Mary Chestnut: A Diary From Dixie

Mary Chestnut: A Diary From Dixie This Original Diary Of The Wife Of Confederate General James Chestnut, Jr Who Was Also An Aide To President Jefferson Davis, Provides An Eyewitness Narrative Of All The Years Of The War Period Photographs Illustrate This You Are There Account Of The Daily Lives And Tribulations Of All Who Suffered Through The War, From Ordinary People To The Confederacy S Generals And Political Figures

Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut

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  • Hardcover
  • 480 pages
  • Mary Chestnut: A Diary From Dixie
  • Mary Boykin Chesnut
  • 04 June 2017
  • 9780517182666

10 thoughts on “Mary Chestnut: A Diary From Dixie

  1. says:

    Mary Chestnut was a woman of her times and behaved as such but in her diary she confides how she really felt about being a southern belle during the civil war.She constantly frets that all she wants to do is retire and read a good book but being the mistress of the plantation as well as good manners require her to spend the evening in conversation with her husband s elderly parents although they bore her to death.Since Mary s husband is involved in politics she is present at many of the major events that occur during the war which she faithfully relates in her fascinating diary.Mary is a kind soul and a friend to all she meets during good times and bad.Her first person account of life during the civil war is a classic.

  2. says:

    If the Confederacy had survived Lincoln s invasion, Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut might be a household name in the literary world And that s pretty good when one considers that her oeuvre was written without the slightest whiff of literary pretension or ambition highwayscribery is not sure if a deep interest in the Civil War, from the southern side of things, is necessary for her scribbling prowess to impress But if it s there, A Diary from Dixie is for you Chesnut was well positioned to chronicle Dixie s misery both as a South Carolina lady intimate with Jefferson Davis and his wife, and spouse to a Confederate officer whose competence is apparent in his upward trajectory throughout the book s and war s course The authoress succeeds in engaging the reader without any real structure other than the natural chronology of events as she lives them The gentle lady moseys from one happening to another, recounting those things she witnesses, and those others have told her about, with nary a transition But the recounting is so casual, the prose so clean, the reader is never tried, taxed or bored Chesnut was a feeling, seeing person with the literary chops to put what she felt and saw into words, as in this passage describing the family plantation, Mulberry, in Camden, South Carolina It is so lovely here in spring The giants of the forest the primeval oaks, water oaks, live oaks, willow oaks, such as I have not seen since I left here with opopanax, violets, roses, and yellow jessamine, the air is laden with perfume Araby the Blest was never sweeter There are fascinating, first hand insights in Diary as to the way slaves and masters interacted, and the ambiguous attitude of negroes in the south when freedom beckoned, but their familiar world crumbled Chesnut s tones are not the stark blacks and whites of Harriet Beecher Stowe s south, rather a wide array of grays.The relations between the furiously independent member states are also depicted, with Virginians, and Kentuckians, and Carolinians both north and south, remarked upon for their peculiar, geographically bound traits In these times, as a single electronic culture inexorably engulfs humanity, it is interesting to read about the differences between neighboring communities and see how they celebrated those differences The book s tone morphs from light to dark as the northern noose tightens around the Confederacy s neck Noteworthy is the early opinion, expressed by rebels in high places, that the South had no chance of winning the war Diary tells us that had clearer heads prevailed, the cataclysm might have been averted The dominant portrait is that of a small, agrarian society confronting a behemoth that will leave no stone unturned, no home unburned, and kill off a generation of fine young men not all of them enad with slavery so much as loyal to their homeland Others dropped in after dinner some without arms, some without legs von Boreke, who can not speak because of a wound in his throat Isabella said, We have all kinds now, but a blind one Poor fellows, they laugh at wounds And they yet can show many a scar Chesnut is in the rearguard, her lofty status slowly reduced to a state of hunger bourn with ladylike dignity Hers is the Confederate women s story, a dreadful enumeration of lost sons, sundered families, and mothers literally dying from grief Isabella says that war leads to love making She says these soldiers do courting here in a day than they would do at home, without a war, in ten years Perhaps most valuable are those anecdotes Chesnut recorded which give the war between the states, and the Confederacy in particular, a greater depth and richer texture Without her we might not have known that President Davis little boy died at home, nor of the suspicions that a turncoat on staff, or a spy snuck into the house, actually killed him in a cruel effort to demoralize Dixie The tragic deaths of innocents stepping out from a cave for some air in Vicksburg during the Union siege might have gone unrecorded We could not be aware that France s last Count de Choiseul had thrown his lot in with the south and died for it, too Without her desperate scribblings, we would have known only the winner s account, and been denied the terrible beauties associated with losing, which is so much a part of life.

  3. says:

    There has always been a 1% who rule above the fray As we are seeing today, the powerful are able to frame events and the time in a way that gains a following among the many who end up paying dearly for what those at the top decide to do The wonder is that the many do not do this grudgingly but with enthusiasm, unaware of how they are being used This is vividly shown during war.The American Civil War pitted two ideas of freedom against each other For the North it was the freedom of all men behind the idea of the preservation of the Union For the South it was the idea of freedom of the states from any higher authority and the preservation of a way of life Behind both was the economic For the North, the South was a large unexploited market kept out of action by slavery with which ordinary employment business could not compete For the South it was an economy protected by slavery from competition and utterly reliant upon it The average Southerner was not a slave owner, had little or no property and could only be considered above poverty by comparison to the slaves.Mary Chesnut s book relates, though I doubt she intended it, the ease with which wealthy Southerners, of which she was one, had no difficulty in finding thousands of volunteers to die for a system that was living on borrowed time Cotton growing exhausted the soil forcing the South to look west for territory As with any monoculture the economy was fragile, subject to a single market Putting passion aside, it was clear that things Southern would have to change in the face of a surging economy in the North that supported a far larger population that was growing all the time To anyone of reason, going to war with the North would be suicidal People in Mary s circle were aware of this, many dreaded war, but passion won the day.As a personal friend of President Jefferson Davis, the members of his cabinet and his generals, Mary relates small talk, humorous stories and the march of events as she continues a life of luxury with constant service from her devoted slaves, daily meals complete with such things as oysters and a variety of desserts while ill clad common Southerners by the thousands go to their deaths in bloody battles that she hears of by way of a bulletin board of telegraph notices She easily moves by train or carriage from the opening of the war at Charleston, to Columbia, Richmond, her plantations, her home in Camden and even a mountain retreat all but Richmond in South Carolina.Mary is revolted by the mutilation of bodies she sees when once she visits a hospital and doesn t return She doesn t join in the constant knitting that many women do to keep clothing going to the troops Though she lauds those who do make an effort to help in any way they can, she feels what she believes to be her fragile health prevents her from joining in.Those around Davis bicker while new faces arrive appealing for appointments to office Mary goes for carriage rides with this or that general while her husband works first as an adviser to the president and then as a general late in the war Mary speaks highly of Stonewall Jackson Only later in the war does Robert E Lee become the hope of all Though she sees him from time to time, blushing as he once recognizes her in church, she is not closely associated with his wife as she is with the wife of Jefferson Davis.Though the reader is made aware that Confederate money is always losing value and outrageous prices are quoted, Mary is never at a loss for any amount of Confederate dollars to spend She says nothing of the source of her funds I assume being in the circle at the top she would have first access to regular distributions.Lincoln is not condemned, his backwoods upbringing and sense of humor are known and appreciated Once Grant establishes his ability to win in the West Shiloh, Vicksburg , the superior manpower of the North combined with a general who doesn t hesitate to spend the lives of his men brings a sense of inevitable doom Mary s way With the passage of time, spirits drop lower Union forces continue to shrink the area of operations for the South Once Sherman is moving through Alabama the thought that Lee s army will be trapped kills hope Still the South fights on.Mary writes of the inscrutability of the slaves She continually looks at their faces to determine their attitude toward what is going on Will they run to the Yankees In the event, most of her slaves remain loyal even to the point of hiding valuables from the Yankees when it would be easy to flee The slaves of other women she knows defend those women by verbally interceding for them when Sherman s forces finally appear, turning towns and plantations into ashes Overall, the attitude is one of condescension Who can tell about those Darkies and their ways True to form, Mary avoids capture or assault and ends up in a secure place as the war comes to an end, her husband alive and uninjured One plantation of theirs, Mulberry , still stands today and the book includes a photo of a new home that James Chesnut built for the two them to spend their retirement A Diary from Dixie was heavily edited before this edition of the book came out That s good because it now contains just enough that is superficial to give the flavor of her life, a tale of a privileged person observing an epic disaster from which she was largely spared She had to bear the sorrow of the deaths of friends and family, but her sense of the war can hardly be connected to the horror those who fought it knew.

  4. says:

    I cannot recommend this book After watching the Ken Burns Civil War film, I began reading much of his prominent sources In particular, Grant s Autobiography, Company Aytch Watkins , All for the Union Rhodes and this book I did not know it at the time but this book is a poor compilation in several respects One, it is comprised of much written well after the war Two, it has been strongly bowdlerized for Southern tastes Consequently I was unable to find the really pithy bits found in the Burns film such has her unflinching observation regarding the contradiction between the pious pretensions of aristocratic planters and the number of mulattoes on the grounds that clearly resemble the masters There may not be one single quote here that Burns used Favor is given to light and fluffy commentary of the social scene and famous people met etc It does not do justice to Chesnut s stated in some other edition intention to be entirely objective, that her subjective days were over There are two other volumes that I have not yet read but probably do provide the substantial content I was looking for Mary Chesnut s Civil War and The Private Mary Chesnut The Unpublished Civil War Diaries edited by C Vann Woodward I am sorry that when I ran out of interest in further researching Burns s sources I had wasted the Chesnut portion of it on this edition.

  5. says:

    A real change of pace this is a jaw dropping diary of a Southern lady s life during the Civil War She came from the highest of Southern society, was very perceptive, and highly educated and did not bother to be so ladylike as to stint on her estimate of of Yankees and males This is definitely a herstory, as the introduction to the Barnes Noble eBook says.The sheer amount of social engagements she attended and gave is numbing, but so out of my experience, I felt compelled to read on She traveled constantly all during the war Her husband was an aide to Jefferson Davis and she knew all the F.F families in the South, it seems.Most telling are the menus of the incredible banquets served up to the last months of the conflict Truffles Real ones, not chocolate.Similarly, jewelry encrusted gowns are worn by ladies.The life of luxury and leisure slavery allowed these people is beyond imagination Every wealthy First Family lived like Royalty.But, her comments on slaves and Northern hypocrisy before and after Emancipation, these are well worth the read Her own slaves continued to live with her for 20 years, when she died They had nowhere else to go, these privileged house servants She doesn t write much about the 1000 field hands her father in law owned.

  6. says:

    A profoundly honest personal view of the War Between the States This is than a personal closeup of the times It gets the reader inside the head and heart of a woman born and living in those times In spite of her determination to be absolutely objective, her feelings still come through Great book.

  7. says:

    Interesting to go to the source of much content of the Ric Burns Civil War documentary series, and to see what they selected out of the overall diary content The Chesnuts were very high up in the Confederate social and political circles, which was rather downplayed in the series Outside of this, it is interesting how the author comments so candidly on how she and others she meets comments on the world As a contemporary, it s remarkable how she speaks negatively of characters who remained relatively obscure to history, and so positively to some of the major characters of Confederacy whose name did persist forward so well Was she really such a good assessor of people There are many she praises who are unknown now, but it s still a remarkable element of her work Wish she d been even descriptive of situations and conditions after 1864 than she was, but must have been too busy struggling through situations especially due to what she was used to to write in detail Was interesting to read her perspective of General Hood and his courting of Buck Preston socialite immediately after reading the General Hood book by McMurry This book makes me want a similar diary from a Southern women of lower income level and less influence from the times.

  8. says:

    It seems like whenever you watch a documentary about the Civil War, they quote Mary Chestnut so I got this book to see what all of the fuss was about Mary Chestnut was the wife of an influential South Carolina politician and general He served as an aide to Jefferson Davis, and Mary had access to a wealth of political and military information that your average Confederate citizen did not She was friends with many of the generals and politicians, and you would think that there would be a ton of first hand information about the important events of the war in this book What it ends up being, though, is a collection of her stories about dinner parties I d say 90% of this book is her talking about Mr So and so getting married or what Ms Whats her name said at some dinner party To give you an idea of how lacking this book is on certain topics it doesn t even mention the battle of Gettysburg Only about 10% of the book relates to the actual war, and those parts are great She talks about the personality of generals, the civilian s view point on some battle or the cost of products in the town I wish some editor would cut out all of the gossip and skip to the important things but then this book would only be like 40 pages long

  9. says:

    It took me a little while to get into it, but once I became accustomed to Mrs Chestnut s habit of dropping names like hot cakes I really got into the groove Even though I felt like I had to plow my way thru the social agenda of the first two years, i found the insight and perspective derived from the latter half of the diary to be invaluable This is a priceless perspective from the Southern gentry and a work I will recommend to any history lover Fascinating insights on slavery, confederate society, the major confederate generals and politicians, and the war itself.

  10. says:

    This book seems to be a good look at this war through the eyes of a southern civilian, although her husband was military It does express the feelings of the ladies who sent their sons and husbands off to battle, many to not return This not a book about the war itself detailing battles, etc I am glad I took the time to read it.

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