Spring 1864 No. 18



In the year of 1864, Johanna Cardiff was becoming a young woman; the war that had split her country continued.  This is her journal; these are her journeys.



Dear Samuel,

The holidays are behind us and once again, the entire town of Elmira looks forward to spring.  The good Lord and nature is not disappointing us.  The snow is melting; the willows along the river and canals are starting to turn purple, indicating their sap is rising.  Soon, patches of green will be seen and the earth will be reborn.

How I wish such a story could be written about our country.  The news contains nothing but accounts of battles throughout the southern half of our country, and the resulting death and carnage.  Our new minister, one Reverend Marcus Finnelly, tells us from the pulpit this war is ordained by God in an effort to cleans this land of sin.  He says we must pay the price for the sin of slavery.  He seems so certain in his message, and yet I struggle to understand it.  I agree slavery is wrong and I support Mister Lincoln’s banning it from the rebellious states.  I don’t understand why he can’t do the same for all the states.  I spoke with Judge Marcus about this after church last Sunday and he tried to explain to me that the practice of slavery is protected by the Constitution and as such, cannot simply be ordered to cease by the Chief Executive.  His answer increased my bewilderment.

I have been raised to believe the Constitution was brought about by the will of the Almighty and he impressed into the minds of our forefathers the principles of liberty.  Why does this land and its people need be punished for upholding a principle, slavery, when the Almighty oversaw it being listed in the very document that founded this country?  How can Reverend Finnelly stand as a mouthpiece of our Lord and proclaim we need cleansing by the flames of war, as we are all sinners?  Why must men like our brother Luke need die for an argument in which we had no part?  We have never owned slaves.  Both father and mother spoke out vigorously in opposition to the practice.  Honestly, I don’t believe Luke would have known a slave if he had tripped over one.

Samuel, I would be ashamed if I was the only person of my gender to think and feel this way, but we women are tired of this carnage.  I wish I could go back to the time when I had little more to worry about than what dress to wear to the church social and in what order I should fill my dance card.

Please don’t think of me as frivolous, but I am tired of picking up a newspaper and wondering if I will read the name of someone, I know in the obituary column.  I’m fed up wondering if the person I meet on the street will share with me their loss of a son, brother, husband or father.  Mostly, I’m sick with worry about you.  I wake every morning hoping I will receive mail from you and fearing I will not.

Please, dear brother, please, wherever you are and whatever you are doing, please write me.

I must share the biggest news of our community.  Camp Rathbun, the Army post just north of town, was closed last year.  Now, the Army has decided to use a portion of it to hold captured Confederate soldiers.  We are so far removed from the actual combat, I think they see any soldier held here will not be able to escape and return to support the southern cause.  Even as I write this, I can hear the workers in the distance repairing the old quarters and building new, what they think is needed.  Several members of the town have traveled to Albany as emissaries and spoke with the Army command in an effort to have the enemy prison moved elsewhere.  They did not enjoy success, as with all things military, we have been told to do our part and feel pride in supporting the Union.

I pray you are safe, dear brother.


Your sister

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