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 Mary Boykin <I>Miller</I> Chesnut

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Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut

  • Birth 31 Mar 1823 Sumter County, South Carolina, USA
  • Death 22 Nov 1886 Camden, Kershaw County, South Carolina, USA
  • Burial Camden, Kershaw County, South Carolina, USA
  • Plot Private property
  • Memorial ID 8574

Diarist. Born Mary Boykin Miller at Pleasant Hill in Stateboro, South Carolina, the eldest child of Mary Boykin and Senator Stephen Decatur Miller. She was educated home before she was sent to Madame Talvande's French School for Young Ladies, a boarding school in Charleston, at the age of about 13. She met James Chestnut, Jr. for the first time shortly thereafter. Her father died in 1838, and she left school to return home. At the age of 17, she married Chestnut, and settled on his family's plantation, Mulberry. In 1858, Chestnut was elected to the U.S. Senate, and she accompanied him to Washington, DC. After the election of Abraham Lincoln, James Chestnut became the first southern senator to resign his office. Mary started the diary for which she became known in February 1861. It became an intimate window on the Confederacy, recording a personal view of the political atmosphere, the impact of the war, her experience as a nurse, her criticism of the leadership, and her lament at her own lack of influence as a woman. With the end of the war, the family fortunes were lost, their debt insurmountable. In an effort to make money, she wrote but never published three novels, then in the early 1880s expanded and revised her diaries. She published one story from her diary in the 'Charleston Weekly News and Courier,' it was the only piece published during her lifetime. Widowed in 1885 and broke, she became dependent on a butter and egg business for her survival. She died at home thee years later, at age 63. Her diaries were first published in a truncated form in 1905 as 'A Diary From Dixie' it was reissued in 1949. Finally, in 1982, 'Mary Chesnut's Civil War,' edited by historian C. Vann Woodward, saw the diaries published in their entirety. The volume won a Pulitzer Prize. It is today regarded as one of the finest primary sources for the Civil War era. Most of her original copybooks survive and are archived at the University of South Carolina.

Bio by: Iola


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 28 Feb 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 8574
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut (31 Mar 1823–22 Nov 1886), Find A Grave Memorial no. 8574, citing Knights Hill Cemetery, Camden, Kershaw County, South Carolina, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .