In the year of 1863, Johanna Cardiff was becoming a young woman; her country was split by war. This is her journal; these are her journeys.
I am in receipt of your letter informing mother and I of the death of our son and brother Luke. While your letter was short, it fully carried the depths of your pain at his death. Brother, I beg you; do not blame yourself in this matter, which we can only explain as the will of God. I hold onto to that thought in the matter of our friend and sister’s death Patsy.
I informed you that I had received your letter and you can be safe in your assumption I have not informed mother of Luke’s passing. It is possible I am a coward, in this matter, and wish not to bring her the pain such knowledge certainly will bring, but my hesitation is more simple, I don’t know how to tell her.
I don’t know how to tell a mother her baby son is dead and not only is he dead, she has been cheated of the opportunity to bath him, dress him, and in other ways prepare him for burial. I know she will remember him, always, as you described, lying in a mass grave, bloody, dirty, and confused with the others interned there. Mother’s grief will not allow her to find comfort in your words, “he is in good company.” She will think of him as being with strangers. Your claim that Luke is buried on a hillside in Virginia will only remind mother her son has no burial spot next to father and other members of our family who have gone before. She visits father once a week and she will never be allowed, due to distance and lack of knowledge of visiting her son.
At the risk of repeating myself, I dare not tell her this horrible news.
I feel I am being punished for a sin I have not committed, and I am not so selfish as to think I am the only one being so reprimanded. A year ago, we were a complete family. Father was the head, patriarch, and leader in both material and spiritual matters. Mother supported him, maintained a loving and comfortable home and in so doing demonstrated the power of love to each of us. You, Samuel, were completing your schooling, which allowed you to be a teacher, mentor, and guide for the next generation. Granted Luke and I had not decided the direction of our futures, but we were safe in the knowledge of having time and support of the family.
Now, I fear, God has abandoned us. Father is gone, Patsy is dead, and Luke has been stolen from us. The newspapers continue to list the names of the fallen, and I intercept them, to scan them for Luke’s name. I don’t know how to tell Mother, as I have said previous, but I can’t allow her to learn of her son’s death in that matter. The papers are so cruel, and yet, without them, we would be completely ignorant of happenings away from here.
I live in constant fear one of your company will write to their family and mention Luke. I shudder to think of Mother greeting a friend on the street and hearing them voice condolences.
Samuel, the fear and worry I carry is a heavy burden and there are times my grief gives way to rage. At those times, where I used to seek the solace of being with father, I now retreat into the woods distant enough so no one but God hears my shrieks and curses. I demand he visit vengeance on the people of the south, whose disloyalty to our union and President has caused this. I demand he bestow the plagues upon them he shared with the Egyptians of Moses’s day, and I beg him to gift the plagues seven-fold.
I hate our southern neighbors. I hate them and if it were possible, I would carry a flame to them so hot, it would scorch the southern states for eternity. Alas, I am not in such a position and so I am forced to beg you, Samuel, to avenge our family and our friends. Do not be hesitant, do not be passive, when the opportunity presents itself, wade into them and cover yourself with their blood and our revenge.
Kill them all, dear brother.