Manassas Junction, August 4, 1861

Since writing you last, my loved Elodie, we have changed our encampment to a much more pleasant location nearer the railroad and convenient to springs of fine water.

Capt. Davis of the Confederate army has been assigned to the command of the regiment until one of our field officers can resume his duties. I now rank as Major and am acting as second in command and as our Col. and Lieut. Col. are frequently absent have to act as commander. We are now halted at the idea of being sent to northwestern Va. and have petitioned for a transfer to another brigade, but I do not myself anticipate a move from this line for some time.

Speculations as to peace and war are frequent and make up the staple of camp conversation. If the North is as willing to have peace as we are, there would be little protestation of hostilities, but the leaders at the north are not yet satisfied and will no doubt make another effort to [illegible] their defeated arms.

It is Sunday evening, and I am seated at my trunk under the shadow of a pine tree writing to my dearest, knowing and believing that she is occupied in the same way in composing one of those beautiful letters which bring me so much love and so much pleasure. Next to seeing you in person, I would receive one of your letters. You have improved in one respect, my dearest, you no longer fear to express the deep feelings that live in your bosom for one so unworthy, in his own opinion, of the love and esteem of one so much purer and so much superior to the majority of her sex. I love and worship you and confess that you have me completely secured in the golden meshes of your heart. I could not, if I would, be released. Does it not argue great power to have affected such a conquest? When I first felt the power of your love, I strove against it because I apprehended then that this war in which I am pledged to participate would interfere with my marriage, and I was unwilling to interest you at such a time, but your beauty of mind and character quite vanquished me, and I fell a victim at your feet. You have raised me up and bid me hope and love. I am deeply thankful and will ever try, my dearest, to love and guard you as you would wish me to love and guard your affections. I hope to be able to prove to your mother that her fear of your happiness will prove groundless and that she will never regret the consent she has given. Do you know I feel as if I were writing to one who was already mine, before God and in our hearts? I have for you at home a beautiful present, more substantial than flowers, which I will present when you take possession of the white house. I could give you the world and still think I had not done enough. Such are my feelings, and I should like to hear whether you object to my loving you in this way. I fancy that you will pet me. I yearn for the love of woman, to be loved by you will be a paradise of happiness. But I fear you will tire of this and think me a love sick swain.

I went to hear a sermon in camp this evening from Mr. Henderson of Tuskegee Ala. He preached an eloquent sermon upon the war and our trials and exhorted us to be Christian soldiers. Our chaplain, Mr. Chadwick, [2] who was in the late battle and had his clothes cut by several balls, delivered a most touching and feeling prayer, and when he alluded to our dead and wounded comrades, he was choked to suffocation, hardly able to express himself, and in the large assembly of bronzed and bearded soldiers, you could see almost every eye and cheek furrowed with big tears. It is singular how much attached we become when thrown together as we are in military life without knowing it. When I stood alone at the grave of our four killed men, I cannot express the feeling of my heart. It was akin to the feelings when I have stood at night and knelt at the tomb of one in whose existence my life has been wrapped. I prayed for the presence of the dead and desired to sink into the same grave.

But hope will beckon onwards and will induce us to find happiness where we had expected sorrow and gloom. I have been miserable. I am now happy, miserable only in being separated from you. But the time flies rapidly and our meeting, I hope, will be much earlier than we expect. I hope the regiment will be ordered south in the winter to garrison one of our forts, and if so, I will have the opportunity of seeing you. I certainly hope to be able to visit Selma in January even if we remain in this state. How joyful will be our meeting, but how much more joyful if it be a meeting when I marry you. As you ask me the question, I will never leave you or go where you cannot accompany me, unless for a short time. You will find me as unwilling to a separation as you will ever be, and I expect more fond of remaining at home, as I will never want other companionship than that of my beautiful wife. Her smile will make happiness and will bring peace and comfort. You ask why it is that you receive so many presents in the eating line. I suppose because you appreciate them. Do you remember the oysters I sent Mr. Hagood? I ordered the very best because I knew you liked them and would get some from him. Now are you any wiser after having your question answered? Do you know when I am in earnest? Have you yet learned my character? Your mother pays me a compliment in saying that I understand your disposition. Our tents have just arrived. Last night I slept under an open tree and the dews were very heavy. I got up Sunday morning, as it was, and gave the quartermaster a good abusing because he did not bring my tent yesterday, and as I am now an important personage it produced a fine effect.

Dearest, I have passed the evening in writing, knowing that you are employed in a similar manner. Most of our Sabbaths have been our busy days. I think our authorities should regard the Sabbath with more consideration.

I must now take up the bible you gave me and read a chapter for your sake. I will hope one of these days to read it to you in the soft light of our home, with your bright eye beaming its rays upon one who will always love you and who will endeavor with you to follow its sacred precepts.

I will keep you advised of all our movements and will write as often as circumstances will permit, Remember me to Mrs. White and your sister Miss Kate. Tell Mr. White that I am reading "The Woman in White." [2] With many prayers for your welfare and continued happiness, I remain, my dearest Elodie,

Affectionately and sincerely yours,

N. H. R. Dawson

After writing the preceding letter and reading over again your affectionate letter, I could not refrain from taking up my materials to add to its length, trusting that this long letter would be repaid by you with a long and affectionate one. Ours is not the first love affair in which the parties were separated by time and distance, but it has produced its natural results. I think, tho I may be wrong, that if we had not been separated as we have been, we would not have loved each other so much, but I am now willing to compromise the discovery of any new beauties in your character by a speedy return home and peace.

Cols. Moore and Forney arrived on Sunday evening with their regiments. I went over to see them and found many friends--among the officers, Dr. Talbid of Marion, who is one of the captains, is a cousin of mine. Reuben Chapman, Mrs. Pettus’s brother, commands a company. It was really a pleasure to meet so many acquaintances, and I felt almost at home again as many of them have been at my home and are intimate associates.

Mr. Averitt was here this morning. He is awfully in love and thinks he will never live to marry Miss W. as he expects to be killed. My word for it the enemy will never catch him asleep. He talks of his intended familiarly as Mary. I do not like such familiarity. Your name is sacred, and I would never dream of speaking of you to any one except as Miss Elodie or Miss Todd as I think it would be an unwarrantable liberty. My love, like your sorrow, is too sacred to be paraded before the public, and I hope never to lose my sense of propriety by profaning your name.

Let me cheer you up. You must take a brighter view of our affairs. When victory has crowned our arms and our independence shall have been vindicated, you will feel proud that I have acted my part in the drama. Indeed, I do not see how I could have done otherwise than I have. I am in the performance of a duty to my country, which, when performed, will greatly add to my own satisfaction. The chances of my safe return are greatly in my favor--one fourth of the term has passed without a battle and in a battle, or in several, a very large majority escape uninjured. To have one tenth of an army killed and wounded would be a very large loss. More men usually die from sickness than from battle, and I will always endeavor to take care of myself for your sake.

For your own private information, I can tell you that the enemy will attack us here to great disadvantage as we have a strong natural position, which has been strengthened by fortifications and cannon. We have also received since our return from Martinsburg five or six large regiments. This force will enable us to face the Lincolnites.

The enemy are said to be advancing, and we have been in line of battle. I have returned merely to enclose this letter in an envelope [illegible].

Ever sincerely and affty, my dearest Elodie, your own faithful,

N. H. R. Dawson

  1. Possibly S. W. Chadwick, transferred to the Fifth Alabama Infantry in August 1861. Alabama Civil War Muster Rolls, 1861-1865, Alabama Department of Archives and History.
  2. Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White appeared in serial form from 1859 to 1860 in Harper's Weekly and was then published in book form.
August 4, 1861


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


Residence (County): 
Dallas County, AL


From State: 
From Municipality: 
From County: 
Prince William


To State: 
To Municipality: 
To County: 

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