Discussion What's your favorite Civil War diary/memoir?

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Nathanb1

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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My favorite is one we did here years ago. A gentleman in Europe had purchased a diary in a local shop with a lot of other old journals/diaries. It happened to be a young man who was from (my memory is vague) Alabama or Mississippi--he kept it from April 1862 or so. We had to take it page by page and decipher the writing, then we got busy and someone found the unit he was in and eventually learned about his life post-war. He was a terrific diarist--and my favorite memory is his being in charge of his company's pots and pans. On trains, he always had to keep a close watch on them lest they "disappear". I'll nose around and see if I can find and link it...hope it still exists!
 

Nathanb1

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Lubliner

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I know that life isn't fair and that this is really minor compared to the suffering of other people.

However, it bothers me a little bit that C. Van Woodward got a Pulitzer for Mary Chesnut's diary, and Mary Chesnut didn't get anything for writing it. She didn't even make any money (even a tiny bit) off of the book, since she died decades before it was published.

I do know that Mary Chesnut was NOT the only person who ever labored for someone else's profit.
Ah, but considering the editorial process involved to complete the proofs of what Mary had written, and then to lay out the entire meaning with the characters involved and the synopsis of those involvements with whom and why; and believing that Mary had no immediate desire to publish if I recall correctly. I know many writers had written 'for the sake of posterity' and her purposes were family oriented. I believe one quote of hers represented Crucifixion; "...and we had to divide our garments..." for survival. Where the money goes that profited individuals I don't know, but mankind profited by the publishment, and nothing was squandered to lessen the gains.
Foundations exist and so do other edited versions of her diary. I no longer remember which one I read, but it was concise and complete.
Thank you for responding,
Lubliner.
 
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Lubliner

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On my to do list for reading--
A Cavalryman With Custer by J. D. Kidd
On my to do list for re-reading--
Campaigning With Grant by Horace Porter
I have the time read my watch--
Lubliner.
 

Lubliner

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Chattanooga, Tennessee
A Year on a Monitor and the Destruction of Fort Sumter, by Alvah F. Hunter. Hunter was a "ship's boy" on the monitor Nahant, and he kept a diary; in later life, he went back and expanded his diary as a sort of gift to his descendants, so there's an interesting mix of you-are-there and later reflection.
Thought this was excellently written.
 
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Booner

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My favorite is a little different, it's the Watts-Hays letters, available here-->http://wattshaysletters.com/
The letters mainly revolve around Margaret Watts, her family, and the family of her husband, Upton Hays, (Daniel Boone's great grandson). The letters begin in 1849 as Margaret's father writes to her while on his way to the California gold fields and ends roughly in the 1870's, although there are a few letters going into the early 20th century. It's really a chronical of one prominent western Missouri family trials, (largely from Margaret's pro-southern point of view), as they live through "Bleeding Kansas," the Civil War, the loss of her husband, and reconstruction. It includes a index of persons mentioned in the letters, and this reads as a "who's who of western Missouri personalities.
 

Cavalry Charger

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Well, It has to be 'The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant' for me!

Grant received many accolades for his writing with regard to his memoirs, and I found them easy to read as well as giving a real insight into the man and his achievements. They were suprisingly self-effacing, IMO.
 
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mags48

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Apr 30, 2016
My research of Rufus Dawes cements him as my forever favorite, and (I have to be careful) so much so it inspired a literary event. He excluded much from his memoir (Service with the Sixth Wisconsin) for personal reasons at the time, but his whole story is fascinating. He did NOT suffer PTSD from what I understand of the definition. He was proud of his service and openly wrote of his battle trauma. He lived a loving, productive life as a husband, father, businessman, congressman, community leader. As it relates to Dawes and the Iron Brigade, several other accounts/diaries are well worth exploring: ""History of the Sauk County Riflemen" and "Capture and Escape" by John A. Kellogg, both on archive.org; and, great for all but especially for ladies, "Julia Cutler's Civil War Journal", see juliacutlerjournal.blogspot.com. I view Julia Cutler (Rufus' aunt and daughter of Ephraim Cutler - ref. "The Pioneers" by D. McCullough) as the "Mary Chestnut of the North" - an intelligent, insightful, wonderful person.
 
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ArcticState

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Feb 24, 2018
Authenticity in question, but the diary of Josie Underwood, daughter of Unionist congressman Warner Underwood, is an excellent narrative of life in and around Bowling Green during the Confederate, then Union occupation of that city.
 
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I didn't add my own yet - though it's hard to pick just one. I really like Anthony Keiley's Prisoner of War, or Five Months Among the Yankees. He has a sly way of telling the story that makes it very enjoyable, despite the tough (at times) subject matter.
I too found his diary fascinating and full of details I intend to use use in my writing since several of my characters are imprisoned at Elmira.
 

gary

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Feb 20, 2005
Most useful to me was Wyman White's Diary.
John Worsham's One Of Jackson's Foot Cavalry really got me hooked on the Civil War.
 
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Polloco

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John B. Jones "A Rebel War Clerk's Diary" is an interesting piece of work which gives some insight into War-time Richmond. It chronicles the home front, which is a very interesting part of the war. It didn't all happen on the battlefields.
 

Polloco

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It's not a favorite yet but could be as it just may be the next "Civil War " book that I read. Sallie Ann Brock's "Richmond During The War:Four years of Personal Observation" by a Richmond Lady. I hope that I got the title correct as she later wrote 4 more books under the pen-name Virginia Madison.
 
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jackt62

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New York City
In terms of memoirs, Grant's are probably the easiest to read. I've read Taylor's "Destruction and Reconstruction," which are written in a highly literate style as befitting the writer's background. John Bell Hood's "Advance and Retreat," and Joe Johnston's "Narrative of Military Operations" must be viewed with some skepticism as they both carry on their heated dispute about the manner in which the Atlanta campaign was carried out.
 
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