Summer 1862 No. 11
Posted On June 3, 2016
In the year of 1862, Johanna Cardiff was becoming a young woman; her country was split by war. This is her journal; these are her journeys.
I have lost whatever sense of optimism I may have possessed at the beginning of this year. I fear even my faith in the Almighty is shaken as I read the accounts of the horrors being prosecuted across many of the towns, villages, and countryside’s of this, once blessed land.
I, like many, follow the battle accounts recorded in the papers, and I have even assumed the task of keeping a record of this war. Such an action may well become my undoing, for as I list the battles, locations, winners, and numbers of casualties, I see nothing of any good coming from this effort.
Over the past few months, our armies have clashed at Kernstown in Virginia, where 590 Union men and 718 Confederate were killed, wounded, or reported as missing or captured. The result was both sides claimed victory.
The action called the “Seven Pines” battle, also in Virginia resulted in 5,031 Union, and 6,134 Confederate casualties. Again, the destruction resulted in a draw.
Williamsburg, Virginia, 2,283 Union, and 1,682 Confederates fell, in one manner or another, and again, no victory by either side.
The “Seven Days” battle produced an outrageous tally of slaughter. 18,849 good men from the North killed, wounded, missing, or captured. The Southern men also suffered as well, 20,050 of their side were recorded as casualties. The result was a Confederate victory and Union armies retreated from the Virginia peninsula.
Trying hard, not to be outdone, at Shiloh Tennessee, the armies met where 13,047 Union men became casualties, while 10,699 Confederates did the same. At least, we can claim Shiloh as a Union victory.
If I sound bitter brothers, I am. I realize I am but an 18-year-old girl, my birthday arriving and departing without so much as a nod, except for gifts from Ma and Patsy, but I fail to understand what is being accomplished by the death and destruction. It seems, not to matter which side wins todays encounter, as the other will demand a rematch tomorrow, and the only statistic that changes is the numbers of dead, wounded, missing, or captured.
I fail to see that anything is been accomplished except that either our armies are becoming more determined to destroy each other, or we are becoming much more efficient in producing destruction. My evidence for this is the following comparison of the first battle of Bull Run, and the recently ended second battle at Bull Run.
The first battle, fought last summer produced 2,708 casualties for the union and 1,982 for the Confederates, and it was declared a Confederate victory. Not being satisfied with only one round of carnage in the area, the armies decided to meet there again only a few days ago.
The results were 14,462 Union dead, wounded, captured, or missing and 7,300 Confederates dead, wounded, captured, or missing. The Confederates clearly won the day.
Brothers, I am afraid to tally the total numbers of casualties resulted from the battles I have recorded. I also recognize I have not listed several other battles that have occurred in Arkansas, Missouri, Georgia, and elsewhere. A total number would produce nothing but a sense of despair in me that I’m not sure I would be able to overcome. All these men dead, wounded, or otherwise lost to their families and communities. I find the thought almost unbearable.
Is not a country nothing more than a collection of communities that agree to identify as a nation? A hundred years ago, our ancestors identified themselves as British and loyal to the crown, until the day they no longer wished to. From that day forward, we have called ourselves Americans. Should not our Southern neighbors also be awarded the same choice our ancestors demanded? In the hundred years of the American existence, have we learned nothing matters, but brute force? Must we kill untold numbers of fellow citizens, neighbors, and family members reproducing the carnage of a century ago? Have we not progressed?
I am thankful our Father in Heaven has kept you and the rest of the 42nd separate and has not called you to participate in any of the destruction I have recorded. My gratitude is tempered by the fear that you are being saved only to be sacrificed at some great and dreadful conflict that will make what I have studied seem as a mere skirmishes.
Be safe my brothers and hurry home.