Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Journal Entry: Wilderness, Virginia; May 23, 1865

 I have been staying in the one room school house, west of the blacksmith shop. I am still uncomfortable sleeping in a bed, so most nights, spread my blankets on the floor, my pistol close at hand. My night mind resembles the rattle and chatter of the camps; it is only when I rise, with the welcome morning light, that I can work one task at a time to quiet my mind and see a moment without sabers of doubt flashing, gashing me.

My brothers have left for Fredericksburg; they want to be a part of the rebuilding. They each find enjoyment in the hand work of carpentry and mechanics. Even though Fredericksburg is now known as part of Military District No. 1, they feel that one day she will again be our beautiful city. There are too many people in the city for me, too many hollow eyes standing, staring into ruins that once held life; too many hollow hearts, looking for opportunities to take advantage. Had President Lincoln lived, a more perfect union might have prevailed, but I fear retribution, not reconstruction, may be the new order for some time to come.

Marianna has returned from western Virginia with Cousin Betty. Betty’s Ellwood home has been taken over by a carpetbagger who declared her farm a part of the spoils of war. She will move to Fredericksburg until they are able to evict him. My brothers offered to remove him by force, but thought better of it; no reason to be hanged now after surviving the noose for four years.

Marianna has grown quiet, as have we all. Her work in the hospitals was greeted with disdain by some doctors working there. There may now be a path to equality for men that were slaves, but women of all colors are still treated as chattel. She longs to go to New York to join the suffrage movement; if she goes, I will follow. So many women worked tirelessly throughout the war to bring equality to all people, but it seems that many of the abolitionists were only interested in freeing men that would vote and work for Northern interests. That is a broad brush I paint with, but I see no desire among the politicians to now bestow equality on women.   

I hope Marianna will stay with me on our land; I will be farmer, blacksmith, miller, cooper, all of the tasks it takes to rebuild, even if I can never return to the simple sylvan paradise that was the Wilderness. If I stay busy in my work, I can control my doubts, my fears, my fitful nights.

I cannot explain my doubts to Marianna, so we simply walk to the run along the water’s edge near the plank road. I sit on the split oak, while Marianna wanders along the smooth stones, spotting spring minnows; the sparkles of sun from the water skip about her skirts; tiny stars of hope and happiness that seem to always circle her. She is my hope, my one happiness, though I never find the words to say it true. I have known her since we were children and still can not describe the depth of her eyes.

Words seem insufficient; Marianna says only deeds are true. Together, one task at a time now; we two could create a perfect union, with no separation, no words. I could cease the babble and chatter; a honeysuckle vine could tie this journal to a piece of the split oak and float it away down the Wilderness Run. While Mari watches the minnows, I can watch my fight float away. I can take her hand and leave my pistol on the plank road.



  1. Oh geez, seriously, I have tears in my eyes.

    You know this is book material, right? You really are that good.

    I will so miss these stories. But also look forward to your next journey.

  2. full body goosebumps...
    such a talent you are, dear one.
    I beg you to continue....
    or surely a novel to follow?

  3. i see i must go back to the beginning.

    i sometimes find myself holding my breath while reading; this was one of those times. to exhale felt i might disturb the fragility of these words, never mind the strength i sensed beneath them.


Your comments are a gift beyond measure.