Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

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A Diary From Dixie.

January 16, 2014

A Diary From Dixie by Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut.

January 16th.—A visit from the President’s handsome and accomplished secretary, Burton Harrison. I lent him Country Clergyman in Town and Elective Affinities. He is to bring me Mrs. Norton’s Lost and Saved.

At Mrs. Randolph’s, my husband complimented one of the ladies, who had amply earned his praise by her splendid acting. She pointed to a young man, saying, “You see that wretch; he has not said one word to me!” My husband asked innocently, “Why should he? And why is he a wretch?” “Oh, you know!” Going home I explained this riddle to him; he is always a year behindhand in gossip. “They said those two were engaged last winter, and now there seems to be a screw loose; but that sort of thing always comes right.” The Carys prefer James Chesnut to his wife. I don’t mind. Indeed, I like it. I do, too.

Every Sunday Mr. Minnegerode cried aloud in anguish his litany, “from pestilence and famine, battle, murder, and sudden death,” and we wailed on our knees, “Good Lord deliver us,” and on Monday, and all the week long, we go on as before, hearing of nothing but battle, murder, and sudden death, which are daily events. Now I have a new book; that is the unlooked-for thing, a pleasing incident in this life of monotonous misery. We live in a huge barrack. We are shut in, guarded from light without.

At breakfast to-day came a card, and without an instant’s interlude, perhaps the neatest, most fastidious man in South Carolina walked in. I was uncombed, unkempt, tattered, and torn, in my most comfortable, worst worn, wadded green silk dressing-gown, with a white woolen shawl over my head to keep off draughts. He has not been in the war yet, and now he wants to be captain of an engineer corps. I wish he may get it! He has always been my friend; so he shall lack no aid that I can give. If he can stand the shock of my appearance to-day, we may reasonably expect to continue friends until death. Of all men, the fastidious Barny Heywood to come in. He faced the situation gallantly.

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