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Tedious but interesting
on January 20, 2016
If you decide to read this book, make up your mind you're in it for the long haul. It is over 810 pages, interesting yet tedious at the same time. It gives you insight into what the upper class in South Carolina experienced during the Civil War.
While Mary Chesnut writes about being against slavery, she certainly had no trouble using household slaves. I learned a great deal about the emancipation did/did not affect slaves. In this story, the majority of them want to stay with their masters. I equate it to prisoners who have been institutionalized so long they are afraid to be released.
The amount of people in and out of her residence on a daily basis is mindboggling. She (and her household slaves) never know in advance how many people will be at dinner or how many people will be staying the night. Even while the war is going on, there are a dizzying amount of parties, teas, and other social gatherings. The variety of food available to them is astonishing while their soldiers are starving. Her residence is always full of generals and other officers. It is only when Sherman starts advancing that she and her friends suffer.
Throughout the journal, Mary Chesnut moves from place to place, depending on the season and who she visits. The books starts in Charleston where she lives. She is close personal friends with Jefferson Davis and his wife, Varina. She spends a sizeable amount of time in Richmond, the Confederate capitol. When the fear of Sherman is too much, she basically becomes homeless, relying upon the kindness of friends, strangers, and what little worthless Confederate money she has.
Mrs. Chesnut is very critical throughout the book of the fact that there are so many generals and so few soldiers left. The generals have no one to lead and are therefore worthless. Her many younger female friends suffer greatly as the men they love, both kin and fiances, are killed off. However, they all agree it is better to serve and die for your country than to be a malingerer at home. They are very judgmental on men who find ways to stay out of the war.
The book opened my eyes in many ways. I knew that Jefferson Davis was not universally admired as president of the Confederacy, but it turns out that half the people loved him, and half hated him. The generals that despised him did as they wished rather than as ordered. The rumors were always flying because communication was so bad then.