Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut (American National Biography)

Robert L. Gale, "Chesnut, Mary Boykin Miller," American National Biography Online, February 2000,
Mary Chesnut's wartime experiences were varied and intense, often tragic in nature. Nevertheless, the excitement of war provided a stimulant to a childless southern matron who before the war was frustrated and depressed. Her husband was too cool-headed, aristocratic, and self-sacrificial to suit her energetic and unfulfilled nature. If he had asked, he could have obtained an important commission in the Confederate army and achieved glory, or he could have successfully requested a diplomatic appointment in London or in Paris. Doing neither, he remained self-effacing and largely unappreciated. For her part, she plunged into what wartime activities were available to her through his assignments, accepted all challenges--personal, familial, social, and political--with a fierce commitment, and began keeping the finest diary by any southern woman during the four-year conflict between the states.

Mary Chesnut started her diary in February 1861, kept at it sporadically for a total of perhaps twelve "volumes," of which seven are extant. The first five volumes run through 8 December 1861; the sixth, January to February 1865; the seventh, 7 May to 26 July 1865. Evidence permits the conclusion that she recorded nothing between August 1862 and October 1863, perhaps because of arduous hospital duty.
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