Charlottesville, Virginia, August 15, 1861

I have not written to you since the middle of last week, my dear Elodie, on account of sickness, having been confined to my bed by fever for several days.

Yesterday I came down to this place, having been advised to leave by our physician for a few days in order to recoup my strength. I was also anxious to see Maj. Haden and our wounded soldiers. I am glad to say I found them all improving.

I am much better this morning and hope to return at the end of this week entirely well. I received on Monday your welcome letter of the 4th and 5th and am greatly obliged for the confidence you express in me. I hope that I have done my duty so far as a soldier and a brave man and, with God's help and your own encouragement, will do so to the end. It is a most gratifying truth that the love of a true woman never faileth, but like a spring is always gushing forth to refresh the weary and the unfortunate. I find the change from camp to the comforts of a hotel very grateful just at this time and almost wish I had never seen a camp. It is very certain that I will never remain in one longer than my duty requires, and at the end of my enlistment I mean to keep my promise to you and become your good and faithful soldier.

I am afraid you find my letters uninteresting since the late battle. It has had a most demoralizing effect upon the soldiers and seems to have made them careless and negligent. This is said always to be one of the effects of a victory. It has certainly made me feel indolent and lazy. But we have had so much to render us uncomfortable that this latter cause may have produced the effect. We have a great deal of sickness. In our brigade, numbering about 4,000 men, on Sunday we had 1,750 sick men. Gen. Whiting [1] stated this to my informant. You speak of receiving only two letters from me on the 24th and 28th ulto. I wrote you on the night of the 21st at 12 o'clock at night. You speak rather lightly of being knocked down by a cannon ball. I assure you if you had been as badly lamed and had been as much exhausted as I was on that day you would think it a serious matter. I was so tired that I was in the rear of our men and walked away in company with Col. Jones and two others, one of whom was shot near me and has since died. Co. Jones was shot in advance of me and was taken prisoner very shortly afterwards. The regiment was completely scattered and not more than 150 of them were ever collected again in one day, and they never got into a second fight. I myself became separated and never could hear of the regiment until late in the evening after the battle was over, and if I had known where it was, was in such a condition that I would not have rejoined it. No doubt the same was the condition of the whole regiment, who were worn down and exhausted by the march from Winchester and the fatiguing march at double quick of six miles that morning, previous to the fight. Our regiment did its duty gallantly while it was in the fight, as well as men could do, but after their retreat, owing to the want of a leader, were scattered everywhere.

I hope we will have a place in the next battle that we may redeem whatever of blame may attach to us for the scattering, but our regiment was guilty of a fault common to many other divisions of the army on that day and cannot alone be blamed.

There is hardly anything to write you of here. The war news you have from the papers. We never have any other. I hear a fight going on, under my window, between the servant girls but am not sufficiently interested to go and see the result. One seems to have come off the victor.

Prince Napoleon [2] was at Manassas on last Friday and rode over the battleground with Gen's Beauregard and Johnston. I did not see him, but Lieut. McCraw did. He was with our generals two days. It is thought that his visit is a political one, and I am inclined to believe so.

When I read your affectionate letters, they fill me with gratitude that I have won the love of one who has so warm and affectionate a nature. I too require love as much as the air to enable me to live, and I am so happy to find that your nature and mine correspond in this respect. With two hearts so warm, and one so pure and guileless as my Elodie's, we will hope for a great deal of happiness.

I noted what you say about your religious feelings. I give you credit for speaking as you do and am glad you are so candid. You tell me I will find you "hard to consent" and "an obstinate Presbyterian." Well, my dear Elodie, you know that it would give me greater pleasure to see you a member of my own church than of any other, but at the same time I would never object to see you a good Presbyterian, and I hope that even if one faith and one communion did not unite us that our hearts would be united in love and in one desire to discharge all of our duties. I will never undertake the office of converting you but will hope that time, as it mellows the light of your life, will bring about that change so essential to our eternal happiness. I trust to see you a professing Christian, even tho' of a church different from mine. Now I hope you will think me candid.

Four months, one third of the year, have almost passed, and I will endeavor for your sake to bear our trials and privations as patiently as those of the past have been borne. I will also endeavor to fight well and to bear myself as becomes your betrothed. I am so far conscious of having tried to do so and will to the end. If I live it will be to be worthy of you. If I die it will be that you may never be ashamed of my memory. But I pray God this war may end speedily and save the innocent loss of life that is now foreshadowed.

Mr. John Rollins left here a few days ago for home. It is said his friend acted impudently in removing him and fears are entertained that he will die. I do not know where he is. I found Billy Harrison sitting up in the parlor yesterday evening entertaining a lady. I regret the loss of his arm exceedingly. George Mims is at Warrenton and is improving. I am surprised that none of his friends have been in to see him. He was severely wounded in the shoulder.

The people here are a noble set. They have made hospitals of their homes, and the most refined ladies are the nurses. Our men have been shown every attention. Their own mothers and sisters could not have been more attentive and kind.

I have now written you a long letter, dear Elodie, too long I fear, and must come to a close. Write me to Manassas. With much love and a prayer that God will guide, guard, and protect you always, I remain,

Sincerely and affectionately yours,

N. H. R. Dawson

  1. William Henry Chase Whiting (1824-1865) had taken over brigade command after the death of Barnard Bee. Nathaniel repeatedly approached Whiting about a furlough, but was consistently denied. John H. Eicher and David J. Eicher, Civil War High Commands (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001), 566-567.
  2. Prince Napoleon of France, a cousin of Emperor Napoleon III, arrived in the United States in July 1861. For his aide-de-camp's thoughts on the war, see Bayrd Still, Mirror for Gotham: New York as Seen by Contemporaries from Dutch Days to the Present (New York: Fordham University Press, 1994), 181-183.
August 15, 1861


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


Residence (County): 
Dallas County, AL


From State: 
From Municipality: 
From County: 


To State: 
To Municipality: 
To County: 

Get in touch

  • Department of History

    220 LeConte Hall, Baldwin Street

    University of Georgia

    Athens, GA 30602-1602
  • 706-542-2053

eHistory was founded at the University of Georgia in 2011 by historians Claudio Saunt and Stephen Berry

Learn More about eHistory