Chesnut, Mary Boykin Miller

Life Span
    Full name
    Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut
    Place of Birth
    Birth Date Certainty
    Death Date Certainty
    Sectional choice
    Slave State
    No. of Spouses
    Stephen Decatur Miller (father), Mary Boykin (mother), James Chesnut, Jr. (husband)
    Writer or Artist

    Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut (American National Biography)

    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.
    Robert L. Gale, "Chesnut, Mary Boykin Miller," American National Biography Online, February 2000,
    Chicago Style Entry Link
    Chesnut, Mary Boykin Miller. A Diary from Dixie. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1905. view record
    DeCredico, Mary A. Mary Boykin Chesnut: A Confederate Woman's Life. Madison, WI: Madison House, 1996. view record
    Faust, Drew Gilpin. "In Search of the Real Mary Chestnut." Reviews in American History 10, no. 1 (1982): 54-59. view record
    Leadbetter, Ray. "Reticence in Diaries and 'Mary Chestnut's Civil War.'" Reticence in Diaries and 'Mary Chestnut's Civil War' 27, no. 1 (1995): 19-27. view record
    Mentzer, Melissa. "Rewriting Herself: Mary Chesnut's Narrative Strategies." Connecticut Review 14, no. 1 (1992): 49-56. view record
    Muhlenfeld, Elisabeth. Mary Boykin Chesnut: A Biography. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1981. view record
    How to Cite This Page: "Chesnut, Mary Boykin Miller," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,