Summer 1861 No 4


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,

A cloud has befallen our fair little town.  As the stories of the fiasco at Bull Run reach us and the understanding of what occurred that afternoon begins to puzzle together, we realize now, as never before, you will be gone a long time.

The cloud I refer to is fear.  Please do not think me silly.  You, undoubtedly will soon face the enemy, so who am I to talk of fear, but my fears are as real as yours, and in some ways, I think worse.

Your fear has a face, even if you have not yet met the enemy; you have an image of him in your mind.  Your fear is a lean young man who wears a grey shirt, talks with a funny accent and is determined to kill you.  A ghastly fear, I agree.  Nevertheless, you are not unarmed against your fear.  You are armed, with what I read is the best weapon of modern warfare.  Leaders who, regardless of Bull Run, are reported to be the finest in the history of our military have trained you.  Lastly, your fear is a man.  A man from another part of our country and a man whom you don’t know, but still, only a man and if he is not yet, he will soon be more afraid of you, than you he.

The fear in Elmira has no face, it has no shape, and is nebulas as a single cloud in the blue sky that hinds the sun from us.  It is like our shadows.  Each shadow is the same, and yet, each is individual to one person.  My shadow is mine and mine only, as is my fear.

Our town has faced difficulties, but nothing like this.  The reports about Bull Run has convinced us that some of you will not return, though the praises that would be sung to the Almighty, if such a miracle occurred, would last for weeks.  We know better, some of you will not come home and some of you who do, will be maimed and crippled.

We, who can do nothing, are forced to wait and see who loses the lottery.  We pass each other afraid to greet for fear the other has received bad news.  Soon, a mother, a wife, a sister will receive such bad news and I pray I will be of comfort to her, but I worry that even as I try to comfort her, I will be relieved it is her in pain and not me.

I pray that God will forgive my weakness.  I beg him to lift this burden from us.  I grovel that he might soften the hearts of those misguided leaders in the south who have set us on this course.

I wish you were home, dear brothers, as does mother.  Please don’t tarry, we need you here.

I cannot close in such a manner.  We still do smile in Elmira, from time to time and I hope this will bring a smile to your faces.  I was offered a job.

A few days ago, I passed The Owl Saloon; you know the one that has the piano always being played.  As I passed, I realized the establishment was silent, even though it was in the afternoon.

Well, and don’t tell mother, recklessness came over me and I walked in there as if I had been a patron a hundred times.  I thought my heart might burst at any moment.  I saw the piano, ignored along a sidewall; there were a few men who paid me no mind and a man in a dirty white shirt leaning on the bar.  He had a beer in one hand and a rag that was absolutely filthy in the other.

He looked at me with watery eyes and asked, “Can I help you, Missy?”

I was wearing my white gloves, so I was afraid to touch anything, but I was determined to have my question answered.

“My name is Johanna Cardiff and I was wondering why you don’t have the piano play any longer.  This town is worried and the sound of the music would be a reminder of happier days.”

He studied me and then asked, “You said your name is Cardiff, are you related to the minister?”

“I am, he was my father.”

The man nodded and said, “Well, at least you have more sense than he did.  He didn’t like my piano music.  Told me not to play it on Sundays.”

I must say, I was taken back, but I stood my ground, “I’m sure the Lord enjoys your piano, as all music is found to be pleasing, however, I’m also sure the Lord prefers hymns on Sundays.”

He studied me some and I was afraid he would have me removed but then he smiled and confided, “That is what you Pa said.  God likes hymns on Sundays.  You may remember, I never had the piano play until after sundown on Sundays.”

“I did notice that, and I often wondered why, as I found your piano enjoyable every day.”

“It was you Pa’s doing.  Talked me into respecting the Sabbath, as he said.”

“It’s not Sunday today,” I reminded him, “Why isn’t it being played now?”

He shrugged, “Can’t.  My piano player marched off with the rest of those fools.”

“Two of those fools are my brothers,” I said, before I realized.

He smiled, “Can you play the piano?”

“I certainly can.”

“Want a job?”

Of course, I said no, but should I reconsider and when hired play nothing but “The Old Rugged Cross?”


Be safe dear brothers


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