Read Mary Chesnut's Civil War by C. Vann Woodward Free Online
Book Title: Mary Chesnut's Civil War|
The author of the book: C. Vann Woodward
Edition: Yale University Press
Date of issue: September 10th 1993
ISBN 13: 9780300029796
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 4.66 MB
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Reader ratings: 4.2
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A friend read this in the 80's, when it won a Pulitzer, but I began to want to read it when the 150th anniversary of the National Slaughtering caught my attention.
I found I liked Mary Chesnut quite a lot, even when she was saying something with which, as a matter of principle, I disagree. She was honest, apparently to a greater extent than most privileged slaveowners were able to be honest.
This struck me as a slaveowner's plausible state of mind:
<< November 28, 1863
Those old gray-haired darkies & their automatic noiseless perfection of training -- one does miss that sort of thing. Your own servants think for you, they know your ways & your wants; they save you all responsibility, even in matters of your own ease & well-doing. Eben the butler at Mulberry [her father-in-law's country house, he one of S. Carolina's wealthiest planters] would be miserable & feel himself a ridiculous failure, were I ever forced to ask him for anything. >> (page 488)
By March 5, 1865 things were falling apart for the Confederacy, & Mary was sharp in her judgments:
<> (page 747)
April 23, 1865: <> (p. 794)
Mary Chesnut lived from 1823 to 1886, & wrote & re-wrote versions of her notes, hoping to relieve what had become fairly severe poverty. She read & spoke French fluently, & also read German.
I can't help but like her, & her first-person account of the Civil War (*her* Civil War, with all her complex feelings as it wound through its terrible years) is, despite its imperfect form, fascinating. It will (I hope!) keep me from being quite so doctrinal as I judge women & men who made do with the lives they (like everyone) had to endure.
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