Summer 1861 No. 8


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 have concluded I live a dual existence. Tonight, I sit on the front porch, the same front porch father sat on to read to us. The same front porch where Sam and I talked of the plans we had for our lives. The same front porch mother taught me to be a lady, and I find I am only partially here.

While my intellect is here, on the porch, in Elmira, my heart is far away and in a location that I do not know. My heart is with you, my brothers, wherever you are.

The Christmas holiday is upon us and I wish we could skip the entire day. I wish, by some trick of fate, we would live the twenty-fourth of December and then skip to the twenty-sixth. I know how selfish that sounds, but wish it, I do. Last Christmas we were together, as a family. Now, mother and I are all that is left. Father has died, and you are both lost to us in the sense that we do not know where you are.

I realize I have much to learn, I mentioned my lack of Christmas expectation to mother and she smiled and reminded me how blessed we are.

“How blessed we are,” I exclaimed and promptly reminded her of our hardships as I have recently shared with you.

She smiled at me, as only our mother can, and reminded me that our town does not suffer from the influenza as some are, to date, we have received no notice of any of our Elmira boys falling, and the weather was patient with us as it took longer than expected to harvest this fall.

She is right I know, but still, I cannot muster any enthusiasm for Christmas.

I must admit I was completely unfair with and about poor Edwin, whom I should address as Col Maddox, as that is how you know him. He has taken it upon himself to see me home whenever and wherever we should happen to cross travels in the community. He is a graduate from West Point, so he is intelligent, and I must admit I also find him witty, at times.

I have said nothing more to him about the vulgarity of the language used by the soldiers, but he seems to remember my outrage. On more than one occasion, I have heard him dress down a soldier, or a Sargent for speaking in a colored manner when in the presence of women.

A couple of days ago, he and I were walking along the canal, in untrodden snow, when a dispatch runner delivered a message to Edwin. Of course, I did not read it, I simply watched as Edwin read it, and I am glad it was not a longer message, as he might not have survived.

My Colonel has an artery that is visible on the left side of his head, in line with his eyes. When he becomes angry, or out of sorts, the little blood vessel enlarges and his color turns a bright red. On this day, against a backdrop of fresh fallen snow, he appeared to glow. I had to struggle mightily not to laugh aloud.

When he finished, he spun to face the courier and shouted, “Ga…Ga…Ga…”

He looked at me, then back at the soldier and shouted, “Golly Gee that should not have happened! Tell Sargent Major Bartlet to see to it at once!”

The soldier snapped a salute, replied, “Yes Sir,” and promptly returned whence he came.

My poor Colonel, both of us could hear the soldier laughing from some thirty paces distant.

My Christmas wish for both of you is for you to return safely home and to do so in short order. I will also mention Miss Patsy would welcome more correspondence if you have the time, Samuel, and are so inclined. Luke, I have been asked to convey to you a Christmas wish from a redhead who works in The Dock’s Bar, which is next to the canal. She promised me you would know whom I mean. She wants me to assure you that she can read and write and would be very pleased to correspond with you over the coming year.

Merry Christmas brothers.

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