The black clouds smoldered above the city. The very ground cried out for relief from it’s thirst. How cruelly it was salted and burned. Homes burned. Crops burned. Oh, the crying of children! No, no. Not children. They could not possibly have burned children. Did they? Could they? Dear, God! And the men, singing. Oh, why are they singing? John Brown’s Body. Screaming women and children. The dry and thirsty ground.
“Forgive me, Father. Receive my soul.” As the dry scorched soil desperately soaked up his lifeblood, he breathed his last and his soul left his body lifeless on the barren fields of the deserted Confederate lands.
Postmarked December 16th, 1864.
My Dearest Catherine,
How I hope this reaches you, in case I never do return. I need you to know that I have been made to know what a bad sort of man I am. I came here, thinking that I would fight for righteousness cause, to free the slave and be a part of bringing justice to the country. I would have told you that the Union soldier was altogether more righteous than the Confederate. I left home thinking I was a good man. I now know that I am not. I never have been. I will spare you the atrocities I have witnessed, but I feel you must know that I, who thought myself so good and righteous and just, have not only witnessed but taken part. I have been as much a scoundrel as any man. In the misery of facing the darkness of my heart, I thought of your words to me so many years ago, when you said that you had changed only after you came to believe that you were not a good sort of woman. I do not know whether believing God would forgive me gave me the courage to face the badness of my wrongdoings, or whether facing the badness of my wrongdoings has made me lift my face to God. I do not know in which order it happened. My soul changed so quickly. I understand you more now than ever. I do not know what made you see, but I know what has opened my eyes, and I know that when I thought myself a decent fellow, I was not being honest with myself. Before this, I could never have faced the kind of man I truly am. All those times, you have told me that you had been changed by the very blood of Jesus, I did not understand. I do now, my dear. I do. If only I could hold you in my arms now, I would be a different sort of man, Don’t let Gwen forget me, my love. Read this letter to her when she grows, and make sure she knows that she is a very dearly loved girl.
Oh, how I love you.
Your husband forever
P.S With the railroad finished, you will be seeing a great profit from the shares I bought years ago. You will be able to live off a very small portion of it, actually. With the oil shares, I fear you shall hardly know what to do with it. If there is any way the money can be used to bring a great many people to what you and now what I have discovered, I trust you will know how.
Dane Johnson was killed in Sherman’s famous March to the Sea. He would never know that the very march in which he lost his life ended the War. Slavery was over, and the Union saved. The very thing Catherine and Harriet had prayed for so many times. Little did Catherine know it would be at the cost of her own beloved. Dane would never know the part he played. He would see only the atrocities that men with him committed. The burning of land, the tormenting of Confederate citizens, the murder, the bullet as it hit him square in the chest.