Summer 1861 No 3


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,

War has come to Elmira!

It is impertinent of me to make such a claim, in truth; the reports of war have reached Elmira.

I refer to the recent fighting at Bull Run, or as the Confederates are calling it, Manassas and since by most accounts, they are the victors, maybe we should call it by that name.  I cannot believe I am saying that, the Confederates won.  I never, in my dying day, ever assumed such would be the case.

I guess the same is true of many of the Washington city socialites who travelled to the hills surrounding the battleground to watch the rebels get a good whooping.  Reports I have read tell of the picnics interrupted by the retreating Union army.

Brothers, I am in such a state, that if I didn’t feel I owed it to you to record my thoughts and emotions, I think I would just take myself to bed and try to sleep through this most disturbing day.  Not a soul in this town ever conceived our boys would ever lose a fight to a bunch of upstarts from the south.  The only point in the completely sordid affair that binds me is the knowledge that you were not among the combatants.

Some of the units were made up of New York boys and by the articles I read, all accounted for themselves in brave and honorable fashion.  I know you are there to defend our country and to do your parts in this mess.  Is it so wrong of me to hope and pray that every time you are set to join in battle you arrive a day late?

The articles I have read all report the numbers of those killed to be around eight hundred.  Eight hundred sons, fathers, brothers, and friends killed in an afternoon that accomplished nothing more than disrupt the picnic plans of rich folks from Washington.

I also read the powers in Washington, and elsewhere, are losing sleep as they now realize they have kicked a hornets’ nest.  You were right, Samuel, this is going to be a bloody and hate filled adventure.

I must add, dear brother Samuel, that the only person in the entire county who is not walking around with shoulders slumped and heads bowed is your sweet Patsy.  She is as upbeat and cheerful as ever.  I asked her how this could be and her reply was, “It is all up to our president Mister Lincoln.”

She told me that once he comes to his senses and stops worrying about who should be put in command of the army, as one week it is General Scott, the next week it is McDowell, and the week after someone new, and decides to send you, Samuel, on the mission you were born for, the war will be over.

She said, “My Samuel could lick the Confederates single handedly, if only Mister Lincoln would come to his senses and send Samuel south to kidnap Jefferson Davis.”

“Patsy,” I said, in a gentle tone, as when she gets like this, it is best to be gentle, “don’t you think Samuel might need just a little help?”

“Johanna, Samuel has all the help he needs.  As you know, his name, in Hebrew means “God listens,” and we all know how the pharaohs of Egypt fared when they went toe-to-toe with Moses of old.  Do you really think some upstart and misguided Senator from Mississippi would do any better against our Samuel Moses?”

Dear older brother, whatever you may do, in this upcoming war, promise me you will return alive and whole to our friend and my sister Patsy.  I do not believe I will be able to withstand the weeping and mourning should some misfortune befall you.

She is, and always has been, a woman in love and the object of her affections is you.

Be safe, dear brothers.

Mother has become quiet and spends time seeking the solitude of the scriptures since the reports of Bull Run have arrived.  She does not share her feelings with me, she chooses to think of me as a little girl, but I see her spending time, lying on her bed with a damp compress to her head, and several times, I have opened the door to her room and found her on her knees in prayer.

Be safe, dear brothers, be safe.


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