Selma, July 14, 1861

I have just received and read with pleasure your letter from Winchester dated the 8th telling me of your return and safety. I have written to you as often as usual with the exception of once or twice when you requested me to wait until I heard again from you, and my two last were written while you were absent and directed to the care of Mr. Williams. Need I tell you that I have suffered the greatest anxiety for two days and nights concerning your safety which nothing could dispel? I dreaded to receive intelligence for fear the information would be the worst and cause me greater sadness and yet miserable that I did not hear from your own pen, knowing all the time too how utterly impossible it was for us to write and that as soon as it was in your power you would kindly relieve my anxiety. Mother's departure also added to my sorrow. On Wednesday last she started, having found agreeable company to Nashville, from which point she will write us. I did not write to you but once last week. Mr. Herman decided to give a concert last Friday night, and as my pieces were all new I did not have time to write any but a short letter, and I knew you would prefer waiting until the affair was over and I could write one of my usual, lengthy letters. I wish you could have been present as the selection of music was beautiful and there were no failures. Mrs. Leroy Weaver [1] took part in this, and she sings so beautifully that you would have taken pleasure in listening to her. I sang two pieces, and the Marseillaise, which was requested. Mrs. Weaver was to have sung it. The notes, however, could not be procured and she forced me to take her place after we were on the stage as she did not feel confident she knew the words and would not fail happily. I did and succeeded I hear as well as I did before and could not have done better with the notes, and I am so gratified that I carried my part thro' with credit, for I resolved I would never take part again as I was not treated well by one or two, and I would never for any cause subject myself again to unkind treatment from those who were my inferiors in position, and that one thing hurt them so that they acknowledged it by publicly wounding my feelings and I have resented it by ceasing to recognize the man--I won't say gentleman--who was guilty of the offence. But two or three others had difficulties and have expressed the same determination as myself. I received your letter and daguerreotype last Tuesday. I am so much obliged to you for it and think it is quite a good one. You have grown somewhat brown, have you not, and increased in weight it seems to me, and were you to see how often I gaze on it and compare it with the others you would be amused and at the same time I imagine complimented to know that I devote so much of my time to looking at and thinking of you, and every day my desire increases to see the original.

And bye the by that reminds me of a piece of news I heard which if it be true I will see you before I am aware of it. The friend who sometimes remembers you remarked that a recent letter in the Reporter had been sent to her to have published, as you had no one else to send it to, and that "you were to return very soon, remain for two or three days, and we were to be married," and she had called for the express purpose of knowing the truth. Sister Matt told her she had never heard it before, and if it was so I had not informed her of it. The last time I saw her she thought I was going to marry Mr. H. at once. It is a matter of astonishment to me how such reports get started, and I am inclined to think from the way it affects some that more than one have looked at your house and are opposed to our arranging matters to suit ourselves. But no matter, it is an affair that will not and have not need of the assistance of many of the inhabitants of Selma.

I received a letter from Mr. Averitt yesterday which surprised somewhat, and I will give you an extract or two from it and hope you will enlighten me for I do not exactly comprehend his meaning. He says, "You know the intimacy between Col. D. and myself is not what it once was. I fear I have had and still have a Rival. There has been as between us no diminution of either confidence or regard, but we are not as we once were, a second Damon and Pythias. [2] Do you know why? I ask you the question in propria persona [3] and hope when the war is over, when peace shall not only scatter plenty but all its consistent blessings on our land, I hope to have from you, Miss Elodie, a full and fair answer as to the true cause, you understand me.” I must confess to perfect ignorance. He certainly cannot and has no right to believe me anything but a friend and surely does not think I have done or said anything to influence you to give up the friendship. Will you assure him of my innocence and friendship for him or shall I do so in answer to his letter? Write me what to do. He says again, "I had hoped to have heard from you thro' Capt. D., but I think he had had no recent tidings from home. To you I need not hesitate to say that albeit not in any degree a party to the same, I am in full confidence of both parties. You understand me." Perhaps it is the way he has expressed himself. At any rate, I am satisfied I do not clearly understand him. Does he wish me to make a confidant of him and confess all that you have told him? If so, I imagine that desire will not be gratified as I can see no necessity for doing so and consequently will not until the war is over in truth. Will you tell him also that Sister Matt has answered all his letters, directed them to Winchester. Unless you intend to let me answer his letter--if not then please deliver my messages. He explains his motive for leaving the Cadets and hopes I will not blame him.

Bro. Clem has been quite sick for three or four days and is not able yet to leave his room. He has been suffering two or more weeks with chills. Dr. Caball [4] however thinks him better today and so far has nursed his chill. I hope he will soon be well enough to leave Selma for a short time. I am anticipating a visit to a cousin in Marengo, Mrs. Craighead, [5] and I hope I will return improved as I am getting a little pale and thin, tho' not so much so as I really was in summer, but the heat and dust is unpleasant and a change will be pleasant, tho' I dislike being away as I cannot receive the telegraphic intelligence as soon as I wish and do when in Selma. Today the news is that Gen. McClellan has surrounded some of the Confederate forces, but where, in Va. or under whose command, cannot be found out, and thus it is continually a disagreeable report to cause anxiety, and I believe they sometimes are worded up in the telegraph office. Mr. Sam Carter wrote to his wife on the 4th that on the 3rd an engagement had taken place in which the Guards and Cadets were engaged and only two deaths occurred, both Servants, and one Capt. Goldsby [6] and I doubted it, knowing I would have heard as soon as Mrs. Carter or Mrs. Anybody else. Am I not vain? No, not vanity but entire confidence and belief in the truthfulness of your protestations of love, and of course if you did you would write to me and relieve my anxiety about such an event. My love would cause me to write to you, but I don't believe you give me credit for loving you much, or at least that your own for me is so much greater, and I believe might be influenced to think I could forget you while absent and like somebody else better. But don't you do it, for you know I don't, won't, or can't like another so well, and with so much around me to remind me of you I could not if I wished obliterate you from my memory and believe I think of you and love you better and miss you more than when you first went away than when I could not realize all that I have since and wish I never had and altho I would not wish you at home when you are needed for such a cause, still it is a painful saddening thought that you may never return, but one that often forces itself upon me, and I am farther than ever from reconciling myself to such an occurrence and cannot think calmly of it. I do not know what will become of me if there is to be really war, and there seems to be no prospect for anything else. We are all anxiety to know what the Confederate congress will do more so than when the federal met. I hope it will be impossible for the North to raise the means to prosecute this unnatural war, or rather that God will in some yet unforeseen manner avert it. I cannot think it will be a general thing, yet it is predicted that battles be fought in Kentucky in another month. I am still hoping almost against hope for peace. I hear Mrs. Pegues [7] has lost her second daughter and left a few days ago to join Mr. Pegues somewhere in Virginia, and I suppose by this time Mrs. Boykin Goldsby has arrived. She left more than a week, indeed I believe two weeks, ago. Mr. Wetmore told me a few days ago he had received a letter from you and acknowledged he had been trying to find out if there was anything between us, that he had suspected a little attachment on the part of both, indeed, knew of yours, but made me promise I would not breathe to anyone as you had told him in secrecy, and I believe he thinks you have not told me yet. What did you tell him? I don't care to commit myself and would like to know in order to be able to stand the attack he always makes whenever we meet. The ladies made $152 at the concert, and some others had a set supper in Mr. Young's [8] store the same night which was freely partaken of after the concert was over, but I don't know how much they realized. The sum is to be expended in yarn, and they are to knit it up. Some of the girls have begun, but I have not commenced yet or do not know whether I will or not. If I do it will be for my favorites. Capt Montgomery's Flying Artillery is encamped about two miles out on Beech Creek. I expect to go out to see them tomorrow. They want money, men, and horses before they leave Selma, but I do not know what success they will meet with as the people in Selma do not give cheerfully yet. I cannot think of anything more to write you of. Mr. Harrell has not returned has he? You will doubtless be glad I have nothing else to say, and I will now stop. Do write soon and as often as you can, long letters to me. I cannot help being so selfish, altho I know you have so few leisure moments. But goodbye. I hope to see you soon and that tidings of peace will speed over our land sooner than we ever think for may God watch over and protect you always, restore you home again, is the prayer of your ever affectionate and sincere,


Monday morning, July 15

I saw from the Montgomery mail last evening Capt. R. H. Dawson's [9] company from Wilcox Co. was there. Is it not your brother's? Also the death of my cousin Col. B. Gratz Brown [10] of Mo., formerly of Frankfort Ky., but as he was on the other side I cannot say I grieve but sympathize with his wife and the rest of his friends, and as he is dead I am glad he fell so early in the fight. His turning Republican caused his father great distress. I am happy to say Bro. Clem is up today and bids fair to recover from his late indisposition. Suppose I were to tell you I had rewarded John with the daguerreotype you sent me from Harper's Ferry. What would you think? Don't be afraid to say just what you do, but Bro. Clem is waiting for me so again goodbye.

Ever yours truly,


Write me a soon a long letter.

  1. Legrand Weaver was the twenty-five-year-old wife of Leroy Weaver, with whom she had four children (Mary, Natalie, Legrand, and Eugenie). Though they seem to be getting along here, the Weavers would eventually form part of the "Anti-White" faction that opposed Matt and Elodie in "a war of words." 1860 Census: Selma.
  2. In Greek myth, Pythias was accused of plotting against the king and sentenced to death. Pythias was allowed to return home one last time, but if he failed to return, the king said he would execute his friend, Damon. Pythias did return, in the nick of time, and the king was so impressed by their friendship that he pardoned them both.
  3. Propria persona means "for oneself" in Latin. In this case, Nathaniel means "I ask you personally."
  4. P. H. Caball, age thirty-four, a Virginia-born physician living in Selma with his wife, Patter, two daughters, Anna and Mary, and seven slaves. Nathaniel thought highly of him and relied on him to oversee the health of his own slaves. 1860 Census: Selma.
  5. Jane P. Craighead, age forty, was a recently widowed mother of six children, spanning ages three to thirteen. She lived in Marengo County, Alabama, and the Todd sisters visited her frequently. 1860 U.S. Federal Census, Township 16 Range 5 East, Marengo County, Ala.
  6. Thomas Jefferson Goldsby (1825-1916), age thirty-six, was captain of Company A (known as the Governor's Guard) and would ultimately be elected colonel of the Fourth Alabama over Nathaniel. He was married to Mary A. Goldsby and had two young children. 1860 Census: Selma.
  7. Caroline A. Coleman married Christopher Claudius Pegues (see Elodie to Nathaniel, May 9, 1861, note 36) on October 13, 1847, and lived with him in Cahaba, Alabama, before the war. She became a widow in 1862 when Pegues died of wounds sustained at Gaines's Mill. Marriage certificate, Christopher C. Pegues and Caroline A. Coleman, Dallas County, Ala., Alabama, Select Marriages, 1816-1942; 1860 U.S. Federal Census, Cahaba, Dallas County, Ala.
  8. Probably William Young, age twenty-eight, who had been born in Germany and was a master shoemaker living in Selma.
  9. Reginald Huger Dawson was Nathaniel's younger brother. Also a lawyer by training, he acted as solicitor of Alabama's eleventh circuit from 1860 to 1864, though he also became lieutenant colonel of the Thirteenth Alabama Infantry and served with particular distinction at the Battle of Seven Pines. He later became president of the Board of Inspectors of Convicts after the war. See Douglas A. Blackmon, Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II (New York: Icon Books, 2012).
  10. Colonel Benjamin Gratz Brown (1826-1885) had been born in Frankfort, Kentucky, but moved to Missouri and became a founding member of Missouri's Republican Party. An unconditional Unionist, he raised a Union army regiment and served as colonel before becoming a U.S. senator. Obviously the report of his death in a Montgomery newspaper was an error. Norma L. Peterson, Freedom and Franchise: The Political Career of B. Gratz Brown (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1968).
July 14, 1861


Residence (County): 
Dallas County, AL


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


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