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A Diary from Dixie
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A Diary from Dixie

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  461 ratings  ·  52 reviews
One of the most important documents in southern history, this is a day-by-day diary of the Civil War years. It rings with authenticity while evoking the nostalgia, bitterness, and comedy of the Confederacy.
Paperback, 608 pages
Published May 7th 1980 by Harvard University Press (first published 1905)
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If the Confederacy had survived Lincoln's invasion, Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut might be a household name in the literary world.

And that's pretty good when one considers that her oeuvre was written without the slightest whiff of literary pretension or ambition.

highwayscribery is not sure if a deep interest in the Civil War, from the southern side of things, is necessary for her scribbling prowess to impress. But if it's there, "A Diary from Dixie" is for you.

Chesnut was well-positioned to chro
I cannot recommend this book. After watching the Ken Burns Civil War film, I began reading much of his more prominent sources. In particular, Grant's Autobiography, Company "Aytch" (Watkins), All for the Union (Rhodes) and this book. I did not know it at the time but this book is a poor compilation in several respects. One, it is comprised of much written well after the war. Two, it has been strongly bowdlerized for Southern tastes. Consequently I was unable to find the really pithy bits found i ...more
A real change of pace. this is a jaw-dropping diary of a Southern lady's life during the Civil War. She came from the highest of Southern society, was very perceptive, and highly educated--and did not bother to be so ladylike as to stint on her estimate of of Yankees and males. This is definitely a herstory, as the introduction to the Barnes & Noble eBook says.

The sheer amount of social engagements she attended and gave is numbing, but so out of my experience, I felt compelled to read on. Sh
Chesnut, Mary Boykin. (1823-1886). A DIARY FROM DIXIE. (1905; this ed. 2006). *****. The rest of the title was: “As written by Mary Boykin Chesnut, wife of James Shesnut, Jr., United States Senator from South Carolina, 1859-1961 and afterward an Aide, to Jefferson Davis and a Brigadier-General in the Confederate Army.” I suspect that this was inserted, if it was inserted by Mary at all, to enumerate her credentials as reflected by her husband’s various positions. This reprint follows the 1905 ed ...more
Interesting to go to the source of much content of the Ric Burns Civil War documentary series, and to see what they selected out of the overall diary content. The Chesnuts were very high up in the Confederate social and political circles, which was rather downplayed in the series. Outside of this, it is interesting how the author comments so candidly on how she (and others she meets) comments on the world. As a contemporary, it's remarkable how she speaks negatively of characters who remained re ...more
Brooke Dunbar
Absolutely fascinating narrative by the wife of a someone high ranking in the politics of the Confederacy. She shares her day to day, while interacting with other key players of the American Civil War, as she attended parties with their families and talked war politics over dinner. As a Northerner, I spent about the first half of the book completely confused why this woman, privy to so much of the reality of war and with her husband off fighting in it, spent her time throwing and attending parti ...more
It took me a little while to get into it, but once I became accustomed to Mrs. Chestnut's habit of dropping names like hot cakes I really got into the groove. Even though I felt like I had to plow my way thru the social agenda of the first two years, i found the insight and perspective derived from the latter half of the diary to be invaluable. This is a priceless perspective from the Southern gentry and a work I will recommend to any history-lover. Fascinating insights on slavery, confederate s ...more
Jakey Gee
Picked this up in Toppings, Ely - one of those 'small bookshop inspirations'.

Interesting, but less revealing than you might expect and - quite naturally - very confined in what it can show, given her status as a cloistered, upper class Confederate WAG. She's endearingly bolshie and sharp at times and there are plenty of instances of real insight (slave relations; attitudes to the various generals and a widespread disdain for 'Jeff' Davis, etc).

But it's often ponderous reading to the non-histori
John Price
This book seems to be a good look at this war through the eyes of a southern civilian, although her husband was military. It does express the feelings of the ladies who sent their sons and husbands off to battle, many to not return. This not a book about the war itself detailing battles, etc. I am glad I took the time to read it.
Patricia Dietz
A profoundly honest personal view of the War Between the States. This is more than a personal closeup of the times. It gets the reader inside the head and heart of a woman born and living in those times. In spite of her determination to be absolutely "objective," her feelings still come through. Great book.
If you've watched the Ken Burns series on the Civil War as many times as I have, you can probably already quote Mary Chesnut. Or Shelby Foote. Or both. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, this diary is probably not for you.
Timothy Ferguson
This is a memoir, written by the wife of a senior military officer fighting for the South in the American Civil War. As the South’s fortunes collapse, she retreats toward the centre of Confederate power, and sees the trappings of her affluent lifestyle stripped away. She is, to a modern reader, clearly on the wrong side of history, but her justifications for slavery and the attack on Fort Sumter are made all the more interesting by her alieness. The Librivox reader is tremendously successful, ab ...more
Fascinating read so far, great to understand the South's side of the story and the motives for secession.

I used to think of elite Southern women as apathetic. I imagined Southern belles sitting in ornate parlors, enjoying their comfortable lifestyles, nearly oblivious of the Civil War raging in their backyards. I have come to learn that this is far from the truth. In her meticulously written account, A Diary From Dixie, Mary Chesnut is a prime example of a sophisticated woman working hard for the Confederacy, and her diary is a testimony to others like her. Every page of Mary Chesnut’s diary expres

This book took me years to read. It is very long and rambling. I have an avid interest in the Civil War so picked it up off and on when I was between novels. Mary and her husband were close to Jeff Davis and the inner power circle of the South. She writes as things happen from Fort Sumter to Appomattox. She explains how life goes on in a country under siege. She also writes about daily life, parties, books, and especially visitors . Many of the important rebel generals were their friends. She ta ...more
Tom Darrow
It seems like whenever you watch a documentary about the Civil War, they quote Mary Chestnut... so I got this book to see what all of the fuss was about. Mary Chestnut was the wife of an influential South Carolina politician and general. He served as an aide to Jefferson Davis, and Mary had access to a wealth of political and military information that your average Confederate citizen did not. She was friends with many of the generals and politicians, and you would think that there would be a ton ...more
Aug 06, 2012 Jennifer is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
In keeping with my historical summer (it seems I've only been reading Civil War books until the JFK switch recently), I began searching for this book after seeing that it was used as a material reference for "The Rebel's Wife"...
I don't think I will make my goal of finishing this book before school starts (I go back tomorrow), but, I am not giving up.
There are lots of names of people, and descriptions of people and the comings and goings of other people.. Mary B. Chestnut, as was proper for her
John Anthony Smith
This book was very good. I am an avid reader and among my interest is first hand accounts of the civil war. Mary Chestnut does a good job through the words in her diary presenting an account of the war from inside the circles of the Confederate's presidency. She expresses how slavery was truly represented during the war for both sides showing that the north and south didn't differ much in their sentiments about slavery. She showed many cases of inhuman behavior and generosity from both sides. It ...more
I enjoyed reading this because I wanted an account of what it was like to be a southerner during the Civil War. I enjoy her writing. However, this diary was subject to editing by the author retrospectively and, apparently, editing by editors in the early 1900s. So, I am wondering how much editing occurred? Plus, there are things that I would like a better understanding of which she didn't explain here...definitely appropriate to the nature of a journal. For instance, her views of slavery seems t ...more
A deep and insightful account of the War Between the States. Loved Mary Chesnut's wit, humor, and empathy. Very eye opening to the incredible hardships the Confederate home front faced. Can't wait to read the slightly more personal account "Private Mary Chesnut".
Steve Donoghue
A svelte new Penguin Classic of this American Civil War curiosity - here's my review, from Open Letter Monthly:
This was a hard-read in some ways but fairly enjoyable. It was interesting to see the war through her perspective. I enjoyed her wit and sense of humor.
Sydney Merten
Well written with a great historical background. Enjoyed it.
Jessica Jewett
I took one star off because I personally find Mary's personality insufferable despite the excellent glimpse into the upper class in the Confederacy.
I really liked the IDEA of this book. I remember her quotes from the Civil War video series, and when our carriage ride 'driver' quoted her also and mentioned the book, I checked it out. But the book has TOO many details. And it requires an encylopedic knowledge of the Civil War battles and names to know what she's talking about without having to read the footnotes, which drags it out even more. I ended up reading a few pages here, a few pages there, and the end. I may get this book again when I ...more
Amy Hoodock
I rated this 5 stars not so much for the quality of the writing although it's good but because this is an incredibly good look into the mind of the average rich Confederate citizen during the war.
The book was a lady's diary, so there are many characters who come and go. These characters are not introduced to the reader, which makes the book a little boring at times, however, she presents an inside view of life in Dixie for the land-owning rich before, during, and just after the Civil War. In many ways Mrs. Chestnut and the other people in the book are very ordinary in many ways. It is easy to relate to them as human beings. She really was a natural writer, who knew how to describe a scen ...more
Jan 09, 2015 Rebekah marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
On Librivox.
Jonne Adams
As I read through this book, I quickly came to realize that Mary Chestnut could not see the forest for the trees? Was suffering from delusion? Or was she simply blind to the world around her? She literally had to have the realities of war placed directly in her path in order to notice any suffering, and then continued on rejoining her society affairs. I cannot understand that her words have been chosen for so many Civil War narratives.
I'm rereading this now that I'm taking a Civil War course. I'm not yet into the rough days for women of Chestnut's class---right now, they're still partying, although prices are getting awfully high and the confederate money is becoming of little worth. Chestnut has a wonderful gossipy style and, luckily, had much contact with Davis, Lee, and just about every other important confederate figure.
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“I think incompatibility of temper began when it was made plain to us that we get all the opprobrium of slavery while they, with their tariff, get the money there is in it.” 3 likes
“We try our soldiers to see if they are hot enough before we enlist them. If, when water is thrown on them they do not sizz, they won’t do; their patriotism is too cool.” 1 likes
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