Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface: Words of War

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pp. ix-xvi

The American Civil War ran wildly across the landscape and through people’s lives. It also swept into their words. We know a lot about the transformation of lives and places. My aim in this book is to show how a certain kind of writing matters, too, for knowing about the war—for reading words of war and bringing ghosts from it into our lives. This is a book about the personal diaries written by well-to-do white women in the American South as the Civil War blew through everything they trusted in life. The Civil War: the Union...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xvii-xviii

I have been helped in many ways, over many years in this and other projects, by archivists, librarians, and editors who studied and worked with the diaries and diarists in this book. In one way or another, they steered me right. At the University of North Carolina Press, Chuck Grench gave me good advice and all-around support for how to think about this book. Mary Caviness skillfully moved the manuscript through to publication....

Cast of Characters: The Diarists

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pp. xix-xxviii

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Chapter One: Reading the Diary

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pp. 1-26

A diary is a balky thing to read, only half-awake to our concerns. The clearest thing it says is about each moment of its own creation. It is today, and I am here. This seems simple but it is not. The diary is a self-absorbed piece of writing and gets wound up in its ways, but it is not transparent or innocent. It holds its own ground among other texts from the past, and this is the ground I want to travel. I travel as a reader, so I begin this book on Civil War diaries thinking about reading. Maybe this seems like an odd move, putting the war...

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Chapter Two: Keeping the Diary

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pp. 27-46

“Keeping a diary” is a curious turn of phrase. You do not “keep” a letter as it’s being written or keep a sermon or a speech; but you do keep a shopping list or a promise. Something personal, something now and with a future. As they wrote, the women came unexpectedly face-to-face with keeping a diary, with the novelty of being moved to stop everything and write, and with the prehensile world of paper, pens, and reason and time to write. Their curiosity about the act of writing, sometimes the wonder of it, threads through...

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Chapter Three: Wartime

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pp. 47-69

The women knew it was a war between Yankee and Southerner about history, country, and home. A civil war. They read the newspapers, passed along rumors, talked with people who had been at the front, and as we have seen, liked reporting events and outcomes in their diaries. We know very well how planter-class women stepped up during the war to serve their interests and their values, and we try for a broad and balanced view. It is broad and balanced to say that these women made do amid destruction and dislocation,...

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Chapter Four: Men

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pp. 70-102

When women wrote about war, they wrote about men. Men’s ways had conjured up the war with well-spoken promises and undercover intentions. It followed that men’s ways held the key to how the war would turn out. The war took some men away, variously husbands, brothers, lovers. It delivered others, the countryside now alive with crowds of new men—“our” common-man soldiers, brute or negotiable Yankees, possible lovers. Diarists wrote mostly of these men, the men the war brought, and the new yet old play of the sexes....

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Chapter Five: Slaves

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pp. 103-137

Enslaved people began to show up in women’s diaries. Before the war, a few white women inscribed slaves now and then in letters and diaries—mostly servants who did well and those who did not. Or unnamed slaves were written as figures in the background of the main thing that needed telling. Wartime changed this. Slaves came into a diarist’s pages with things to say, with words that the diarist wrote down. Or black people disappeared without saying anything. They acted for themselves. When diarists began writing this way, it was...

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Chapter Six: Herself

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pp. 138-158

Always at hand for diarists was the question, What sort of person am I? At hand, but not often asked. Most of the women did not face the question head-on for more than a few sentences at a time. As writers, it’s clear, they did not have the inward gaze of Puritans or psychologists, and we have seen them a little leery of outbreaks of subjectivity on the page. If a diarist did pause for a close look, her self was a curiosity, part riddle, part amusement. A lot of toggling between eagerness and chagrin, with self-indulgence...

Appendix: A Guide to the Diaries and Diarists

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pp. 159-174

A Note on Reading

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pp. 175-178

Notes

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pp. 179-194

Index

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pp. 195-199