Happy Valentine’s Day! This is my fifth post on love stories and letters from the Civil War.
SARAH MORGAN and FRANCIS DAWSON
The romance between Francis Warrington Dawson and Sarah Morgan was an affair of the heart that took place after the Civil War, but that epic period was, in some ways, the reason the two met.
Francis was the handsome 32-year-old editor of the Charleston News. An Englishman by birth, he had immigrated to the States to fight for the Confederacy and, after the war, became a reporter for newspapers in Richmond, Va.
In 1873, bereft after his wife’s death from tuberculosis, Frank left for Columbia, S.C., to visit James Morgan, a friend from the war. Sarah, a former New Orleans debutante, was living at her brother’s home near Columbia. She, too, was in mourning, as the Morgans had suffered much during the war. After moving to South Carolina, the 30-year-old was determined to overcome her fears and embrace self-reliance, vowing to die rather than be dependent on someone else. She went on to become a journalist and penned the book The Civil War Diary of a Southern Woman.
Following is a love letter that Dawson penned to Morgan after she agreed to marry him, but postponed the date indefinitely.
Charleston SC Aug. 5, 1873
…[My] lips refuse to be sealed, and can no more refrain from telling their love for you and to you than they can cease to breathe the fragrant breath of life. The one will end with the other.
I do consider, however much either of us may try to ignore it, the certainty is that sooner or later you must decide whether you can bear with me for always, and when, if you desert me, I must learn whether I can live without you. I think I may say that I have proved that my affection for you is not a mere fancy of a day, or a month, but the deep undying and ever increasing love of a lifetime. I have proved to you that I understand you and that the greatest intimacy leads to no jarring between us. I have proved to you that even confirmed ill health, which you dread, will only increase and intensify my tender care of you. I have proved to you that your people are my people and that they can love me as warmly as I love them. These are things which very few men can say to any woman whom they ask in marriage, but I can say them to you because you know this truth. I do not press you for any decision. There is time enough for that. I only wish, on this day of all days, to remind you of what time has done, and to repeat to you, solemnly, my vows of constant and unselfish love. And it makes me glad to know that, whether it be requited or not, you never doubt now the truth of my love for you. My one aim in life is to win your hand; that gained, I have gained all I wish for, more to me, indeed, than riches or public fame or the honors most men crave.
This letter, and others, can be found in my book From the Heart: Love Stories and Letters from the Civil War.