Saturday, June 18, 2011

Five best Civil War diaries

Harold Holzer, editor of Hearts Touched by Fire: The Best Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, named a five best list of Civil War diaries for the Wall Street Journal, including:
Mary Chesnut's Civil War
Edited by C. Vann Woodward (1981)

One hundred and Fifty years after the Civil War's outbreak, diaries of the conflict still have the power to grip us. One of the most compelling memoirists of the war was an unapologetic child of the privileged Southern slave-ocracy: her father a plantation-owning South Carolina governor, her husband a pro-slavery U.S. senator from Virginia, later a military aide to Jefferson Davis. Combining unbridled access with literary flair, Mary Chesnut filled 48 notebooks with commentary that is often shrewd, tart and realistic—though it should be noted that years after the war, she rewrote the entries. Soon after the South's early victory at Bull Run, she recorded a friend saying that the success "sent us off in a fool's paradise of conceit at our superior valor." Edmund Wilson called the diary "a masterpiece." For a glimpse into the intrigues plaguing the shaky Confederate government, Southern privations and a privileged circle's chilling indifference to slavery, the book is peerless.
Read about the other titles on the list.

Also see: Ten best novels about the American Civil War.

--Marshal Zeringue