In camp, Winchester, Virginia, July 19, 1861

I feel an irresistible impulse, my dear Elodie, to commune with one whom I love so fondly this calm, quiet evening and have stolen off from the groups of recumbent soldier who cover the velvet carpeting of our umbrageous encampment and am seated in my markee, fronting the long crescent line of mountains of which I wrote you in a former letter. My position commands a full view of the perfectly clear western sky, the sun just sinking behind the blue mountain tops, gilding with its rays the skies, the mountains, and the woods at their base. The meadows and hill around are covered with their golden crops, while the green fields of clover, like oases in the desert, lighten the picture. It is a scene of perfect beauty, a landscape no human hand can sketch with justice. Now the golden rays are fading into crimson and purple; the twilight is deepening, the shadows are lengthening, and the chirp of the cricket reminds me that another day is rapidly closing on me, and the recording angel is registering his account of the thoughts, words, and actions for that great day for which we must all prepare. All proclaims God’s love to man. Forgive, oh my Father, the sins of Thy Servant, and grant that a scene of such beauty may be reserved for him to enjoy and share with that loved one whom he has wooed and won, whose happiness is wrapt up in one fate and one destiny.

I would give so much, my dearest, if you were seated by my side, looking out upon the beautiful and gorgeous sunset I have attempted to describe, but my heart leaps with joy when I know that if we should live, we may have the happiness of admiring together, in the future, the handiwork of nature.

For the first time since the 17th of June, I have today received your letter of the 27th of the same month and assure you it was welcome. Think of one who loves so ardently, who is surrounded by trials and danger, who has, within that time, been four different times marched out to the field of battle to await the expected attack of an enemy with not even a word from you to console him, you have an idea of what I have suffered. No doubt your own feelings have been much disturbed by the knowledge that I have been exposed to these dangers without the means of knowing the result.

I am glad to hear that you have passed your time so pleasantly and hope your visit to Summerfield ended without anything to disturb its pleasure.

In answer to your inquiries about Mr. Averitt and Miss Williams. I have been treated very kindly by the family and have every reason to like them. Miss. W. is a quiet and intelligent, accomplished, and sweet-looking girl, with soft and easy manners. A person whom you would love for her gentleness and goodness, but I fear is too delicate to stand the trials of life. Mr. W. is a leading lawyer here, is wealthy and is exceedingly charitable and kind. Mrs. W. is a lady of great ease of manner, fine looking, as no doubt in her younger days handsome. They live in great comfort and entertain a great deal of company, apparently without an effort, which you know shows that it is an every day thing. Their home is large and airy, furnished with furniture of the olden times, massive and comfortable. I have seen few families apparently as happy as this of the Williams. Mr. W. has aided me very much in getting up the uniforms for the Cadets. Mr. Averitt was here yesterday and went on to Richmond to see Miss Mary, who is on a visit to her relations in that section of the state. Inter nos, [1] I think he is doing better than his intended for he is extremely fickle and impressible and lacks many of the elements to make a successful man, which in my humble opinion, is one of the essentials to comfort in this life. Mr. A. is unstable, was in love with Miss Washington, a young lady at Lynchburg, and with Miss Williams all at once. How different has been my conduct? With many bright eyes to tempt me, I have been as true as the dial to the sun. I institute the comparison merely for your own satisfaction. If I could fall in love with another as soon as you were out of sight I should never be willing to marry. I am always in earnest.

I must, however, protest against your forbidding me to love you for your beauty. I insist that it is one of the elements of your character, intellectually and personally, which I do love, and that with all your persistency you will be unable to lessen the charms of Miss Elodie in my estimation. Why do you make me wish to disbelieve what my own eyes have approved? But, my dearest, we will not quarrel upon this point. My happiness will be complete whenever we shall be united, and I am willing to put off the discovery of your want of beauty to a future day.

Our position is now being strengthened by breastworks and fortifications, and we are receiving reinforcements. The enemy is advancing slowly, and we will no doubt have some hard fighting to do. And from the character of Mr. Lincoln's message, [2] which I read yesterday, we are to have war in earnest. Should I meet with your brothers or kinsmen, I have no doubt that I will be pleased with them. My brother, Reginald, I hear has left home with a company for Va., and I hope soon to see him. Have you sent the likeness to Lizzie? I got a letter from her today and regret to hear of the death of Lucy Pegues. I wrote you yesterday to tell you that I was safe. Mrs. Tom Goldsby arrived yesterday. I pity the wives of our officers and see the wisdom of your refusal to become one until I am released. I wish I could hope to see you before winter but nothing but serious sickness or a wound will send me home. I will write you frequently whenever I can do so. You must not doubt me for not hearing.

And now goodbye my dear Elodie, and may God guard and protect you.

Ever affectionately yours,

N. H. R. Dawson

  1. Latin phrase meaning "between ourselves."
  2. Nathaniel is probably referring to Lincoln's July Fourth message to Congress, in which he said, "It is now recommended that you give the legal means for making this contest a short and decisive one" and requested more money and men.
July 19, 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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