Summer 1863 No. 15



In the year of 1863, Johanna Cardiff was becoming a young woman; her country was split by war.  This is her journal; these are her journeys. 


Dear Samuel,

At what point does the suffering end?  Two days ago, our beloved mother passed.  Over the past several weeks, she weakened, and she held to the notion it was the time of year and blamed her lack of vigor on the winter.  I felt that was not the case and supposed, her gentle state had more to do with her fear and worry about her sons, than her displeasure with the weather.  It was because of my fear that I hesitated to share with her your news of Luke’s death.

Every chance she had to see a newspaper, she scoured the casualty list and read the names aloud in her gentle voice.  Many times as I sat across the room from her and listened to her recite the names of the fallen, I felt she was an angel calling home her sons.  She would interrupt her recital only to murmur, “Oh your poor mothers,” every fifth or sixth name.  I will never again hear the very essence of love that made her voice.  I will never be blessed with the gentle counsel from father.  I will never contend with the teasing from Luke.  I miss them all.

This war, though it be hundreds of miles from a home and village as exacted a dreadful price from us.  I suppose others have paid more dearly than we have, but I don’t want to pay anymore.  Add to the loss in our family members the loss of Patsy and almost a hundred men from Elmira who fell at Antietam.  The cost exacted is too high.

On January 1 of this year, the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect.  As I understand it, President Lincoln has ordered the slaves being held in the rebellious states to be freed.  The Proclamation has no effect on the slaves or slaveholders in those few slave states supporting the Union.  It seems unjust to me.  If a slave is equal to a white, shouldn’t all slaves be equal to each other as well?  How can a President order property taken from one person and allow another person to retain that same property?

I confess I don’t understand any of this.  I admit there are times when it is advantageous for a young lady to play the role of having feathers for brains.  Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, men will do most anything for the feather-headed, but pretty female.  In trying to understand, what our President has done and why, I feel as if I truly have feathers in my head.  It is a feeling most uncomfortable and I vow to do what I must in order to understand the happenings in my own government.

Perhaps if more of us had done so years earlier, our country would not be in the situation it finds itself.

I have written several letters to you Samuel, and have not received one in return since you wrote of the passing of Luke.  We are all we have left our family.  I beg you not to abandon me.  You are now the head of this family and I need your steadfastness and courage.  Please, stay safe and write me when you can.

Your sister

**Author’s Note:  President Lincoln withstood criticism from both pro-slave and anti-slave interests after he issued the Emancipation Proclamation.  One side claimed he had no authority to issue orders to areas in a state of rebellion and the other chided him for not freeing the slaves in all the states and territories.

Lincoln claimed that if he could save the Union without freeing the slaves, he would.  If he could save the Union by freeing the slaves, he would do that.  If he could save the Union by freeing only a part of the slaves, he would do that.  His goal was to save the Union.  Personally, he was convinced the practice of slavery was an abomination.

The practice of slavery was protected by the Constitution, at the time, so Lincoln was limited in his actions.  He used the President’s “war powers” clause, as the backbone of the Proclamation, as freeing the slaves was expected to reduce the southern output to support the Confederacy.

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