Documenting the American South Logo
Collections >> Library of Southern Literature, First-Person Narratives , The North Carolina Experience >> Document Menu >> Summary

Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut, 1823-1886
A Diary from Dixie, as Written by Mary Boykin Chesnut, Wife of James Chesnut, Jr., United States Senator from South Carolina, 1859-1861, and Afterward an Aide to Jefferson Davis and a Brigadier-General in the Confederate Army
New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1905.


Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut's A Diary from Dixie is a fiery account of her experiences and struggles during the Civil War. It was published in 1905, nineteen years after her death, but she had spent many years revising and editing her Civil War diary during the 1880s in preparation for publication. It has been republished twice, once in 1949 and, under the title Mary Chesnut's Civil War, in 1981. The diary opens on the day Chesnut learns Lincoln had been elected, and covers the turmoil leading up to and during the Civil War, closing with a final entry on August 2, 1865.

Chesnut accompanied her husband, James Chesnut, Jr., on many of his military operations and spent time in Charleston, South Carolina; Montgomery, Alabama; Richmond, Virginia; Flat Rock, North Carolina; and many other southern towns. She describes her interview with Robert E. Lee, discusses her perceptions of Jefferson Davis, and tells countless stories of her interactions with southern politicians, revealing some of their more private concerns and interests. In her diary, Chesnut adeptly balances her personal traumas with the larger struggles the South faced during the Civil War. A Diary from Dixie is often recognized as one of the most important southern literary works of the nineteenth century.

See also the entry for Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut from the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture available on this site.

Harris Henderson

Document menu