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

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A Diary From Dixie.

February 12, 2014

A Diary From Dixie by Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut.

February 12th.—John Chesnut had a basket of champagne carried to my house, oysters, partridges, and other good things, for a supper after the reception. He is going back to the army to-morrow.

James Chesnut arrived on Wednesday. He has been giving Buck his opinion of one of her performances last night. She was here, and the General’s carriage drove up, bringing some of our girls. They told her he could not come up and he begged she would go down there for a moment. She flew down, and stood ten minutes in that snow, Cy holding the carriage-door open. “But, Colonel Chesnut, there was no harm. I was not there ten minutes. I could not get in the carriage because I did not mean to stay one minute. He did not hold my hands—that is, not half the time— Oh, you saw? —well, he did kiss my hands. Where is the harm of that?” All men worship Buck. How can they help it, she is so lovely.

Lawrence has gone back ignominiously to South Carolina. At breakfast already in some inscrutable way he had become intoxicated; he was told to move a chair, and he raised it high over his head, smashing Mrs. Grundy’s chandelier. My husband said: “Mary, do tell Lawrence to go home; I am too angry to speak to him.” So Lawrence went without another word. He will soon be back, and when he comes will say, “Shoo! I knew Mars Jeems could not do without me.” And indeed he can not.

Buck, reading my journal, opened her beautiful eyes in amazement and said: “So little do people know themselves! See what you say of me!” I replied: “The girls heard him say to you, ‘Oh, you are so childish and so sweet!’ Now, Buck, you know you are not childish. You have an abundance of strong common sense. Don’t let men adore you so—if you can help it. You are so unhappy about men who care for you, when they are killed.”

Isabella says that war leads to love-making. She says these soldiers do more courting here in a day than they would do at home, without a war, in ten years.

In the pauses of conversation, we hear, “She is the noblest woman God ever made!” “Goodness!” exclaimed Isabella. “Which one?” The amount of courting we hear in these small rooms. Men have to go to the front, and they say their say desperately. I am beginning to know all about it. The girls tell me. And I overhear—I can not help it. But this style is unique, is it not? “Since I saw you—last year—standing by the turnpike gate, you know— my battle-cry has been: ‘God, my country, and you!'” So many are lame. Major Venable says: “It is not ‘the devil on two sticks,’ now; the farce is ‘Cupid on Crutches.'”

General Breckinridge’s voice broke in: “They are my cousins. So I determined to kiss them good-by. Good-by nowadays is the very devil; it means forever, in all probability, you know; all the odds against us. So I advanced to the charge soberly, discreetly, and in the fear of the Lord. The girls stood in a row—four of the very prettiest I ever saw.” Sam, with his eyes glued to the floor, cried: “You were afraid—you backed out.” “But I did nothing of the kind. I kissed every one of them honestly, heartily.”

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