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The Private Mary Chestnutt: Unpublished Civil War Diaries (Galaxy Book) Paperback – 15 Nov 1984

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Product details

  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; New Ed edition (15 Nov. 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195035135
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195035131
  • Product Dimensions: 23.3 x 2.1 x 15.4 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,562,018 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Now all those interested in American history can fully recapture one of the most illuminating figures in our indispensable, expertly edited volume."--William W. Freehling, The Johns Hopkins University"This highly personal record has more historical substance than can be found in many textbooks."--Henry Nash Smith"Woodward and Muhlenfeld present a meticulously edited volume....The result is an extremely clean and easily readable text."--Journal of Southern History"The wealth of experience that [Woodward and Muhlenfeld] brought to this formidable task has predictably resulted in a first-rate contribution to Civil War literature."--Louisiana History"Chesnut's diaries have genuine intrinsic value as a source of information about the wartime South. Furthermore...they mirror her very soul!"--The Centennial Review"[Chesnut] was a witty, intelligent woman....She combined devotion to the Confederate cause with an utter detestation of slavery....What survives of a much longer original text is presented in this well-annotated edition."--The Atlantic"At long last scholars have the Chesnut diaries as they were originally written, an indispensable adjunct to Woodward's magnificent edition of her expanded journal....The exhaustive editing and insightful preface make this book essential for specialists."--Library Journal"Her surviving original diaries, more personal, intimate and spontaneous...are essential to an appreciation of the most famous Southern literary insight on the Civil War experience."--Journal of American History

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I do not allow myself vain regrets or sad foreboding. Read the first page
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
America's Own Pepys 1 May 2000
By M. Nesbit - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is the one indispensible book for anyone interested in what went on in the South behind the battle lines. As Pepys gives us a living picture of the London and court of Charles II, so does M. Chesnut give us a bird's eye view of the Confederate government and the society she lived in.
A wise and witty woman, Mary Chesnut spent most of the war years close to ground zero in Richmond, VA. She knew Jefferson and Varina Davis intimately. She rubbed elbows with congressmen and cabinet members. Mrs. Chesnut was a sharp tongued woman who pulled no punches and she tells us much that, but for her, would remain unknown about the leaders of the "Lost Cause".
Anyone who enjoyed the Woodward/Muhlenfeld editon of Mary Chesnut's memoirs can't afford to miss this publication of the materials from which she created her masterpiece.
30 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5 stars as source for papers, 3 stars as a reading experi 5 July 2003
By Atheen - Published on
Format: Paperback
I've recently developed an interest in Civil War history, an era that had not heretofore intrigued me. In doing some reading on the subject, I kept coming across references to "the diaries of Mary Chesnut," and decided to read them. Most historians look upon these diaries as a major source of information on what took place in the South during the Civil War, because the lady was present at some of the important events and was certainly herself effected by them. As the editors write, she was often reduced to moving "eventually from one place of refuge to another as a fugitive from military invaders (p. x)" and "Living out of her trunk in hotels or rented rooms (p. x)." The quotations or information gleaned from this resource do indeed illuminate the narration in the historical works in which one comes across them. They are not, however, easy to read.
I gather from the introduction to this book that the diaries had been edited for publication as a continuous narrative--minus the more embarrassing self-revelations--entitled by a hand other than the lady's a "Diary from Dixie." The author herself had died long before the book was ever printed, leaving the details of publication to a relative. The editors of the current text despair the latter work as "heavily cut and carelessly edited (p. ix)," because it prevents the reader from knowing well the lady as a character herself.
The Private Mary Chesnut is just what the Diary from Dixie is not, a real diary. As such, it contains entries that are for the most part endless mentions of people with whom the reader probably will not be knowledgeable unless he or she is very "into" the South and Civil War history. One is frequently reduced to checking the footnotes for information on the individuals named. Unfortunately the editors of the diary give only the barest of facts about them, usually social or military rank or relationship to Mrs. Chesnut or another individual mentioned in the diary. The writer's comments often leave one trying to read between her lines for some inkling of "what's really going on!" because there is the merest glimpse of some probably very interesting underlying story. The editors of the text, however, either will not or cannot give these details. Because of this dearth of underlying social information, the book comes across as either confusing or a little boring, a simple catalogue of parties and people met at parties, of polite social visits paid back and forth. This is definitely not an Edith Warton!
Spaced throughout the document are nuggets of truly golden information about the Civil War and antebellum period. [THOSE WRITING PAPERS IN AMERICAN LITERATURE OR HISTORY TAKE NOTE] Because the lady was well connected by virtue of her own social status and oft sought company, she is privileged to the opinions of and gossip about significant individuals. She knew people who had met or knew the Lincoln family and was herself intimately acquainted with the Jefferson Davis family. One of the more interesting quotes was gossip associated with Mary Todd Lincoln's notorious household economy in the White House (pp. 30 and 31-32). This gives a much truer picture of what the social elite thought of the Lincolns, particularly in the South, and makes clear, that Washington D. C. was--and probably still is--more part of the southern social milieu than that of northern or national.
Certainly the lady herself comes across quite real in these diaries. In short she is often vain, opinionated, over-indulged, and wasteful by modern standards--at least by middle class standards--but she is also a well educated, astute and outspoken judge of political events and of the social ills of the institution of slavery. [THOSE WRITING PAPERS IN AMERICAN LITERATURE OR HISTORY TAKE NOTE] Her discourse on its ills, particularly of misogynation, are eminently quotabl--and often are. My favorite is that beginning with "I wonder if it be a sin to think slavery a curse on any land (p. 42-43)," etc.
While the book is difficult to get through, for those with a desire to know more than just the bare facts about the Civil War period and its society, this book is probably a good source for that information. [THOSE WRITING PAPERS IN AMERICAN LITERATURE OR HISTORY TAKE NOTE] This would definitely be considered a primary rather than a secondary source for the topic.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A Very Interesting Lady 27 Oct. 2010
By O.K. Brand - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book lacks a photograph of Mary Chesnut, so I printed one off the Internet and pasted it in the book. This helps because a reader needs to know what the diarist looks like in order for the diary writings to be appealing. Prior to finding a photo of Mary Chesnut, her diary writings made her appear like a grumpy person, fifty pounds overweight. Once I saw what Mary Chesnut looked like when she was in her 30s (at the time of the Civil War), the diary was suddenly more fun to read. The diary is as she wrote it. For me, it is primarily notes on a lot of interactions with her friends. She was very social, went out every night of the week. Contrastly, she seemed to feel "ill" and "miserable" quite often. She kept this diary under lock-and-key, away from the eyes of her husband. She presents a detailed picture of life in the South during her time. The diary covers mostly 1861 and portions of subsequent years up to June 26, 1865. People wrote a lot of letters in those days. They used the telegraph, but there was no telephone, no electricity. They traveled by carriage. The diary reveals how often people socialized then, because there was no radio or TV. The diary reveals how much leisure time Mary Chesnut had in her daily life because she lived in the South where slaves and hired help did all the work, although she mentions making a "jar of pickles" one day. She and her friends later did a lot of knitting for the soldiers and making shirts for them.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
MARY CHESTNUT 9 April 2013
By Katherine M. Sargent - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
again what I expected 28 Feb. 2013
By F. Powell - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If I take too long to get my books back to the library, I always know that I can purchase it from Amazon. Especially when I know that I want to keep the book for my library.
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