[Originally posted July 4, 2005. As I re-read through this post, I was struck by two things. First, of the similarities between Sydney--photographed below at 13 months old--and Julianne (yes, indeed, they are sisters). Second, that I'm sure I never would have imagined the last few paragraphs would still be applicable four years after I had written it.]
In doing the genealogy for Jason's family, my mom found a real treasure: original letters Jason's Great-great-great grandfather wrote to his wife during the Civil War. While there are undoubtedly more letters existing, my mom was able to locate over a hundred.
In the field near Strasburg, VA, On May 10, 1864, Josiah writes:
I wrote to you but two days ago but I thought I would write again seeing I had a chance and will write often as long as the letters can go through. We left Winchester yesterday morning and camped here last night in a very nice place. We stay here today to build a bridge across Cedar Creek which the rebs burned. It is said there is to be a very heavy force here soon and then we are going to make everything leave this valley. I think we will go right to Stannton. It is said we will have 200 pieces of artillery and 60 or 70 thousand men. I think it is on to Richmond this time. I do hope that all will work together which I think they are doing now, if the thing is done right Richmond is ours before two months longer.
Now Parney you must keep up courage for if Richmond is taken the war is nearly over and it will certainly be taken before the fourth of July. For my part I would like to celebrate that memorial day in the capitol of the confederacy and if I live and keep my health I think I will.
When you write let me know whether you got the box I sent you. Give me the news generally. I don't know how I will stand traveling. I came nearer giving out yesterday than I ever did before and we came but thirteen miles. It was very warm and dusty. This is a splendid country. There is plenty of pasture for the horses and also for the drove of cattle which we drive along to eat. I pity the 'critters' that is unlucky enough to be right fate in this country. We just pick them up as we go.
I can't think of any more at this time. Kiss the children for me. Give my respects to all.
Sadly, Josiah didn't get to celebrate the Fourth of July in Richmond, and in fact the war didn't end until the following year. Five days after Josiah wrote this letter he was taken prisoner and sent to Andersonville Prison. He became deathly ill, and when paroled he made it as far as Washington DC before dying in a hospital there. The above letter was the last letter his wife received from him. Josiah left behind two young sons. The nurse who was with Josiah at the end wrote: "His last words were tell my wife that all is well with me and that I should like to be buried beside my little boy that died three years ago. ... Thank God he was out of rebel hands and died in our own lines and is buried under the stars and stripes."
Should Jason and I ever have a son, we have decided to name him Josiah -- after his four times great-grandfather who fought so bravely for a just cause.
And here, 140 years later, we are a nation once again at war. A war that I struggle to support, but I nevertheless support all our dear soldiers, the men and women who are fighting far from home. Men and women who push their individual beliefs aside in order to serve their country. Men and women I pray for daily that they might be delivered home safely to their families. And for those who perish in this war, I hope that they can be brought home in order that they too might be buried under the stars and stripes.
Despite all the short-comings of our nation, it is still the finest country in the world. May I never take it for granted. May we always be grateful for the freedom we have been given. May my daughter live to see her country in a time of peace.
Happy birthday, America -- the land of the free, and the home of the brave.