Summer 1861 No 1


In the summer of 1861, Johanna Cardiff was becoming a young woman; her country was preparing for war.  This is her journal; these are her journeys.



Dear Brothers,

I did not tell you, but during the preparations for your departures, I purchased this journal from Tobias Adams, at his general store.  It is my intention to record my thoughts, feelings, and worries to these pages, and hopefully, God willing, share them with you when this torment has subsided.  Do not fear, as I intend to write and correspond with the two of you as often as humanly possible, not only for my sake, but also for our mother’s and, as you know Sam, I am obligated to assist in the exchange of letters between you and Patsy.

I am committed to each of these endeavors and will do my parts as surely as you, my brothers, and the young men of Elmira Township and the surrounding Chemung County will do theirs.  I promise you, my brothers, I shall not shirk.

This journal is for me.  I desire a place where I can share my deepest of thoughts and know they will be safe until a later time when I choose to share them.  My journal will become a location where I can correspond with God and on these pages there will, undoubtedly be prayers documented.  In the safety of these bindings, I hope to find a way to whisper to our departed father, whom I miss so terribly.  I cannot but wish he were still among us to offer his guidance through these dark days, but also to fortress   us with his strength and courage.  I know the two of you have those same qualities, as he is in you both.  I hope to find my way to keep a small part of him so that I might not disappoint either of you.

A mere two days have passed since I watched the young men of Elmira march south.  Only two days, and already I find myself wondering where you are.  Before you think of me as a silly little sister, remember I have only been more than two days away from our home once in my life, and that was the train ride to Albany when we deposited you, Samuel, to the Teachers College located there.  A day and a train ride over, a day wandering that city and finding housing for Samuel, and a day riding the train returning us.  Three days total, from my seventeen years have I spent outside of our hometown.  So, please do not think of me as a silly little girl.

Instead, I hope you will find the time and the space in your letters to tell me some of the country you see, the people you meet and the adventures you will have.  Those of us left behind assure ourselves that you will all have a grand and great adventure.  We tell each other and ourselves things like,

“When our boys meet up with that General Lee, the southern boys won’t know what hit them.”

“I have it on good authority, from my cousin, that President Lincoln has already made plans to have our boys’ home by early next year.”

Even as I write the words, and say them to myself, they sound hollow.  Oh, brothers, I wish you Godspeed and I pray the Lord will watch over you and keep you, as well as our friends, who are with you, safe to his bosom.

I, as the others, stood and watched you all march south and away from your families and homes.  I, like all the others, felt the strongest stirring of pride.  You are all brave men and you deserve to be lifted to a level of worship.  As the column marched and the distance grew between you and us, the sounds of your movements diminished.  The stomping of your thousands of feet on the good New York soil became little more than a muffled drumbeat.  The clinking of hundreds of tin cups, attached to knapsacks, became softer than the rattle of trace chains on a draft team.  Even the fine cloud of dust you created faded in the summer air.

Soon, I stood alone and I strained to hear you.  If I could hear you, in the distance, you were not really gone and I could hold you to me for a few more minute.  Eventually, as with all things, you were gone and I could hear you no longer.

I returned to our home, which is so empty now, threw myself to bed, and wept.



I invite you to sign up to receive the journal pages from Johanna as she does her part.  My intentions are to make a part of this a travelogue, part of it love letters, doses of history (but not many), and a sprinkle of poetry.

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