Of all the written works created during the Civil War, Mary Chesnut’s diary is one of the most well known. Because of her ability to frankly describe the events that transpired, her diary is considered by historians to be the most important work by a Confederate author, and a true work of art.
Born to Congressman Stephen Decatur Miller and May Boykin on March 31, 1823 at Mount Pleasant plantation near Stateburg, South Carolina, Mary Miller was the eldest of four children. In 1829, her father became governor of South Carolina, and in 1831, he served as a U.S. senator. Mary was educated at home and in Camden schools before she was sent to a French boarding school in Charleston at age 12. She spent her school break at her father’s cotton plantations in Mississippi, but when he died in 1838, she returned to Camden. She met James Chesnut Jr., eight years her senior, in 1836, when he was at the boarding school visiting his niece, and although he began to court her, Mary’s parents opposed it. However, on April 23, 1840, when Mary was 17, the two were married.
For the next twenty years, Mary spent her time between Camden and Mulberry, her husband’s family plantation. James was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1858, so Mary accompanied him to Washington, where she nurtured friendships with many upper-class citizens, including Jefferson and Varina Howell Davis, John Bell Hood, and Wade Hampton III. When talk of war escalated in 1860, James was the first to resign his senate seat on November 10, The Chesnuts returned to South Carolina, where he participated in drafting an ordinance of secession, and served on the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States of America. From February 1861 through July 1865, Mary recorded her experiences. She was in Charleston when Ft. Sumter was fired upon on Friday, April 12, 1861, and watched the skirmish from a rooftop. In her diary, she described the city’s residents, along with what is now known as The Battery, sitting on balconies and drinking salutes to the advent of hostilities.
James subsequently served as an aide to General P.G.T. Beauregard and Jefferson Davis. He was promoted to the rank of brigadier-general. During the war, Mary accompanied him to Montgomery, Columbia, and Richmond, where she entertained the Confederate elite.
After the war, the Chesnut’s returned to Camden, struggling unsuccessfully to get out of debt. James had inherited two plantations when his father died in 1866: Mulberry and Sandy Field. They were heavily damaged by Federal troops, and slaves who had become freedmen still depended on him. James and Mary’s mother died within a week of each other in January 1885. According to his father’s will, the land was to be passed down to a male heir, and because he and Mary never had children, she lost her claim.
Mary’s writing revealed her strong opinions concerning slavery and women’s rights, as well as criticism for conservative decisions made by Southern leaders, her husband included. She expressed her repulsion for lapses in morality caused by the male-dominated society of the South, using her father-in-law’s liaison with a slave as an example.
In the 1870’s, she edited her diaries in an attempt to publish them, but failed. She tried her hand at fiction, writing three novels, but was also unsuccessful at having them published, so in the 1880’s, she revised her diaries into a book entitled Mary Chesnut’s Civil War. Only a small excerpt was published in the Charleston Weekly News and Courier as “The Arrest of a Spy.” Her final years were spent supplementing her $100-a-year income by selling eggs and butter. She died of a heart attack on November 22, 1886. Historians believe she wasn’t finished with her work. In 1905, and again in 1949, her diaries were published in truncated and heavily edited versions as A Diary from Dixie. In 1981, C. Vann Woodward published a version that included her complete work, and won the Pulitzer Prize for history in 1982.
With all the destruction of Confederate monuments going on, it’s refreshing to see one Southern city defend its heritage and erect a new monument in honor of an historic occasion. Kudos for not bowing to political correctness and unfounded threats.
To unveil the monument on Nov. 10, the town of Abbeville, which has its first black mayor, is hosting a parade.
The Abbeville monument weighing about 20 tons with a full inscription of the state’s secession ordinance, is planned for Secessionist Hill fronting a well-traveled corridor on Secession Avenue.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans picked Hayes’ property in Abbeville only after it was rebuffed twice in its attempts to place it on public land near Charleston, where the secession ordinance was signed and the Civil War started.
The group first eyed a location near Charleston Harbor in 2010 but the Patriots Point Development Authority rejected the offer in a split vote.
North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey then offered a spot in Riverfront Park but withdrew after he said “some who stand on both sides of this issue have attempted to divide our council and our city along racial lines.”
The Sons of Confederate Veterans’ secession monument, paid with private donations, landed on Hayes’ property because it’s privately owned and historical.
Once again, the Confederate Battle Flag is under attack. This time, the controversy surrounds the tragedy that occurred last week in Charleston, South Carolina, when a mentally deranged 21-year-old opened fire on a Bible study group. Apparently, this individual posted rantings online about white supremacy. He also posed with the Confederate battle flag, which is unfortunate, to say the least. As expected, the governor of South Carolina will have the flag removed from the Capitol grounds. The flag flew full-mast following the shootings, unlike the other flags on the Capitol grounds, which sparked the controversy. Why it wasn’t taken to half-mast like the others is unclear.
I have serious questions about this issue. Why did Dylann Roof’s parents allow him access to that weapon when they knew he had mental issues? Why is the Confederate flag to blame? Roof spent too much time on the internet. Are they going to abolish computers next? Or are race-baiting politicians going to blame the NRA, the place where he bought the gun, or retail stores in general? Of course not. They’re going to attack the Confederate battle flag. Walmart just announced that it will be removing all merchandise with the flag from their stores. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. They want only to destroy and censor history, and this is becoming more blatant with school’s history curriculums. What one person deems as offensive symbolism could be misinterpreted in a number of ways. Will the cross be the next target? Or the Star of David? How many other symbols will people find offensive and want to do away with, for the sake of political correctness? If this is the beginning, then where will it end?
People need to be held accountable for their actions, instead of laying blame on inanimate objects. It’s funny how the Confederate battle flag wasn’t an issue in Ferguson or Baltimore. Racism is the issue, not the Confederate battle flag.
NAACP President Cornell William Brooks said, “We don’t want to single out the state [South Carolina] as being uniquely bad. But, we do want to single out the state for being a candidate for a major set of reforms in terms of addressing bias and bigotry.”
By eradicating the Confederate battle flag? Really?
“The time has come to remove this symbol of hate and division from our state capitol,” said Reverend Nelson Rivers of Charleston.
He has stated the problem in a nutshell by being unwilling to see the flag as anything other than a “symbol of hate and division.” Rev. Rivers, like so many others, needs to expand on his compassion and understanding. There will always be lunatics in the world, but to target the flag as the problem is misdirected.
“The Confederate battle flag years and years ago was appropriated as a symbol of hate,” said Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley. “It is a piece of history and it belongs in a history museum.”
Once every bit of history becomes obsolete or deemed politically incorrect because of changing times, does that mean it will all end up in a museum? Or worse yet, packed away from the world, so that ignorance reigns?
According to John Oliver of HBO’s Last Week Tonight, the Confederate flag “helps us identify the worst people in the world.” They should “put it in a box and label it ‘bad flag’.”
Begging your pardon, Mr. Oliver, but not everyone who flies the flag goes around committing mass murder, or even spouts racial bigotry, for that matter. What does one thing have to do with the other? Or is the flag just a scapegoat?
There are too many people in this country who love the flag, and not for racist reasons. But radicals and liberals can’t seem to understand this. Sadly, the Confederate battle flag was used by hate groups in the past, and that stigma still holds true to some extent, although the American flag has the same associations. The Confederate battle flag was based on St. Andrews Cross with Scottish origins, and during the Civil War, it represented states’ rights. Over the years, hate groups caused it to evolve into a racial statement, but this desperately needs to change. It is an insult to those who see the flag as an element of their Southern heritage, and they are the people who are being punished. Haters will still be haters. The truth is, getting rid of the flag won’t get rid of the problem. People need to be reeducated about racism and the flag as being two separate entities, not one conjoined statement of hatred. If everything Confederate is erased, it still won’t solve the problem, and it only offends those who cherish their heritage and ancestry.
As Mr. Oliver stated when he was discussing another subject, revenge porn, “It’s up to us and how to fundamentally change the internet.” Don’t you think this holds true to our perceptions of the Confederate battle flag as well? It’s about time we change our perception of the flag as a symbol of hatred. In fact, it’s long overdue.
(A statue memorializing the Confederacy in Charleston was vandalized with graffiti a few days after the shootings. It’s supposed to say “Black Lives Matter.”)
According to the 290 Foundation (email@example.com), one of the crew members aboard the doomed Confederate submarine, the Hunley, has been identified. The following describes new information received about one of the crewmen, along with an identifying photograph.