on October 15, 2000
What an amazing book! To read this book is to take a trip back in
time. Not a politically correct book, but the diaries of a complex
young woman who was haughty and kind, flirtatious and proper,
deferential to men and determined to be an independent spinster. Sarah
Morgan was a rebel in terms of both her Southern heritage and her
pre-feminism beliefs. Her words depict a white world-view that doesn't
recognize its own racism, as well as her personal defiance of
society's expectations of her as a woman. She was a talented writer
with opinions that varied from modern, by today's standards, to
cripplingly in sync with the standards of 1860s Louisiana. As a Civil
War book, as a woman's memoir, and as a journey into one of the United
States' most fascinating and tragic times, this book is truly
on September 5, 2006
Well, I never thought I'd be writing one of these, but the last two reviews, being grossly unfair, inspired me. I read Sarah Morgan's diary about two years ago, so this is coming from memory. Whatever one may think of Ms. Morgan as a person (and judging her from contemporary standards would surely be a mistake), she was for her age extremely well-educated and articulate. Her prose is, in comparison to most today, exceptional (again, especially for her age). The same can be said of her insight (which, of course, for any person of her age, is by no means beyond reproach). Aside from constituting a valuable guide to the mind of a young southern woman during the Civil War, her story (which is anything but dull) provides historical context and perspective to the union army's ascent up the Mississippi. Without knowing something of this military campaign, I can see how another reader might not enjoy her diary. Lastly, Ms. Morgan was truly a feminist -- a word I do not particularly care for as it seems to overly excite some and unduly offend others. She was, like most women of her time, a product of a male-dominated society. She questions this society in her diary and, if I recall correctly from the preface, led her later years in a way most feminists of today would be proud. Nothing but enjoyable reading here.
on February 20, 2002
When reading this superb Civil War diary the reader is immediately struck by two things. One, it is hard to believe that so young a woman could have expressed herself and her feelings so beautifully, and two, it is even more amazing that everything contain in this diary is exactly as Sarah Morgan wrote it originally. That is to say, it was not polished and edited afterwards (as Mary Chestnut intended to do, but was not able). If you want to take a glimpse at what living through four years of war was like for a Southern family and especially a young Southern woman you need look no further.
on March 12, 2012
Wow! It's Scarlett O'Hara in the flesh! As much as I have read about the Civil War over the years, this book, above all the others, made it seem real to me, made it much more intimate than any of the other books I have read. Sarah Morgan allows us to see a real person through the pages of her diary. I want to say "This is a great little book", but of course it's not little at 650+ pages, and the topics of the War and the Confederacy are very imposing, but the flow of the writing and the girl herself (she is 19 when she starts the diary) make it appear very close and personal.
I recently re-read Gone With The Wind and I was surprised that Sarah Morgan was so much like the fictional Scarlett O'Hara. They both were spunky as well as helpless in the face of battle, yet retained their "fiddle-dee-dee" attitude of youth. One big difference in these two ladies is that Sarah Morgan loved book-learning and educated herself to the point where she quoted Shakespeare and other poets as well as the bible on a daily basis in the diary and she used a lot of French language which I suppose wasn't that unusual in Louisiana, though it surprised and impressed me continually.
I really enjoyed this book, though it had two major drawbacks which could be corrected in future editions. One problem is something I should have learned years ago, and that is to be careful of a lengthy Introduction, and this book has a very long one that gives all the facts of Sarah's life including the fate of the family home and where they lived during the war, who lived, who died, etc. -- basically the entire "plot" of the book. What's the point of reading it when Charles East tells all there is to know about Sarah Morgan in his Introduction, up to and including details of her death? And then I was constantly having to flip back through the pages to check on the day, date, year, etc. since it is not noted anyplace other than the first diary entry of Book I, Book II, etc. and I would lose the sense of time during the days I was reading this long book.
Editorial complaints aside, how exciting it is to read the epic events of history through preserved diaries and journals, letters, etc. that were written with no thought about publication but just as a way of preserving memories. We are fortunate to have these first-hand accounts.
on March 17, 2006
So far I am enjoying the diary of Sarah Morgan, it is my opinion that Scarlett O'Hara was patterned after her. Her writing is very interesting without being droll or boring.
And as a Civil War reenactor with a Southern character, it is helpful learning how the women of the south felt and what they did while enduring the hardships of the war. Having to leave your home and all the worldly things that we all hold so dear was a hardship for many of them. Thank goodness for those who were successful in hiding family heirlooms and whatnot to pass down through the generations. It really was horrible how the "Federals" (Yankees) destroyed there homes just for the spite of it.
The long and short of it is; I am enjoying the diary very much and learning another stitch in our history.
on March 24, 2014
Sarah Morgan wrote this diary when she was about 16 during the War of Northern Aggression. She lived in Baton Rouge from which she and her family had to flee as refugees. After numerous false alarms, packings and unpackings, they eventually have to leave their home behind and see it occupied by Yankees. Sarah Morgan's voice comes across so wonderfully in her writing and her expression is delightful to read. It gives the reader a real sense of what it was like for the good people of the South, driven from their homes while their menfolk were fighting the war. When the author is forced to take refuge in New Orleans, which was already occupied by the Yankees, and stay with her brother who was a Unionist, it is heart-wrenching to hear this young woman wrestling with her love of her country and her principles. Books like this show how much more there is to the Civil War than is usually taught from the Northern point of view. It was not all about slavery, and the people of the South were just ordinary people, as concerned with the welfare of their servants as the rest of their family. One cannot generalize, I suppose, but this diary will be an eye-opener if you have never considered the plight of Southern women under attack by and enemy American army.
on December 27, 2012
It is a coming of age story by a 19-year old female in Baton Rouge at the start of the Civil War. While Sarah enjoys being a female, she would like being a male much more. Actually, she wishes women would be allowed to do the things that men do. While I began reading the book to get an idea of an average Southerner's attitudes about the war, I soon became fascinated by this young woman's insights and her great ability to express her thoughts in written words. As I read the book I became more interested in Sarah the person than in the events of the war in Baton Rouge. Previously, I had read Mary Chesnut's diary. While I have nothing bad to say about the writing ability of Mary Chesnut, the thoughts of Sarah Morgan are more fully developed. For me, it made this diary more interesting.
I gave the book four instead of five stars because I feel that the highest rating should be reserved for truly great works. However, the diary of Sarah Morgan is extremely interesting, both for Civil War buffs or for somemone simply interest in good writing.
on June 19, 2010
First off, let me say this book was a lot of fun to read as it takes you into a culture we don't know any longer. Sarah tells you of the culture back then of having servants, how men talked to women back then, being in a wealthy family in the 1800s and what war was like in her eyes. She gets you close to the soldiers and generals known to us all through history books. She shares her opinion and doesn't hold back which makes you feel like you are her best friend sharing secrets and rumors of the war.
While people have written reviews saying she is not very P.C., it's true because there was no such thing back then. People said what they felt and didn't get offended. There was no need to go out of your way to make sure someone didn't get offended. Sarah shares with you how tough people were back then, how scary war can be and how even though she may have been brought up wealthy, she has a backbone and can take on anything. You instantly feel cheated by reading this book after realizing how lazy we are all now. She was well educated (something America lacks now) and wanted to learn more, often going to her room to study, she was well spoken which is something we lack also, and seemed to be a very kind girl. It was a completely different world.
If you want a first hand look at the culture of Southerners trying to win independence from the North controlling everything in the US, being a Southerner and the politics back then, get this book. You won't be bored.
on May 7, 2015
I liked this book for the insight it gave me to life of civilian living in the south. She gives one a good idea what her life was like before the civil war and what it was like during and after. She starts out as a immature girl in a well do family, and develops into women as the war goes on. Through her story we see what the war does to families and the south.
on July 15, 2015
A good accounting of what the people in Louisiana went through during the Civil War and the difficulties of having people you love on both sides of the conflict. Sarah acted fairly and with respect towards her siblings, no matter differing personal beliefs.
I think identifying with Sarah was one of the main reasons I liked this book. Like Sarah, I'm only too happy to be left alone with my books, writing and thoughts. So too, I grow nervous at the idea of mingling in company and dread large gatherings and parties. A humorous touch was added in the way she seemed to be, for lack of a better term, "a loser magnet". The following passage sums up her unfortunate meetings with gentlemen she'd rather not have encountered. "As I seem to possess irresistible attractions for every fool, the biggest one in the room fastened himself to me" (page 538), a circumstance which happens with great frequency throughout the book.
A nice peek at a budding feminist of the time. Sarah was a refreshing change from the conformity of most other women of the time without losing her sense of propriety. Intelligent, witty and unwilling to yield to the whims of any man without good reason. No wonder so many men fell in love with her (much to her chagrin and amazement) without her even trying to curry their favor. A beautiful wordsmith who can inspire longing and patriotic fervor along with a humorous touch which found me laughing out loud at intervals. A true treasure even if she repeatedly dismisses her writing as unworthy foolishness. I also appreciated the introduction which gives a glimpse of Sarah's later years, so her story doesn't end abruptly at twenty-three years of age.
When Sarah writes about the death of her two brothers in early 1864, my grief was palpable and I was moved to tears. One of the saddest things I have ever read in my life. Her sorrow cuts like a blade! I think the huge lapse in diary entries in 1864 (after her brothers' deaths) speaks more eloquently than any words regarding her grief. Thereafter, her writing takes on a more subdued tone, too, and you can sense a change in her. A spark seems to have died with her brothers.
The only reason I took off one star is because she definitely acts the snob at times without even realizing, despite her sincere piousness. I do, however, have great admiration for the way she stoically endured a crippling back injury for many months. As the book ended, I felt as if I was parting from an old friend.
An interesting side note. Sarah Morgan is the great-great aunt of Gloria Vanderbilt.