The War Through Women’s Eyes

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Posted : February 19, 2021

The War Through Women’s Eyes, Part I

“[July 23 1861] Witnessed for the first time a military funeral. As that march came wailing up, they say Mrs. Bartow fainted. The empty saddle and the led war-horse—we saw and heard it all, and now it seems we are never out of the sound of the Dead March in Saul. It comes and it comes, until I feel inclined to close my ears and scream.

From Mary Boykin Chesnut’s
A Diary from Dixie.

Part I of

The War Through Women’s Eyes

by Douglas Southall Freeman

Chapter VI of
The South to Posterity,1

[Publisher’s Note, by Gene Kizer, Jr.
 : This is a fascinating article in which I have inserted 11 illustrations, mostly photographs. There is much on Phoebe Pember, who was born and raised in Charleston, and there are several dramatic passages from A Diary from Dixie at the end of this post. The style of the citation, and content of each note, are Douglas Southall Freeman’s, verbatim.]

SCARCELY A WOMAN’S NAME appears in Lee’s confidential dispatches to President Davis. Not many are mentioned in the Official Records outside the correspondence on espionage and “suspected disloyalty.” To assume on this account that women made no contribution to the writing of Confederate history would be almost as unreasonable as to ignore their influence on the morale of the armies. Their letters brightened many a night-watch; their formal publications soften the hard lines of military narratives.

Few of their letters are extant. Most of those taken from the dead bodies of soldiers mercifully were destroyed, but occasionally one finds in family papers a closely and carefully written sheet that passed to the battle front and, in some fashion, found its way back home again. At least one such letter should have a place here to illustrate in what spirit the women heartened the men at the front. The letter selected as typical of the best was penned June 29, 1863, by Sallie Radford Munford of Richmond, to her first cousin, John Henry Munford, Lieutenant of the Letcher Battery, which was making its way along Pennsylvania roads. Miss Munford was then about twenty-two and was the first of the ten daughters of Col. George W. Munford, Secretary of the Commonwealth of Virginia, by his second wife, Elizabeth T. Ellis. Miss Sallie’s half brother, Col. Thomas T. Munford, had distinguished himself in a score of cavalry actions. The lieutenant, her correspondent, was the elder of the two gallant sons of Doctor Robert Munford and his wife, who had been Anne Curtis. The connections of the family were of the widest and highest in Virginia.

Gettysburg Battlefield, marker for Hill's Corps, ANV, Pegram's Battalion, Brander's Battery, and Letcher Artillery.
Sallie Munford's half brother, Col. Thomas T. Munford.
Sallie Munford’s half brother, Col. Thomas T. Munford.

Here, then, is what Miss Sallie Munford wrote to her kinsman on the day that General Lee ordered his infantry to converge on Cashtown and Gettysburg:

Richmond, June 29th 1863.

My Dear John,

I had promised myself the pleasure of sending you a long letter by Willie Pegram, as I had not been able to write by the last opportunity which carried you letters from home, but I was so unwell the day before he left, I would not inflict upon you one of my stupid epistles. Now I can only write, hoping if it ever reaches you, it will serve to show how much we all constantly think of you, through I much fear, from the present state of the Army, my letter will never find your Battery. We are kept in the most constant state of anticipation and suspense concerning the present movements of our troops; everything is shrouded in mystery, except the one fact that our gallant boys are at last in Maryland and Pennsylvania, and are by no means idle there. I can not learn whether your Battery has yet crossed the Potomac, though as Pegram’s Battalion of Artillery was bringing up the rear when last heard from, I supposed you are with Gen. Lee’s portion of the Army. I know you will have a fine chance when you cross the river, and only wish I could be there to witness the entrance of our troops in some of those Union towns. War at all times, and especially such a war as we are engaged in, makes all classes fearfully bloodthirsty, and I am oftentimes astonished at the force of my feelings against the Yankees, but when I remember what we have suffered and lost, when I think of all the horror they have inflicted upon our people, and of the shameful display of barbarity and uncivilized warfare they have always displayed, I cannot wonder at the strength of such feelings, not blame the merest child for desiring retaliation. And if the accounts in the papers are true Ewell, Imboden and Jenkins, are at last carrying this fearful war into the enemy’s territory, and causing them to feel some of the horrors of burning houses, homeless families, desolated fields, and an impoverished country. While such rumours as the burning of Harrisburg, the vast destruction of public and private property slowly reach us, we, the good people of Richmond are by no means quietly moving on the “even tenor of our way”; raids, and intended attacks by the Yankees upon our town, caused a good deal of excitement last week, which culminated when we learned the Yankees, reported 20,000 strong, were advancing in our direction. The Militia, were all called out, and yesterday, Sunday, the entire male population from 16 to 55, were occupied in drilling and manning the fortifications. There has been no alarm at all, for no one dreamed that the city could be taken, but as Gen. Lee has telegraphed for more troops, before we could send them, it was necessary to find out what militia force we could count upon, and the display has been a most satisfactory one.—I have been enjoying Kate Corbin’s visit most amazingly; the weather has been entirely too warm for any unusual exertion, so we spend our time mostly in sewing, in reading aloud, and of course talking, for who ever knew a parcel of girls assembled together who did not talk. And what do you supposed we talk about? Our noble, brave, and gallant soldiers,—the deeds of daring and heroism which has made this the most unsurpassed of all wars, where one common feeling animates the breasts of high and low, old and young. And such a subject is inexhaustible; I do long sometimes to be a man that I too might fight for so glorious a cause, never had I felt more than now how hard it is to do a woman’s part,—to wait, and that patiently, until others shall strike the decisive blow.—We have suffered a good deal of anxiety about Bro Tom recently; for the last fortnight, he has had a fight with the Yankees, either in Fauquier or Loudoun, every day, and some of these have been most desperate, hand to hand encounters.—In the first, on the 17th, Jemmie Tucker was very badly wounded, by a pistol ball in the back, the ball lodging under the right shoulder blade, and rendering his right arm perfectly useless—After great exertions uncle Bev succeeded in reaching him, and last night they arrived here, but the wound has healed entirely, and the ball not yet being found, the Surgeon will be obliged to probe it, and I fear it will be a tedious and most painful wound. It seems so hard that such a boy, (he is just 18,) should have to suffer so much.—I know you will be glad to hear that your Mother’s school closes tomorrow; it will be a great relief to her I know, and I hope she will entirely recruit during the summer.—The Munfords had intended to have paid their visit to the Prices’ last week but the approach of the Yankees deterred their going, and they will wait now until all is quiet. Nannie has grown to be a very pretty girl, and seems to greatly enjoy the freedom of being away from Yankee rule.—Congratulate Robert, for me, upon his well merited promotion. I was so very glad to hear of it, and hope before long you will also earn the title of Captain.—I expect to hear great things from your Battery this summer, and I know I shall not be disappointed. And what a campaign we are to have; hardships, toilsome marches, and wearisome nights of watchings I know will be your portion, but the end that is before our gallant soldiers is a sufficient recompense, and when our loved country is free, who will not be proud to tell that he was one of that army which so nobly fought for her independence. My paper gives out, and I must close, with the ever fervent prayer that our Heavenly Father may guard Robert and yourself, and bring you safely through all the perils that surround you. All join me in warm love, ever

Your much attached cousin,
Sallie R. Munford2

(Please read endnote No. 2, below.
It identifies all the people she mentioned
in her captivating letter.)

 This typical letter has been preserved because it never was delivered. Ere it could reach the Army of Northern Virginia, by the long route through the Shenandoah Valley and across the Potomac, Gettysburg had been fought and lost. John Munford had fallen, with a desperate head wound, in the ghastly action of July 3 when Lee had attempted to storm Cemetery Ridge. The young lieutenant was brought with other wounded back to Richmond where, babbling in delirium of charges and ranges, he died within a week.

Miss Sallie later married Charles H. Talbott, lived to great age and, ere the end, had unique distinction. In November, 1927, Virginia received again the State flag that had been hauled down from the Capitol on the day the Union army had entered Richmond. Maj. A. H. Stevens, Jr., of the 4th Mass. Cavalry, had won that prize and had kept it with care. His grandson, Frederick A. Stevens, Jr., of Arlington, Massachusetts, decided that the long blue standard should be returned to the Old Dominion. When announcement of the coming ceremony was published, Mrs. Talbott, who was then eighty-seven, remarked casually that she believed she could identify the flag for the quite sufficient reason that she had made it. Her father, she explained, had been responsible as Secretary of the Commonwealth for the supply of standards for the Capitol. Late in the war he had observed that he was having difficulty in procuring a new banner to take the place of the wind-ripped one then flying. He could procure the bunting, he said, but he had no one to paint for the center the figure of Liberty conquering Tyranny. Miss Sallie then had volunteered to make the flag and, with her sisters, had done so. Sixty-three years later, in the old Hall of the House of Delegates, when the flag was returned, she ran her fingers along the seams she had sewed as a girl.3

Last Virginia state flag over Richmond capitol at end of war, sewn by Miss Sallie Munford.
Last Virginia state flag over Richmond capitol at end of war, sewn by Miss Sallie Munford.
Sallie-R-Munford-Talbott-Grave 65K

Unfortunately, Mrs. Talbott did not write her memoirs, nor did many of the older women who played a conspicuous part in the war. For example, Mrs. Arthur Francis Hopkins, wife of the Chief Justice of Alabama, apparently left no record of her great labors for the South. Born Juliet Opie, of the high blood of the Lindsays, she married Capt. Alex. G. Gordon of the Navy while she was quite young. After early widowhood, she became the wife of Judge Hopkins. On the outbreak of the war, she was forty-five, wealthy and the mother of several children. Without hesitation she gave herself to the service of the Alabama volunteers and, when the first of them went to Richmond, she followed and organized in the Confederate capital the Alabama Hospital, one of the best of many. It is of record that she and Judge Hopkins gave $200,000 to the maintenance of this hospital and to similar works. Alabama honored her by formal legislative thanks and by placing her fine, aristocratic face on two of the State’s bank-notes. She had the still higher honor of shedding her blood for the South. On the field of Seven Pines, where she went to succor the victims, she received two wounds, and to the day of her death, limped from the effects of her injuries.4 She is buried in Arlington among the brave, her peers, and by that very interment she is memorialized; but what a monument her own narrative of her experience would have been!

Juliet Ann Opie Hopkins, the Florence Nightingale of the South.
Juliet Ann Opie Hopkins, the Florence Nightingale of the South.

From the diaries of the few who recorded their experiences, Doctor Matthew Page Andrews has quoted most effectively in his Women of the South in War Times.5 Probably the first in date of publication among these journals and certainly among the very first in interest was Mrs. Judith Brockenbrough McGuire’s Diary of a Refugee, issued in 1867.6 Mrs. McGuire was of devoted Virginia stock and was the wife of Reverend John P. McGuire, principal of the Episcopal High School, near Alexandria. At forty-eight years of age, she fled before the oncoming Federals and moved to Richmond. Ere she left her home, she began a daily record which, as she subsequently explained, she kept “for the members of the family who are too young to remember these days.” The diary was not one of those spuriously confidential documents written with an eye to subsequent publication. In its naturalness and informality, it is a perfect picture of the mind of the high-bred, religious Southern woman of middle life. The gentility it displays without a single self-conscious touch, the faith it exemplifies, and the light it throws on the hopes and fears of the South make it as interesting psychologically as it is historically.

More diverting than the Diary of a Refugee, though about ten years farther removed from the scene, is Mrs. Phoebe Yates Pember’s A Southern Woman’s Story.7 Mrs. Pember had journeyed to Richmond in her desire to relieve the suffering troops, and at the instance of the wife of the Secretary of War, she accepted the superintendency of a “division” of the vast Chimborazo Hospital. Except as she appears in her own pages, we have only a glimpse of her elsewhere. T. C. de Leon, the Confederate St. Simon, describes her as “brisk and brilliant . . . with a will of steel, under a suave refinement, and [a] pretty, almost Creole accent [which] covered the power to ring in defi on occasion.”8 She found the hospital under excellent general management, with one of the great men of the south at its head; but she discovered among the war surgeons some drunkards and some incompetents. Medical attention was negligent, graft was not lacking. The average ward was anything but what a patriot would like to credit to an institution where, on occasion, as many as 7000 soldiers simultaneously were under treatment for wounds or disease.

Phoebe Yates Levy Pember, around 1855. She was born and raised in Charleston, SC.
Phoebe Yates Levy Pember, around 1855. She was born and raised in Charleston, SC.

The story of Mrs. Pember’s war on waste and thievery, of her struggle with indifference, and of her battle to save the lives of individual soldiers would be heartbreaking were it not told with an odd humor. She wrote as she talked, always to the point; wherefore one almost can hear her relate the story of the family that descended on the hospital and refused to be ousted, or that of the patient’s wife who presented him with a baby daughter on his own hospital bed and had the temerity to name it after the outraged matron. These and a hundred other emergencies Mrs. Pember met with a decision which, one ventures, even the most besotted surgeon learned to respect.

Her most charming story, which she must be permitted to tell at length in her own words, dates from a cold day in 1862, when a “whining voice from a bed in one of the wards drawled, ‘Kin you writ me a letter?’

“The speaker was an up-country Georgian, one of the kind called ‘Goubers’ by the soldiers generally; lean, yellow, attenuated, with wispy strands of hair hanging over his high cheek-bones. He put out a hand to detain me, and the nails were like claws.

“‘Why don’t you let the nurse cut your nails?’

“‘Because I aren’t got any spoon, and I use them instead.’

“‘Will you let me have  your hair cut then? You can’t get well with all that dirty hair hanging about your eyes and ears.’

“‘No, I can’t git my hair cut, kase as how I promised my mammy that I would let it grow till the war be over. Oh, it’s onlucky to cut it!’

“‘Then I can’t write any letter for you. Do what I wish you to do, and then I will oblige you.’

“That was plain talking. The hair was cut (I left the nails for another day), my portfolio brought, and sitting by the side of his bed I waited for further orders. Then came with a formal introduction—‘For Mrs. Marthy Brown.’

“‘My dear Mammy:

“‘I hope this find you well, as it leaves me well, and I hope that I shall git a furlough Christmas, and come and see you, and I hope that you will keep well and all the folks be well by that time, as I hopes to be well myself. This leaves me in good health, as I hope it finds you and—‘

“But here I paused, as his mind seemed to be going round in a circle, and asked him a few questions about his home, his position during the last summer’s campaign, how he got sick, and where his brigade was at that time. Thus furnished with some material to work upon, the letter proceeded rapidly. Four sides were conscientiously filled, for no soldier would think a letter worth sending home that showed any blank paper. Transcribing his name, the number of his ward and proper address, so that an answer might reach him—the composition was read to him. Gradually his pale face brightened, a sitting posture was assumed with difficulty (for, in spite of his determined effort in his letter ‘to be well,’ he was far from convalescence). As I folded and directed it, contributed the expected five-cent stamp, and handed it to him, he gazed cautiously around to be sure there were no listeners.

“‘Did you writ all that?’ he asked, whispering, but with great emphasis.


“‘Did I say all that?’

“‘I think you did.’

“A long pause of undoubted admiration—astonishment ensured. What was working in the poor mind? Could it be that Psyche had stirred one of the delicate plumes of her wing and touched that dormant soul?

“‘Are you married?’ The harsh voice dropped very low.

“‘I am not. At least, I am a widow.’

“He rose still higher in bed. He pushed away desperately the tangled hay on his brow. A faint color fluttered over the hollow cheek, and stretching out a long piece of bone with a talon attached, he gently touched my arm and with constrained voice whispered mysteriously:

“‘ You wait.'”9

Surely this reveals as much of Southern character, male and female, and explains as much of the war as does any page of Mr. Davis’s or any ream of Mr. Stephens’. If historians have lapsed since Mrs. Pember’s day in realistic treatment of the war, the fault assuredly is not hers.

United States postage stamp, 1995, honoring Phoebe Pember.
US stamp, 1995, honoring Phoebe Pember.

One of the most remarkable of all the women’s commentaries on the war was never written. That is to say, it was spoken—presented as testimony before a Senatorial committee. The upper house of the 48th Congress in 1883 directed the committee on Education and Labor to investigate “the relations between Labor and Capital.” As chairman served Henry W. Blair of New Hampshire. Among the eight other members were Gen. William Mahone of Virginia and Nelson W. Aldrich of Rhode Island. As the committee was dispatched, apparently, on a serious quest for information and not on a smelling expedition, it travelled (sic) widely and held hearings in many cities. In November, it came to the town of Birmingham, Alabama, which was then twelve years old and boasted 12,000 population. As witnesses, Congressman G. W. Hewitt brought before the committee the town’s best—Doctor H. W. Caldwell, President of the Elyton Land Company, which developed Birmingham from an old field, Mrs. Caldwell, Mrs. R. W. Boland, and, as a special attraction, Mrs. George R. Ward.

This notable woman, born in Augusta, Georgia, December 8, 1841, had been Margaret Ketcham, and, through her mother’s line was a grandniece of Samuel Griswold Goodrich, better known to the juvenile readers of his school histories as Peter Parley. All the long line of the Connecticut Griswolds was her kin. At sixteen, Margaret Ketcham had married George R. Ward, by whom she had several children, among them George B. Ward, who later became a renowned mayor of Birmingham. During the war, Mrs. Ward lived in Georgia and shared most of the horrors of the invasion, but in 1871 she went to Birmingham with her husband. By the time the Senatorial committee arrived, Mrs. Ward, though only forty-two, was revered as one of the “pioneers” and was a social arbiter besides.

On the evening of November 15, she took the stand. After some formal questions about herself, Mrs. Ward was asked by the chairman: “Had you opportunity of observing the course of life in [Georgia] upon plantations and in society generally prior to the war?” When Mrs. Ward admitted that she had “very full opportunity,” the chairman said, “Give us an idea of how things were in Georgia in those days.” Then Mrs. Ward fairly began. She talked admirably, without a stumble or a pause for correction, and she had a humor, an aptitude for illustration, that entranced the committeemen. After a time, Doctor Caldwell chimed in; Mrs. Boland added her observations; so did Mrs. Caldwell; Colonel Hewitt corrected their history and gave general direction to the hearing. After Mrs. Ward had said about all the committee seemed to need concerning the “servant problem,” one of the members of the committee asked her to relate her experiences during the war. Without a second’s preparation she started and, as the evening wore on, held the committee breathless with her narrative which, after more than fifty years, is as fresh and authentic as when it came from her lips. At the end occurred this colloquy:

The Chairman. Well, Mrs. Ward, on the whole what do you think of the situation?

Mrs. Ward. I think I am going to try to make myself as comfortable as I can with the darkies under existing conditions.

The Chairman. Do you blame us Northern folks for it all, or how do you feel about it?

Mrs. Ward. Yes: I blame you for a great deal of it. I think if you had stayed at home and let us go out of the Union we would have avoided all this trouble. I don’t see what you wanted to keep us in for. When we wanted to go out, you wouldn’t let us, and then when we got back you kept all the time dinging an dinging at us as if to make us go out again. You “reconstructed” us as thought we had never known anything at all, and as though we were indebted to the Northern people for the very first ideas of civilization.

The Chairman. You will get over that feeling after a while.

Mrs. Ward. Oh, yes. You have no idea how soothing it is to be able to say what you please to somebody on the other side, and this is the first opportunity I have ever had to air my sentiments before a Republican Senator.

The Chairman. I have enjoyed it very much, haven’t you?

Mrs. Ward. Intensely. I am very glad to have had an opportunity of saying it to you face to face, and I never say anything worse about people behind their backs than I say to their faces.

The Chairman. Well, speaking for myself, I must say that I like you Southern people down here very much.

Mrs. Ward. We are all very glad you do like us. We thought all the time you would like us if you knew anything about us, but you weren’t willing to take our say-so in the matter. You just seemed to make up your minds you wouldn’t like us and that you weren’t going to like us, but I hope that is passed now, and I do reckon that the times will be better hereafter.10

Margaret Ketcham Ward finally gets to confront the Yankees to their faces!
Margaret Ketcham Ward finally gets to confront the Yankees to their faces!

She had the last word, and she deserved it. “I hope you will not think me foolishly enthusiastic when I write you,” Margaret Mitchell told George G. Ward, in 1936, “that I think your Mother’s testimony is undoubtedly the most perfect and valuable complete picture of a long gone day that I have come across in ten years’ research into the period of the Sixties.” She added: “If I had had that book, I am sure I would not have had to read hundreds of memoirs, letters and diaries to get the background of Gone with the Wind accurately.”

The most famous war-diary of a Southern woman probably is that of Mrs. James Chesnut, Jr. She was born Mary Boykin Miller, daughter of Stephen Decatur Miller, South Carolina Congressman, Governor and United States Senator. Two years after her father’s death in 1838, Mary Miller married James Chesnut, Jr., the inheritor of a distinguished Carolina name and the son of a rich planter. As she was only seventeen at the time of her marriage, Mrs. Chesnut entered with exuberant zest into the social life of the Palmetto State. Her husband, a Princeton graduate, made politics his avocation and devoted to it far more of his time than to his profession, the law. Gradually he came to the front of the secession party, which sent him to the United States Senate in 1858. On the outbreak of the war, he accepted a place on the staff of General Beauregard, but later he took similar service with President Davis, who had a high opinion of Chesnut’s judgment. Varied as were his duties and titles, James Chesnut was, in reality, liaison officer between the Confederacy and South Carolina. On his numerous missions, he often was accompanied by Mrs. Chesnut, who had friends everywhere in the South. Her diary, as published in 1905,11 begins November 8, 1869, [Publisher’s Note: This is a typo. The “9” should be a “0”. The diary begins November 8, 1860.] and ends August 2, 1865. Although she intended to write daily, there are gaps of some length. The internal evidence indicates also that, for some reason, occasional passages of different dates are confused or are connected with disregard of the precise chronology. Despite these blemishes and the exclusion of many items, the printed text of A Diary from Dixie is a remarkable human document. Of the complete devotion of Mrs. Chesnut to the Southern cause, there could be no question; but occasionally the reader hears champagne corks pop while boys are dying in the mud. Then again there is all the poignancy of woman’s understanding of the sorrows of her sisters.

A Diary from Dixie started Nov. 8, 1860 and ended August 2, 1865.
A Diary from Dixie started Nov. 8, 1860 and ended August 2, 1865.

Here, for example, are her entries on the death of Col. Francis Bartow in the First Battle of Manassas:

July 22 [1861] Mrs. Davis came in so softly that I did not know she was here until she leaned over me and said: “A great battle had been fought. Joe Johnston led the right wing, and Beauregard the left wing of the army. Your husband is all right. Wade Hampton is wounded. Colonel Johnston of the Legion killed; so are Colonel Bee and Colonel Bartow. Kirby Smith is wounded or killed.”

I had no breath to speak; she went on in that desperate calm way, to which people betake themselves under the greatest excitement: “Bartow, rallying his men, leading them into the hottest of the fight, died gallantly at the head of his regiment. The President tells me only that ‘it is a great victory.’ General Cooper has all the other telegrams.”
Still I said nothing; I was stunned; then I was so grateful. Those nearest and dearest to me were safe still. She then began, in the same concentrated voice to read from a paper she held in her hand: “Dead and dying cover the field. Sherman’s battery taken. Lynchburg regiment cut to pieces. Three hundred of the [South Carolina Hampton] Legion wounded.”

That got me up. Times were too wild with excitement to stay in bed. We went into Mrs. Preston’s room, and she made me lie down on her bed. Men, women, and children streamed in. Every living soul had a story to tell. “Complete victory,” you heard everywhere. We had been such anxious wretches. The revulsion of feeling was almost too much to bear. . . .

A woman from Mrs. Bartow’s country was in a fury because they had stopped her as she rushed to be the first to tell Mrs. Bartow her husband was killed, it having been decided that Mrs. Davis should tell her. Poor thing! She was found lying on her bed when Mrs. Davis knocked. “Come in,” she said. When she saw it was Mrs. Davis, she sat up, ready to spring to her feet, but then there was something in Mrs. Davis’s pale face that took the life out of her. She stared at Mrs. Davis, then sank back, and covered her face as she asked: “Is it bad news for me?” Mrs. Davis did not speak. “Is he killed?” Afterwards Mrs. Bartow said to me: “As soon as I saw Mrs. Davis’s face I could not say one word. I knew it all in an instant. I knew it before I wrapped my shawl about my head.” . . .

Col. Francis S. Bartow signed the Georgia Ordinance of Secession. He was wounded at First Manassas and died shortly after.
Col. Francis S. Bartow signed the Georgia Ordinance of Secession. He was wounded at First Manassas and died shortly after.

[July 23] Witnessed for the first time a military funeral. As that march came wailing up, they say Mrs. Bartow fainted. The empty saddle and the led war-horse—we saw and heard it all, and now it seems we are never out of the sound of the Dead March in Saul. It comes and it comes, until I feel inclined to close my ears and scream.12

Two more glimpses of Mrs. Bartow appear and then, in May, 1862, occurs this:

Mrs. Bartow, the widow of Colonel Bartow, who was killed at Manassas, was Miss Berrien, daughter of Judge Berrien, of Georgia. She is now in one of the departments here [in Columbia, S. C.], cutting bonds—Confederate bonds—for five hundred Confederate dollars a year, a penniless woman. Judge Carroll, her brother-in-law has been urgent with her to come and live in his home. He has a large family and she will not be an added burden to him. In spite of all he can say, she will not forego her resolution. She will be independent. She is a resolute little woman, with the softest, silkiest voice and ways, and clever to the last point.13

It is from touches of this nature that characters take life and stand out from Mrs. Chesnut’s pages. She said of herself and her sister: “We keep all our bitter words for our enemies. We are frank heathens; we hate our enemies and love our friends.”14 Of this, if it were not playful exaggeration, little appears in her diary. Those whom she did not like she dismissed with few words. About those she admired she wrote again and again. Her finest sketch is of her father-in-law, who fascinated her always. Curiously enough, the figure of her own husband, though it was strong and forceful in public life, is almost shadowy in her pages. Her qualities are oddly gallic: One has to pinch oneself to realize that she is writing of hungry Richmond and of the Anglo-Saxon South.

End of Part I.


1 Douglas Southall Freeman, The South to Posterity (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1939).

2 The individuals mentioned in Miss Munford’s letter are easily identified. Several of them are well known. “Willie Pegram,” of course, was Col. William Johnson Pegram, the gallant commanding officer of the Pegram Battalion, A. P. Hill’s Third Corps, Army of Northern Virginia. Colonel Pegram was a son of Gen. James W. Pegram and Mrs. Virginia Johnson Pegram, of Richmond, and a brother of Gen. John Pegram, C. S. A. “Kate Corbin” was a devoted friend of Miss Sallie Radford Munford, and was of the well-known family of that name of Caroline County. She later was the wife of Com. John M. Brooke, Confederate States Navy, who after the conclusion of the war was a member of the faculty of the Virginia Military Institute, at Lexington. “Bro Tom” was Col. Thomas Taylor Munford, Cavalry Corps, Army of Northern Virginia. He was a son of George Wythe Munford by that gentleman’s first marriage to Lucy Singleton Taylor. Colonel Munford, consequently, was an older half-brother of the writer of the letter. “Jemmie Tucker” was James Ellis Tucker, a son of Nathaniel Beverly Tucker and Jane Ellis, and a first cousin, through the maternal line, of Miss Sallie Radford Munford. A brother of James Ellis Tucker was the late Rt. Rev. Beverly Dandridge Tucker, D.D., Bishop of the Episcopal diocese of Southern Virginia. “Uncle Bev” was Nathaniel Beverly Tucker, father of “Jemmie” who had been wounded, and one of the sons of Judge Henry St. George Tucker and Ann Evelina Hunter. The reference in the letter to “the Munfords” is to Maria, Sally, and Nannie Munford, daughters of John Durburrow Munford and Eliza Roper. Their parents had been residing at the old “Tazewell Hall,” in Williamsburg. These girls, who were among the first cousins of the writer, were at this time “refugeeing” in Richmond at the homes of relatives. Their father, John D. Munford, was a son of William and Sarah Radford Munford. One of these Munford cousins of the writer, Sally, later married Judge J. D. Coles, of Chatham, Pittsylvania County, and Nannie married Capt. Robert A. Bright, of Williamsburg, who was an aide to Gen. George E. Pickett. Maria Munford, the oldest of the three sisters, died unmarried. “The Prices” were the old family of that name which resided at “Dundee,” a lovely old Hanover County home. The Prices were related to Maria, Sally, and Nannie Munford, who, as the letter states, had been planing to pay a visit to their Hanover County cousins. When the writer says “congratulate Robert for me” the reference is to Robert Beverly Munford who had been promoted to the rank of Captain and assigned as the A. Q. M. of the Pegram Battalion. He was the second son of Dr. Robert and Anne Curtis Munford and a brother of John H. Munford to whom the letter is addressed.

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