"Mary Chesnut's Civil War" by Mary Chesnut

Mary Chesnut's Civil War Mary Chesnut, C. Vann Woodward

Publication date:
10 Sep 1993
Yale University Press
892 pages: 235 x 156mm

Winner of the 1982 Pulitzer Prize in History

"A feast for Civil War buffs. . . . One of the best firsthand records of the Confederate experience. . . . Electrifying."—Walter Clemons, Newsweek

"By all odds the best of all Civil War memoirs, and one of the most remarkable eyewitness accounts to emerge from that or any other war."—Louis D. Rubin, Jr., New Republic

The incomparable Civil War diarist Mary Chestnut wrote that she had the luck "always to stumble in on the real show." Married to a high-ranking member of the Confederate government, she was ideally placed to watch and to record the South's headlong plunge to ruin, and she left in her journals an unsurpassed account of the old regime's death throes, its moment of high drama in world history. With intelligence and passion she described the turbulent events of politics and war, as well as the complex society around her. In her own circles, the aristocratic, patriarchal, slave-holding Mary Chesnut was a figure of heresy and of paradox: she had a horror of slavery and called herself an abolitionist from early youth.

Edited by the eminent historian C. Vann Woodward, Mary Chesnut's Civil War presents a full and reliable edition of Chesnut's journals, restoring her to her rightful place in American history and literature.


C. Vann Woodward is Sterling Professor Emeritus of History at Yale University.

A major book of this year."—Edmund Fuller, The Wall Street Journal

"Thanks to [Vann Woodward], we have the first authoritative text of this great work, now revealed as the masterpiece it is; the finest work of literature to come out of the Civil War, perhaps one of the half dozen or so most important diaries in al literature; if you will, a Southern War and Peace."—Reid Beddow, The Washington Post Book World

"Here is a book to curl up with over a whole lifetime—to read and reread, to ponder and savor."—Selma R. Williams, The Boston Globe

"Perhaps one of the half dozen or so most important diaries in all literature; if you will, a Southern 'War and Peace.'"—Reid Beddow, The Washington Post Book World

"A feast for Civil War buffs. . . . One of the best firsthand records of the Confederate experience. . . . Mrs. Chestnut's diary is electrifying."—Walter Clemons, Newsweek

"An admirable blend of scholarship and style. . . . C. Vann Woodward's impressive edition guarantees that Mary Chestnut's Civil War will take its rightful place as an American classic."—Joan Reardon, Christian Science Monitor Book Review

"This definitive edition of her massive, much-revised journal captures vividly the experience of war in the Old South, from the first hopeful days. . . to the ruinous end. . . . The book teems with interesting portraits (of generals and society ladies, of maids and slaves), with reports of battles and balls, and with highly evocative descriptions of everyday scenes (such as men sitting on coffins, talking and laughing) that bring the period to life."—Publisher's Weekly

"Woodward's edition of this most famous of contemporary Southern sources on the war is definitive. . . . Woodward's work, scrupulously  and exhaustively annotated, presents the most reliable portrait yet of this most remarkably vital, intelligent, witty woman. An outspoken feminist who abhorred the slavery system, Chesnut was also a keen observer of her times and of the men and women who crossed her path. An elaborate introduction and a magnificent index enhance a book sure to be hailed by historians, lovers of literature, and indeed anyone with a taste for the human story."—Library Journal

Winner of the 1982 Pulitzer Prize in History

"Vann Woodward's long awaited edition of Mary Chestnut's 'Diary' of the Civil War is the first uncorrupted and annotated text of a novelistic memoir, at one an illuminating historical document and a work of genuine literary distinction. Woodward's ingenious blending of the original journals and the subsequent 'Diary' makes this version immensely superior to the previous ones and enables us for the first time to appreciate the mind and art of this remarkable mind."—Daniel Aaron, Harvard University