Journal for American History Seminar History and Political Science Scholars and historians have both criticized and praised Mary Boykin Chestnut’s “diary” for its vibrant and comprehensive account of accomplice life during the Civil War…
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Mary chestnut’s “civil war” gives a profoundly annotated picture at the political and social atmosphere in South Carolina from 1861-1866. One of the most interesting bits about this book is brought by the personal commentary of Mary Chestnut and her observations on what was being said on the Medias on daily basis. The many nuggets of observations make this book interesting and worth reading. Mary Chestnut was a prominent politician’s wife and she had communication and contact with numerous renowned politicians during those times. In addition, Mr. Woodward’s wide-ranging annotations assist the contemporary day scholar to seize literary allusions and disparities in language made by Mary Chestnut. This also aids in the determination of all personalities she engrosses in her observations. As one reads through this book, he or she can observe how Mrs. Chestnut puts efforts to be more purposeful than prejudiced and takes her narratives as a possible significant aspect of history in the future. This gives the reader an immense sense of an authentic person; a person who depicts hopes one day and despairs the next day. Marry Chestnut, as depicted in her book “Mary Chestnut’s Civil War”, may be regarded as a pseudo, and it is only through her opinions, news, gossip and personal tasks that she came up with the wide-ranging everyday account of life in the confederation that is used by the contemporary readers. Reading through this manuscript is similar to going back to history and having an everyday coffee and gossip session with the author. Though the book is presented more as a diary and a later overhaul of earlier narratives, Chestnut makes everything look like a first-hand dialogue. The book reveals that she loved tittle-tattle and flourished on consideration, where she had a seat in the front at all functions during this period. For instance, Chester notes “Robert E. Lee is regarded as a traitor by numerous individuals after his military defeats”1. On Gen. Joe Johnston, Chestnut asserts “Being such a good hater, it is a pity he had not elected to hate somebody else than the president of our country”2. As a distinct and an interesting feature, Chestnut makes what happened in the past appear instant. Chestnut’s accounts on the preliminary jubilation of southern sovereignty and then the realism of adversity are poignant, even to anyone who would not empathize with her ideals. Mary Chestnut interestingly brings out the point of death in the society. During periods of war, it is anticipated that the people to die most are the soldiers, the men in the society, and children and women. In this book, shows that it is not only men who die at war but women and children who are subjected to adverse living conditions. Such endurances brought death upon the women and children, leaving everyone susceptible to death. In addition, this period was characterized by tribulations which would keep anyone off writing. It is interesting how, amid the troubles that she and her husband went through, she could still write. During this war, everything was crashing down around her and her husband, deaths around them, food scarcity, loss of lifestyle and culture, money shortages and lack of decent clothes to wear. She shows their tribulation when she indicates “the weight that hangs upon our eyelids is of lead”
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