Autumn 1863 No. 16



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. 


Dear Samuel,

How I wish I could be as Rip Van Winkle, who disturbed by the commotion, slept his way through the Revolutionary War.  Would that really be so bad?

I am at a loss as to what to feel, how to think, and at times, how to behave.

Over this summer, the Union Armies have achieved two great victories.  After three days of battle, the first through the third of this July past, General Meade soundly defeated General Lee and forced the later to abandon his northward push.  I am certain the words Gettysburg, Pennsylvania will long be remembered as the turning point of this endeavor.

The victory at Gettysburg was followed up, not twenty-four hours later, with the surrender of an entire Confederate Army at Vicksburg, Mississippi.  General Grant prevailed and not only did he have the day, he captured twenty-nine thousand rebel soldiers.

Why, may you ask, after victories of such magnitude, can I be so remorse?  It is easy, my dear brother, those victories came at a cost of an estimated fifty-six thousand men killed or wounded.  The numbers of the carnage seem to grow larger with each passing battle without thought or consequence.

In truth, I was ecstatic when I read of the aforementioned victories.  I was certain my many prayers asking for the end of this war was finally being answered.  I joined in the street dance and the community celebration held at the Elmira city park.  I, as many others, saw these victories as signs that the end of this struggle was at hand.

Now, not many days later, I read of the draft riots in New York City and further north in Buffalo.  Men from our state refusing to answer the call to arms.  As I read the varied accounts, I soon learned the cause of the social unrest was not the fear of battle, as had been supposed by many of the first articles.  The true basis of the anger was the fear that once freed; the blacks of the south would migrate north and take the jobs of the very men who risked all to free them.  Most of the Irish immigrants, many who fought so courageously at Antietam and Gettysburg, not to mention other battles, see themselves in direct competition for the same work as the freed slaves.

“Why,” they ask, “should we risk death, when victory will result in increasing the struggle of our own people?”

I consider myself an abolitionist, in the same manner as our father, who preached that all peoples are children of the same God.  With that declaration made, I can sympathize with our Irish cousins, as our family came from Wales, and not fault them for being concerned for their own.  Does not charity begin at home?  How do they justify fighting and dying, as some of them will, in order to free a people who will take from them what they hold dear?

I truly wish I could be Rip Van Winkle and just sleep away the next twenty years.

I do not know how our President manages from one day to the next.  Can you think of one other person who is so respected, despised, honored, and vilified at the same time?  I believe he is a man sent to us and identified by the deity to lead us through this turmoil with its quagmire of confusion.  May the Lord keep and protect President Lincoln and hold him safe in his arms in the same manner sleep protected Mister Van Winkle.

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