4 August 1861: “…we may date our trouble from the time when we allowed Party to place in the chair a President, entirely disregarding his worth, ability, or capacity for it…”

Item description: Letter from Elodie Todd (1844-1881) to her fiance Nathaniel Henry Rhodes Dawson (1829-1895). Elodie Todd, of Selma, Ala., was the sister of Mary Todd Lincoln (the wife of Abraham Lincoln). At the time of this letter, Nathaniel Henry Rhodes Dawson was serving as an officer in the 4th Alabama Infantry Regiment. During the Civil War, Dawson and Todd exchanged letters almost daily. They later married.

Following on the heels of Dawson’s letter of 3 August 1861 to Todd (although it is nearly certain that Todd had not yet received that letter), Todd writes extensively of her devotion to Dawson and readiness to marry, mentions several visits from rival suitors, she gives her opinion of party politics and of the abilities of President Abraham Lincoln (her brother-in-law), and she writes of other news from the home front in Selma, Ala.

Item citation: From folder 17 of the Nathaniel Henry Rhodes Dawson Papers, #210, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Item transcription:

Confederate States of America

Selma August 4th 1861.

I was considerably brightened up yesterday evening after reading your letter, sent by Dr. Jones. I did not really expect to hear, was only indulging in the hope I would be so favored, for I had been thinking of you for an hour or two wondering where you were, what doing, where going next, when I would see you again, and a thousand other things but one of which was satisfied by your letter, as you expressed ignorance of your own movements and etc. and of course not enlightening me, and I could not arrive at any satisfactory conclusions myself but one, which was the best thing I could do was to try and be patient and wait for time to reveal all that now seems hidden so completely from us ’tis no easy task, but I am endeavoring to bear everything as well and cheerfully as possible. sometimes I fail entirely, but in a short time find myself persevering again in the struggle and may yet come out victorious. I do not think of peace and know well Mr. Lincoln is not man enough to dare to make it. he is but a tool in the hands of his Party and would not brave their wrath by such a proposition, how nobly he could redeem himself if he had the courage he is not more fitted for the office than many others who have recently occupied it and we may date our trouble from the time when we allowed Party to place in the chair a President, entirely disregarding his worth, ability, or capacity for it, and I hope our Confederacy may guard against it. I would not be offended at your remarks concerning Mr. L. knowing they are not intended more for him than his party or than for any other Blk. Rep. President and you do not say as much as I do, tho’ that is a privilege I allow myself exclusively, to abuse my relations as much as I desire, but no one else can do the same before me or even say a word against Kentucky. I told two gentlemen the other night that as they knew I was a Kentuckian and acknowledged myself as such, that I considered anything they said against my birthplace and home personal and there were many subjects more entertaining to me, than abuse of Kentucky. I thought if they desired to discuss her movements, they could take themselves off to do it, but as long as a drop of Ky. blood courses my veins I see myself listening to people who just by a small majority threw off northern tyranny themselves, and before Ky. for I still have faith in her and will ever take her part knowing better than some, all the disadvantages she is laboring under, but enough of that state, and on to something that will interest you more, and it requires some thought to know what the subject shall be, as I write so many long letters and discuss all the commonplace subjects of the day that it will be the same thing over.

I have here read a letter from my dear Friend Dr. Rodman in which after hoping that my brother and yourself may be safe he says he cannot advise me about my sweetheart and knows if I love him he is all right, and he knows one so guileless, good and honest as myself cannot unworthily bestow my affections, advises me not to marry until after the War is over, and extends an invitation for you to visit him as he is a good kind friend of min, and we love each other so much. I am a particular pet of the whole Rodman family, and I am very partial to them. Mr. Hagood came up to dine with us today I have been polite enought to excuse myself, leaving the rest to the enjoyment of newspapers. Mr. H. comes up regularly every evening, until I am so tired of his sighs and eye rollings that I am almost outdone and amuse myself by talking to him of the Sweetheart I have fighting in Virginia, how bravely and nobly he has acted in sacrificing so much to go and how proud I am of him. I believe he thinks there’s a chance for that Sweetheart never to come back from the way he hangs on, he says he will be so lonely when we go to Mrs. Craighead’s. “Miss Kittie how long will you be gone. Kittie replied with a very mischievous look a “month, perhaps longer” he will derive a great deal of satisfaction from the answer, I am encouraging him to go to the War on every occasion and really think he ought. Will you give him your Captaincy if I succeed in getting him off? You must not get discouraged. Next May will roll around and then you will return so much better pleased that for a year you have been doing your duty fighting like a brave Soldier for his country, and I will be better pleased too. I could not love you if you had staid at home content to remain inactive at such a moment. The separation with all the suspense is trying and painful to me and sometime I almost feel disposed to give way to my feelings and never make another effort to keep up, but I know it is but right that you should be where you are and all I ask is, that you continue to bear your hardships and trials as bravely and cheerfully as you have done so far. It is needless to mention a word as to fighting, for I know you are a brave noble man and I would willingly choose you as my Knight, indeed you are and I am confident before the year is out you will distinguish yourself by your bravery. I am counting time and find almost four months have passed and I think if you can contrive to come and see a body before a great while I can stand it better. please if you can, come back for a little while. can’t you come before December I think as I have spared you so long Genl Johnson might spare you a little while for me. I shall not object to your petting me when you have the right, as I like it, and when one is as affectionate in their disposition as myself, they must have affection in return. to be loved is as essential to my life and happiness as the air I breathe, and until I knew you imagine you were so cold, not unfeeling, but reserved, undemonstrative, and did not care for friendship or love either, but I don’t think so now. you must know that before our acquaintance began and I never saw you to know you, until our meeting in Montgomery I used to hear very much of you and fancied I knew you, but I never was so mistaken before in my life. I have been listening to Bro Clem relating the proceedings of the 21st at Manassas which he gleaned from Mr. Davidson. how I wish I could hear someone who was there relate the incidents of the day. I believe I have read every account given since in the Montgomery, Richmond, Mobile, Charleston, Louisville and a New York paper, and am not satisfied yet, so you can prepare yourself to answer innumerable questions when we meet. I  wrote to my Bro David to Richmond, where I heard he was, have not had time to hear from him yet, and hope I will as soon as possible, for I have been quite uneasy about his long silence. Dr. George Todd is my Father’s youngest son by his first marriage, but an almost total stranger to me for in my whole life I have never seen him but twice, the first time he was a practising Physician, the next, after my Father’s death, and owing then to some unpleasant family disturbances there has never since existed between the older members of my family and himself and his older brother the same feeling as before or that is felt for our sisters. I was too young at the time to even understand why the feeling was. When he called on David in Richmond, David would not see him or recognize him this I feel sorry for and hope they will yet make friends. he should remember he is our Father’s son and for his sake endeavor to forget and forgive the past, unforgiving as I am, I would do so. I wish I were prepared to take the step you are so anxious that I should, for two years I have wished to, but dared not, never until there is a decided change in my heart will I dare to do so, and to speak candidly I am afraid you would be surprised did you know how far from being ready for such a step I am. You give me credit for more goodness and amiability than I am entitled to, and so far from being able to assist you in your duty will require assistance from you, and you know I told you my choice of Church did not agree with yours. I have been raised a Presbyterian and I love them. for generations back my Father’s and Mother’s family have been such. now what will you do with me? You will have a stubborn hardheaded Presbyterian to convert and an ignorant one on religious matters too, altho in my young days so much attention was bestowed upon me. You see I am candid to you on all occasions and subjects and expect the same from you always. I should be much hurt did I think you would keep from me, or hesitate to say anything you desired, as you know I would very soon inform you if anything was said I did not fancy. by this time you have received all the letters written to Winchester, but one which did not arrive before the second or third day of this month, and this time I have written the greatest number of letters. I have not received but two since the Battle, one the 24th and 28th. I shall think you have forgotten me, if I do not hear again soon no I am not in earnest when I say this, because I know better and also that you embrace every opportunity to write that offers, and would not think it your fault if I did not hear for sometime. now wee how vain I am actually to think you could not forget me to fall in love with any of the beautiful and accomplished Va. ladies you see, and who must be so happy, having it in their power to do so much for our soldiers. I love all the Soldiers, and if they were wounded and sick near me I would think I could not do enough fro them, speaking of Soldiers reminds me of Jimmie Barker you remember him a young man from Summerfield who could not go with you on account of his deafness. Well he and Miss Nannie Heard found out about the time he thought of going they were interested in each other and have concluded to be married on the 7th. I think the War has performed many wonderful things. I feel the effects of it myself. I have not seen Mr. Wetmore for a week, he then told me he expected to receive from you soon a long and interesting letter, and I asked if he would read it to me, which caused him to look at me, and finally to say yes, if there were no secrets. I told him I only wanted the battle news, he says he suspected something but he cannot find out, but he has his heart set on one thing and from the good words he spoke for it did not take me long to surmise what it was and I could have told him mine was set on the same thing too. he begged me to tell him if I was engaged to Mr. H. said I must not consider him impertinent, but for a particular reason he asked. I like to be with him sometimes. he has so much curiosity and I tease him well. he is a good friend of yours and never omits an opportunity of saying something kind in your favor, and you have a rival in Bobby who come to see me and declares he would not have anyone but Miss Todd which he always calls me, for his sweetheart. I’ll try and prove true to you and not reciprocate his love. I am annoyed to see how I have rattled on, and Bro Clem will go down town, and leave my letter which I am finishing before breakfast, which would disappoint me, as I always send you a letter Monday morning, and you know what day to expect it as certain.

I wish I could talk to you in place of writing. I would have so much more to say and enjoy it more, for I always was averse to letter writing, tho’ from the length of mine you would not judge so, yet it is true and when you return I expect to be able to count the letters I will write but really I must cease. I hope to hear from you today. What has become of Mr. and Mrs. Hardie. Remember me kindly to Mr. Averitt when next you see him and assure him I am his friend. Goodbye may heaven bless you and your cause, watch over and protect you from danger and harm, is the ever constant prayer of your devoted,

Elodie.

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