Mary Chestnut Facts

Mary Chestnut Facts
Mary Chestnut was a native South Carolinian who wrote a diary of her experiences during the American Civil war titled, A Diary from Dixie. Although Chestnut's diary often romanticized the Confederate cause, it was also grimly realistic at times and significant because it offered a southern woman's viewpoint and explored different perspectives from southerners from all classes. Chestnut was born Mary Boykin Miller on March 31, 1823 on a plantation near Stateburg, South Carolina to Stephen and Mary Miller. Coming from an aristocratic plantation family, Mary received a fine education at a Charleston, South Carolina boarding school where she first discovered her love of writing. Mary married James Chestnut Junior in 1840 and the two made their home on a South Carolina plantation. James would serve as a United States senator from South Carolina before serving as an aid to Confederate President Jefferson Davis and as a brigadier general in the Confederate Army.
Interesting Mary Chestnut Facts:
Mary was not able to have children, which led to bouts of depression throughout her life.
While a teenager, Mary learned to speak French and German fluently.
Mary's father served as governor and United States senator from South Carolina before retiring to Mississippi: she visited her family often in Mississippi but continued to live primarily in South Carolina.
Chestnut's diary was comprised of her observation of the war from February 18, 1861 to June 26, 1865.
During the beginning of the war, in June 1861, Chestnut wrote, "The war is making us all tenderly sentimental," and that it was for the most part "all parade, fife, and fine feathers," displaying her somewhat romanticized view of it.
John Chestnut's important positions with the United States and then Confederate governments allowed Mary the chance to travel throughout the country and get an accurate picture of how the war affected so many people.
Although a true Southern Belle, Chestnut was always honest about slavery and never mitigated the effects it had.
Chestnut's was one of the only first-hand accounts of the Civil War to consider the role of women.
After the Confederate defeat at the Battle of Atlanta on July 22, 1864, Mary wrote: "Since Atlanta I have felt as if all were dead within me, forever."
Although staunchly pro-Confederate until the end of her life, Mary personally opposed slavery.
Mary edited her diary and prepared it for publication from 1881-1884.
The diary was finally published in 1905 by Mary's friend, Isabell D. Martin, as the abridged and edited A Diary from Dixie. Another version was edited by Ben Ames Williams in 1949. A new version with an introduction edited by C. Vann Woodward was published in 1981 titled Mary Chestnut's Civil War.
After Mary's husband died in 1885, she was saddled with all of his significant debts.
Mary Chestnut died at her Camden, South Carolina home in 1886 at the age of sixty-three.


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