk, but you are to keep them for me. I merely make you their custodian.

I wrote you that I had written to Mrs. Mabry thanking her for the papers sent me. I like Miss Gertrude but agree with her mother that she is "now too much of a child" for the wife of a grave, dignified man like myself. I can love a noble-minded, heroic, intellectual lady like my dear Elodie, and upon such a one alone could I lavish my love. You are indeed my beau ideal of womanhood, one in whom I can trust with confidence, whose presence will be a guarantee of happiness. How proudly will I feel when you appear as my wife? And how happy will be the home where you preside? You have all that I wish in the wife who is to adorn and [illegible] my home.

I see no reason why you should not shed tears at the departure of your mother. It is natural and right, and I would love you more, it seems to me, to see you in tears when tears should be shed. I have wept at times myself and felt that it was manly. I rejoice, however, that you are to remain in Ala. as you will be nearer to me, and I think safer than in Kentucky. That deluded state, I fear, has been sowing dragon's teeth [4] and will soon be the seat of a ruthless war. How long the war is to last is doubtful. If Mr. Lincoln can raise the means, he will prosecute it vigorously. We will have much trouble, though I have never doubted our final success. If he is unable to get the means he has called for, the war must end shortly. I have been so frequently disappointed in my opinions that I am afraid to venture to express one about the probability of the U. States being able to raise the sum called for in his message. I will promise you one thing, however, that when I return home it will be to remain there with you, and that my energies will be devoted to my country in a different field of color than that of the camp. I owe duties to you and to my little girls that are paramount to all others. Gens. Johnston and Bee, with their staff, have just passed, reconnoitering the grounds. They are both striking officers in their appearance.

Continue to write me here until advised to the contrary. You must not complain of my short letters. Remember how they are written in the open air or in a crowd. I must now close. Remember me kindly to Mr. and Mrs. White and to your sister Miss Kate. And now my dearest Elodie goodbye. I commend you to the care and keeping of God and trust that He will spare us to meet again and to have all of our proper expectations gratified.

Affectionately and sincerely yours,

N. H. R. Dawson

  1. Twenty-seven-year-old Boykin T. Goldsby, of Woodlawn, Alabama, was a sergeant in Nathaniel's regiment. Alabama Civil War Soldiers Database, Alabama Department of Archives and History.
  2. Martha Riggs married Thomas E. Tartt and, after his passing, Virginia-born Dr. Albert Gallatin Mabry (1810-1874), a prominent Selma physician and member of the Alabama legislature. Owen, History of Alabama, 4:1142-1143.
  3. Gertrude Tartt was the daughter of Martha Riggs Tartt and Thomas E. Tartt. After her father's death, her mother remarried Albert Gallatin Mabry. In an earlier letter, Elodie teased Nathaniel about Gertrude: "I think for your own sake it was a pity you did not fall in love with her as she is one of the loveliest persons in every particular, but at the same time I am delighted you did not for then I would not have been so fortunate or happy in being your choice."
  4. In Greek legend, Cadmus and Jason sowed dragons' teeth that grew into initially uncontrollable warriors. The phrase essentially means that one's actions can result in unintended consequences.
July 11, 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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