Winchester, Virginia, July 14, 1861

I have spent a part of the morning, after performing the regular duties of inspection and as officer of the day, in reading the morning service and a portion of the scriptures from your bible, my dear Elodie. Your last letter is also near me to be read again when this letter is concluded. All of my devotional feelings are aroused, and in the general effusion I find that my affection for you leads me to have higher and finer aspirations for Heaven. I realize the fact that my love for you has made me a better and wiser man.

Yesterday Mr. Averitt, Mr. McCraw, and myself dined at Mr. Williams and spent a pleasant day. Mr. A. is very happy and showed me a letter from his intended. I hesitated whether to receive and read it, but he insisted upon my doing so. The letter was exceedingly well written and was as affectionate as such letters usually are but would not compare with your sweet epistles. I say that I hesitated for I have very singular feelings upon the subject. Your letters are sacred writing in my opinion, intended for no eye but mine, and I could not entrust them to my dearest friend. I was, therefore, surprised that another would treat me in a particular in which he could not hope to have his kindness reciprocated. Don't you think my feelings are proper?

I feel at a loss how to write you. The rehearsal of my love must have become tiresome as it has been the burden of at least fifty letters, and I am afraid that you either think me terribly in love or else an uninteresting correspondent--unless you are as much in love as your humble writer.

The details of camp life are tiresome, and I am becoming exceedingly lazy. My spare time is spent in studying tactics, and in reading papers. I wish to qualify myself for the office I hold and to be a good soldier at the end of my term of service. Gen. Bee [1] was at our last dress parade and after it was over said to the officers that we had the best parade he had seen since he left the United States service. We are said to be the best-drilled regiment in this brigade and equal to any regiment in the army of the Shenandoah, and I am inclined to think we deserve the compliment. I am glad to say that the Cadets are doing well. Our new uniform was finished and distributed yesterday and improves the appearance of the company very much. Excuse the vanity, but I must tell you a remark which I overheard one of my privates make the other day. I was walking down the road, and he said to a comrade if our captain had a little more hair on his head he would be the handsomest man in the regiment. I believe that I am tolerably popular with the company, but I have had to be firm and sometimes severe with a few of the members.

How much this horrible war has broken in upon our happiness. I might by this time have ventured to ask you to marry me, and we would have been probably on a bridal trip over the union. I am anxious to travel in Europe. Would you like to spend the first year of our marriage traveling over England, France, Italy, and Greece? If all things go on well, I may be able to obtain a foreign appointment. Of one thing I am determined, not to trouble my brains and destroy my peace of mind by engaging in politics. I rejoice that you have no aspiration for Washington or Richmond society. Indeed, when I allow my mind to wander into the future, I find that all of my hopes will be satisfied when you become Mrs. Dawson. You say Mr. Hagood, in many respects, has been your best friend? In what category do you place me? Or do you place me on another list, among your beaux? The term friend, applied by me to you, hardly expresses enough. You are more than friend, dearest than myself. I am not afraid of making you jealous any more than you could make me so, and whenever I have the pleasure of meeting a nice pretty lady from Washington or any other place will endeavor to make myself agreeable in order that I may not lose the knowledge how to please you. But really I take very little pleasure in seeing the ladies and never go near one unless absolutely required by politeness.

I sent you five packages of letters by mail yesterday and wrote you besides. They contain all of your letters to me, except that of the 4th, which have been received by me.

Please tell me whether it was the 19th of April when you engaged yourself to me? Or what day of the month? The day has passed very quietly, and the evening has turned quite cool and clear. I have been all round our encampment with Capt. King [2] and his father, looking at our fortifications and admiring the beautiful scenery of which I have already written you. I can see Harper's Ferry and Charlestown, near thirty miles distant. What a pleasure it will be hereafter to travel over this country with you and to point out localities that have become interesting to me and to see your face brighten under the influence of the beauties I have admired so often and wished that you could be present with me to share the pleasure. I never see anything to admire but I wish you present. At Mr. Williams yesterday I found in one of his parlors the duplicates of two painting which I have, English pieces, and you cannot imagine how many associations were recalled at the unexpected sight. It was like the meeting of two old friends.

I am frequently joked about Miss Gertrude and yourself, and it seems to be a matter of doubt where I am most interested. I have so far been able to foil any discovery. We have been engaged near three months. The time recently has passed rapidly and will continue to pass quickly as every week now counts. When six months of my term have expired the remainder will seem much shorter. I hear that the twelve months volunteers will probably be discharged as soon as the campaign closes about the first of November. If this is so, I will see you much earlier than you anticipate, but you must not be too sanguine. My organ of hope is large, and I am much supported by indulging it. Col. Forney's [3] regt. has just arrived.

You know that even now, I think the war will soon end. Providence will bring it to a close. This is my belief, contrary to all the indications.

I have now to go upon duty and will be just in time for dress parade. Goodbye. May God guard and support you, my own dear Elodie, and vouchsafe a happy and speedy meeting with you.

Ever and sincerely and affty yours,

N. H. R. Dawson

  1. Barnard Elliott Bee Jr. (see June 26, 1861).
  2. Porter King (1824-1890) was captain of Company G of the Fourth Alabama. Alabama Civil War Muster Rolls, 1861-1865, Alabama Department of Archives and History.
  3. John Horace Forney (1829-1902) was born in Lincolnton, North Carolina, but moved to Alabama in 1835. A graduate of West Point, he was commissioned as colonel of the Tenth Alabama Infantry. Eicher and Eicher, Civil War High Commands, 239.
July 14, 1861


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


Residence (County): 
Dallas County, AL


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