Cornelia Peake McDonald, A Woman's Civil War: A Diary, with Reminiscences of the War, from March 1862, ed. Minrose C. Gwin (New York: Gramercy Books, 2003), 5.
Because her father, a medical doctor, had cosigned loans for friends who later defaulted on payments, the family moved several times in Cornelia’s early years, first to a plantation in Prince William County, Virginia, and later to Front Royal in the Shenandoah Valley. In 1835, on a long, arduous journey, her father moved the family and their slaves to Palmyra, Missouri, where many of the slaves and some family members died of consumption…. Early in life Cornelia was called upon to nurse her sick mother, who, unaccustomed to a pioneer life, was frequently ill. Young Cornelia began to read extensively during this period. While her mother slept, she would sit behind the bed curtains and read from Bryon’s works and other books from her father’s library.