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[LENGTHY AND ELOQUENT CIVIL WAR-DATED PERSONAL MANUSCRIPT DIARY OF TEENAGE CONFEDERATE SYMPATHIZER AND ARDENT VIRGINIA SECESSIONIST, MARY GRAY CALDWELL]
Fredericksburg, Va. 1863-1865.. 294 pp., in excess of 100,000 words, plus several loose handwritten letters, of various later dates, addressed to Mary Caldwell. Accompanied by a typed transcript. Dbd. Composed of several different paper sources, of various sizes, stitched together, not surprising for a wartime diary from the South. First page detached, with noticeable edge wear to first few leaves and some later leaves, costing some words near the outer margins but never affecting sense. Toning and minor spotting. Very good. Mary Gray Caldwell of Aspen Cottage in Fredericksburg, Virginia, celebrated her fourteenth birthday a week after Abraham Lincoln’s election in 1860. Caldwell remained in her hometown of Fredericksburg throughout the Civil War, watching it become a battleground twice and a camp for army troops of one side or the other time and again. An ardent young secessionist, she set about chronicling what she truly believed would be the triumph of Southern armies. Her first diary was lost when her home was ransacked during the First Battle of Fredericksburg, in December 1862. She promptly took up where she left off, and this surviving journal runs from March 1863, through November 1865, when she was sixteen until her 19th birthday. This is one of only four known Civil War diaries written from Fredericksburg, and the only one to cover the last two years of the war. Mary records her wartime experiences, from holding court in her parents’ parlor with a room full of doting Confederate soldiers and officers, to fleeing in the middle of the night when cannon shells burst in town, to the resentment of "Yankee occupation" as the tides of war change. In her first entry, Mary talks of reports of Yankee soldiers nearby, who were planning to attempt a crossing of the Rappahannock River: "If they come across here, they will take this journal as surely as they did the one before it. If so, I hope it will do the cowards good. I wonder if they read my other one, ha ha...they are silly cowards thinking they can crush us – we, the Southern people. They are idiots at this to think such a thing." The young Ms. Caldwell entertained herself by flirting with the officers and sergeants of the Mississippians of Barksdale's brigade, which were stationed in town. The attentions of so many men must have been a heady tonic for a teenage Southern girl, as she decided which were worthy of her attention, and which were not. May saw the Second Battle of Fredericksburg, also known as the battle of Marye's Heights, during the Chancellorsville campaign. Mary writes here: "The 2d the Yankees crossed below and fighting there two days after which they crossed above and in town....They ruined us a second time...Jackson, the great Stonewall Jackson is dead...I heard one man say he equaled 10 thousand men." Barksdale’s troops were moved out, and their place was taken by Virginians, whom Mary did not care for at all: "[they] are, I think, the most ungallant set I ever saw....I saw a great many intoxicated." But the next day, she had already set her sights on a new target: "I should like to become acquainted with the Colonel of one of the regiments. He looks like such a nice man." Her behavior had not gone unnoticed in the town, and neither had the traffic of men to and from her parents' house. On July 22, 1863, she ran into a friend who asked about her engagement to a sergeant friend: "That makes 4 times I've been engaged and twice married. That will do pretty well I think." Mary enthusiastically repeated all the rumors of gallant Southern victories, though, sadly, they were the stuff of fantasy. On July 5 the good folk of Fredericksburg had no idea that the pivotal battle of Gettysburg had even occurred, but had plenty to talk about: "Great, Glorious, Grand news. I've just heard that Dick Taylor got New Orleans. Pemberton driven off Grant from Vicksburg, Lee cut off all communication between Baltimore and Philadelphia and that Lincoln has called for an armistice...all I hope for is that it does not prove a great big humbug." When they heard of Gettysburg, it was told as a great victory, with Lee capturing 40,000 Yankees, and 40,000 Marylanders joining the Army of Northern Virginia. When Mary heard of the fall of Vicksburg, she was confused, but then decided it must be a ploy by Johnston to trap Grant. It wasn't until the winter of 1864 that she started viewing such reports with a skeptical eye. Mary began teaching small children in town in February, and her journal is filled with rather mundane details until the protracted fighting between Grant and Lee in the nearby town of Spottsylvania, which occurred between May 8 and 21, 1864. On May 9, she begins her entry, "We are once more under the domination of the Yankees....All their wounded are here in this town and so in our house. Our back lot is full of them." On the 12th, the sound of nearby cannon fire shook the houses in town. The next day Mary saw something that shook her to her very core: the division of Major General Edward "Allegheny" Johnson, with Johnson and most of its officers, being marched through town and across the pontoon bridge to captivity in the North. But for Mary, the nightmare was not yet over. On May 15, 1864 she notes that the town (and her family's home) is chock-full of Yankee soldiers, when suddenly: "Well, I have just now been interrupted by a most brave and gallant sight, a regiment of armed Negroes. They have been passing through all day. Oh, it is a most horrible sight, enough to make the hair rise on one’s head." June 15th brought word that her cousin Virgil was killed while leading his men in a charge, and that her cousin Mort has been taken prisoner. She writes, "As for poor Mort, I very much fear that his imprisonment will go hard with him for he was both spy and scout for General J.E.B. Stuart...the brave, gallant, patriotic Stuart is no more." On November 12, 1864, Mary's father brought word from Richmond that the Congress was debating a measure to draft 40,000 slaves into the army as laborers and teamsters, to free up white men to fight. She thought that a better idea would be to have the women do all the clerical and administrative work, and send those men to fight. As the discussion continued on, she notes, "I wish no Negroes to fight for me, but it is better than to be made their equals." In March 1865, Mary’s mother died. About the same time, three Yankee gunboats came up the Rappahannock to seize tobacco belonging to the Confederate government. On April 12, the rumors regarding the Army of Northern Virginia were confirmed: Lee had surrendered. Mary laments in her diary, "Misfortunes never come single; Misery loves company have been both verified, first by the astounding news last Monday evening week that Richmond was taken, and again this morning by the soul- sickening news that Lee and his army had been surrounded and surrendered. The last is too terrible. I cannot believe. I think it must be a mistake, and with all my heart I wish it may be so. It appears to [be] almost an impossibility that Lee, our great General Lee, the Lee of world renown, the one whose equal (I think) has never lived, unless it was Stonewall Jackson, should or would surrender." Later, Mary writes that she memorized Lee's farewell address. On April 27, Mary writes that John Wilkes Booth, "the assassin of Lincoln, has been caught and killed at Port Royal by the Yankee soldiers. I was deeply sorry for him. He, in all probability, acted from a sense of duty and that of avenging the South of the many injuries Lincoln had done to her...." She goes on in the same entry to pen a lament for her home state of Virginia, which reads: "She is to be trampled by those who have destroyed. Her slaves are, in all probability, to become her masters, for it is said the Yankees intend on giving the negroes a vote. A negro to have a vote for our rulers. If that is to be so, as I told Mag, I will feel as if I want to commit suicide and kill everyone else. A negro to rule over me. I think the women had better rise and take the rule, as men are found unfit to govern....We are not subjugated and never will be. It is impossible. We may be overrun and maybe we are so now, but as to the Southern people being subjugated, that can never be." Through the summer of 1865, she argued with the Union officers boarding with her parents, trying to get them to see what a mistake abolition was. She writes: "One of their Lieutenants told me yesterday that if I ever got into trouble about anyone wishing me to take the oath, he would help me out and tell them it would be impossible for me to take the oath. It would choke me to death. I thanked him, and told him that, if I ever needed his services, I should call on him." By the summer of 1865, Mary had decided that maybe having Yankee soldiers in town wasn't so bad. On June 7, 1865, she writes: "The military are still in town, and I shall be right sorry when they are gone for I am afraid the negroes will give the people trouble. I was always so afraid of an insurrection." As summer turned to autumn, Mary tried to cope with her new world. On August 5, 1865, she writes: "There is a school for the colored children in town now, taught by a white man who makes the children call him Uncle Tom. Amongst other things that he teaches is...to keep themselves clean as the white children, for they are as good as they are, and then to learn who redeemed them from slavery, Abraham Lincoln." November 28, 1865, marks her last entry, as Mary reflects on her life just thirteen days after her nineteenth birthday: "I am somebody more apt to pluck roses from the past than to remember those that are briars that have so scratched us and that there is gall mixed with every cup of sweet. No, I should look forward to the future." With two-and-a-half years' worth of material, any summary will leave out mention of numerous instances that will be of interest to anyone curious about the Confederate homefront from the viewpoint of a young belle, especially a young lady with such an elegant and composed style. Suffice to say, this diary holds a wealth of information not enumerated here for the scholar of the Civil War, the Confederacy, the history of American women, and history from below, in general. A complete typewritten transcript of Caldwell's diary is included, along with a copy of Volume 11 of FREDERICKSBURG HISTORY AND BIOGRAPHY. Published by the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust in 2012, the journal contains Part I of the transcription of this diary, which is otherwise unpublished. A truly remarkable find, a remarkable diary by a young Southern woman in the midst of the Civil War. Mary Caldwell lived to be 83, passing away in 1930.
      [Bookseller: William Reese Company - Americana]
Last Found On: 2014-10-03           Check availability:      Biblio    

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