When Samuel Cormany left Franklin County in 1859, his country united. He returned to find it split in two and a decision to make that hundreds of thousands of other men had made and were making. With his family barely started, should he risk his life in a war between the states?
Cormany returned to Franklin County in August 1862. Since he had been gone, he had gone to college, married, had a child and lived in Canada. His time away had changed his viewpoint of the world as well as his physical appearance. The first family he stopped in to see on his way home was his half-sister Lydia and her husband Henry Rebok who lived near Mechanicsburg.
“Sister Lydia didn’t recognize me, nor did Henry – not knowing anything of our coming, and my being away since early in 1859, and I having growing quite a beard, and here was a woman and a baby. But soon the greetings were profuse, and time was well put in asking and answering questions,” Cormany wrote in his diary.
A few days later, he was back in Franklin County and reuniting with other family members who lived nearby. One of the places he visited was the farm where he had grown up. His father no longer ran it, having died years before, but it was still in the family. Cormany’s brother, John, farmed the land and lived in the house. Visiting the farm, Cormany was hit with a wave of nostalgia.
“All things look Old Home like –The old well and pump seem precious, O Thou precious cooling refreshing invigorating fountain, how often thou hast given me nerve when weak from toil and thirst. Yes Tippy the Dog knows me and seems so glad and frisky. My! how memories of boyhood days and pranks, their toils and amusements come scampering along,” Cormany wrote.
Another place that Cormany, his wife Rachel and baby Cora visited was the home of Cormany’s half-brother’s father-in-law. The Strocks were long-time family friends. Not only had Bernard Cormany married one of the Strock girls, but Cormany had courted one of them, too. Her name was Lydia and she and Samuel had broken up when he left for college.
“It was a little embarrassing for here was Lydia, whom I had courted so long in this home and gave up only because she had declared she never would go west nor far away from her parents for any man, so I responded ‘Well then my dear we had as well close up our courtship’ and it was closed in a few months, very tenderly, and here I was visiting in the family in the same rooms we so often sat together in 3 years ago and here was also My darling Wife and Our precious little daughter. While I could not avoid thinking of the past, and the great pleasure I often had enjoyed there in her company, yet there came up not even a twinge of regret for I am O so satisfied and happy in my precious wife and our child,” Samuel wrote.
Samuel truly was happy to be back in Franklin County, but the year was 1862 and the United States was caught up in the Civil War. Politics and war started to be mentioned more often in his diary entries, showing that it was more often on his mind when he thought about the events of the day he would record.
The more he thought, the more he came to realize that he needed to make a decision. He needed to choose a side in the war. His choice would affect not only him, but it could potentially leave his wife a widow and his daughter fatherless. He had only been home three weeks before he made his decision to join the Union Army.
This article was originally published in the Chambersburg Public Opinion.