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Ben Ames Williams, ed. Mary Chesnut, Diary from Dixie, 1949 ed.

Perhaps the Finest Memoir of the Southern Homefront


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Mary Boykin Chesnut’s A Diary from Dixie is a fiery account of her experiences and struggles during the Civil War.

Chesnut, married James Chesnut in 1840. After the wedding, she moved to his plantation in Mulberry, South Carolina. James won the Senate race in 1858.  The couple moved to Washington DC. There, the became friends with Mr. & Mrs. Jefferson Davis.

Both Chesnuts were fierce proponents of the war. James served in the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States of America, as an aide to President Jefferson Davis and General P.G.T. Beauregard and in the military, earning the rank of general. Mary dedicated her time to serving on the homefront, helping obtain provisions for area hospitals, sewing shirts for soldiers and more. She also wrote in her diary every day. She reported on the people she knew. The diary is full of her keen observations, anecdotes and eye-witness accounts of contemporary life.

After the war, they returned to their ruined plantation and a huge debt. They worked to restore the land and buildings, eventually freeing themselves from their burden.

Both Jefferson and Varina Davis urged Mary to publish her diary. Varina believed it would surpass the popularity of the plantation novels that were in vogue during the era.

Mary would spend many years revising and editing it during the 1880s in preparation for publication. However it was not published in her lifetime.

A Diary from Dixie was published in 1905, nineteen years after Chesnut’s death.


Chesnut, Mary Boykin.  A DIARY FROM DIXIE.   Edited by Ben Ames Williams.  Boston:  Houghton, Mifflin, 1949.  572p.; unclipped D.J. 

Additional information

Weight 2 lbs
Dimensions 11 × 8 × 8 in