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Southern Cultures 7.2 (2001) 119-122



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Book Review

Recollections of a Southern Daughter:
A Memoir by Cornelia Jones Pond of Liberty County

Sisters of Providence:
The Search for God in the Frontier

Scarlett Doesn't Live Here Anymore:
Southern Women in the Civil War Era


Recollections of a Southern Daughter: A Memoir by Cornelia Jones Pond of Liberty County. Edited by Lucinda H. MacKethan. University of Georgia Press, 1998. 118 pp. Cloth $24.95

Sisters of Providence: The Search for God in the Frontier South (1843-1858). Edited by Allen Paul Speer. with Janet Barton Speer. The Overmountain Press, 2000. 290 pp. Cloth $19.95

Scarlett Doesn't Live Here Anymore: Southern Women in the Civil War Era. By Laura Edwards. University of Illinois Press, 2000. 271 pp. Cloth $29.95

Born in 1834 to a prominent Georgia family, Cornelia Jones Pond grew up on Tekoah, her father's plantation about thirty miles below Savannah. Until the Civil War broke out, she enjoyed an easy and genteel life of churchgoing, parties, and fashionable clothes. She received an uncommonly good education for a girl and made a happy marriage. With slaves to run her household and nurse her children, [End Page 119] she was left with very little to do. Her description of this way of life comprises the first half of Recollections of a Southern Daughter: A Memoir by Cornelia Jones Pond of Liberty County, the first unabridged edition of a memoir Pond narrated to her daughter in 1899.

In 1861, only two months after Georgia seceded, one of Pond's young daughters died of scarlet fever. Not long afterward Mr. Pond left to join the Chatham Artillery. The privations of war came gradually and required ingenuity and activity for a young woman accustomed to having most things done for her. While Pond's memories of her marriage and young motherhood are touching, the most fascinating part of the memoir is her account of Sherman's army plundering Tekoah, leaving its inhabitants with only rice, corn, and peas. For several weeks Yankee soldiers streamed through the property, where food was scarce and over one hundred and fifty slaves milled about, technically free but with nowhere to go. Forty years later, blind from glaucoma and left unable to walk by rheumatism, Pond still expressed shock at having seen her mother's underthings rifled through by an especially coarse soldier.

Unlike Mary Chesnut, whose rich and opinionated chronicle of the Civil War is well known, Pond did not comment on the political and ethical questions of the "peculiar institution." She neither defended nor questioned slavery, and while the family's "servants" are included in parts of her story, she rarely commented on them except to say that they became "demoralized" during the war. Fortunately, Lucinda MacKethan, in her introduction, provides a useful and concise historical context within which to place Pond's experience.

By contrast, Sisters of Providence: The Search for God in the Frontier South (1843-1858) provides diary excerpts, letters, and essays written by Jennie and Ann Speer, women of the yeoman class who completely rejected slavery and who were interested in transcendental thought and religious questions. They were no languid clotheshorses, idle in thought and action, waited upon and babied. They studied and worked hard, striving to improve themselves. Northern abolitionist thinkers and the temperance movement influenced their literary interests and work ethic more than southern slaveholder society. (In fact, their parents owned no slaves and disapproved when their son Asbury became a soldier in the Confederate army.) The girls' desire to leave a mark upon the world and make themselves heard is plaintive and constant throughout their writing. Though tempted to marry, they expected to rely on nobody.

Jennie, a serious, somewhat depressive young woman who was ever mindful of her duty to God, wrote most of the passages. She describes life at...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 119-122
Launched on MUSE
2001-05-01
Open Access
No
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