- A Promise Fulfilled: The Kitty Anderson Diary and Civil War Texas, 1861 ed. by Nancy Draves
Author and editor Nancy Draves became aware of Kitty Anderson’s diary in 2008, a year before it was acquired by the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin. After reading Kitty’s harrowing Civil War account, Draves decided to edit it to provide context for the unique experiences Anderson described, events that she and her family endured during a two-month period in 1861.
Draves first introduces the reader to the atmosphere in antebellum San Antonio and provides a detailed explanation of how Anderson’s Unionist father’s actions lead to the family having to escape Civil War Texas. Each chapter contains a diary entry and an editorial section that highlights the significance of the people Anderson met and wrote about during her sixty-two-day account. An extra section, written after the war, details her father’s parallel adventure, including his arrest, escape, and journey to reunite with his family. Draves provides an epilogue to add needed closure and includes helpful photographs to enhance her text. Her additions provide a deeper understanding of people and events, and, while a few are distracting and superfluous, the bulk of Draves’s remarks do exactly as she intended: “support and complement the story . . . with the background needed to fully understand and appreciate its significance” (xiii). Through this format the reader understands a confluence of lives and events not otherwise placed together.
The diary reveals a life of privilege that few enjoyed during the war. Her father’s social and political alliances, something the general population of Texas did not share, assisted Anderson’s family in their escape. Their travails began in San Antonio, moved through Matamoros and Veracruz, and ended in New York after moonlit rides, a harrowing voyage, and novel encounters with friends and foes. Overnight stops were often in comfortable homes owned by affluent people, although transportation and several destinations created challenges to which the Andersons were unaccustomed.
What at first appears to be a book about Kitty Anderson’s Civil War [End Page 117] experiences in Texas is not necessarily so. The title is somewhat misleading, as a good portion of what happens in Anderson’s diary occurs in Mexico. Additionally, Draves’s editorial section focuses more on the significance of male characters than on Anderson herself, making the story less about Kitty and more about others. This is, of course, intentional, and Draves successfully achieves her goal of highlighting Anderson’s unique interactions with notable people while making the reader aware that privilege and connections made Anderson’s Civil War experience vastly different from that of average women in Confederate Texas.
Draves relied heavily on the Handbook of Texas Online as well as on particularly interesting records from the Menger Hotel and a variety of other underused sources, all of which add relevance, depth, and value to the narrative. A Promise Fulfilled is a welcome addition to the growing body of literature recording women’s experiences in Texas during the Civil War. While it is not a typical diary, it will most certainly be enjoyed by those who study or have even a casual interest in the Civil War, Texas, and women’s history.