A search on diaries yields sixteen documents. Diaries are among the most personal, as well as the most suspect, documents in the collection -- personal, because they were ostensibly never intended for public perusal, suspect because publication gives rise to questions of authenticity. For instance, in the introduction to Sarah Dawson Morgan's A Confederate Girl's Diary, her son writes that long after the close of the war, a northern gentleman requested a copy of his mother's diary, but, upon receiving it, questioned the document's authenticity:
Her transcription finished, she sent it to Philadelphia. It was in due course returned, with cold regrets that the temptation to rearrange it had not been resisted. No Southerner at that time could possibly have had opinions so just or foresight so clear as those here attributed to a young girl . . . Keenly wounded and profoundly discouraged, my mother returned the diaries to their linen envelope, and never saw them again.
Page xi, A Confederate Girl's Diary
- Why does the northerner conclude that the manuscript is not authentic?
- Why might Dawson have wanted to make her private documents public?
- What is Dawson's daughter trying to prove about her mother's diary in this passage?
- Why would someone want to publish Dawson's diary?
Questions of authenticity aside, however, the diaries in the collection are among the most valuable resources available to a historian interested in more than the surface details of an individual's life. Frances Hewitt Fearn's Diary of a Refugee, which the author later adapted for the stage, tells of her experiences in wartime Lousiana. The Diary of Bartlett Yancey Malone concisely relates the author's daily observations concerning items such as the weather, the condition of his fellow North Carolina volunteers, camp rumors overheard, and spiritual lessons learned.
Emma LeConte's journal, listed in the collection as Diary, 1864-1865, contains the then seventeen-year old girl's observations on the last year of the Confederacy. LeConte's descriptions of the quotidian details of her life reflect the sometimes mundane, sometimes overwhelming, concerns of her youth. For instance, at the height of the Confederacy's crises, she writes:
A horrid day. Rain, rain, rain. I have been sitting over the fire knitting and reading. Mother sitting opposite with her knitting asked me such endless questions in regard to her stocking that I put down my book impatiently and am trying to write. I feel awfully cross and out of sorts, and can't at all understand how so simple an affair as knitting a stocking should appear an insoluble problem.
Page 5, Diary, 1864-1865
- What is LeConte's tone in this passage? What does it reveal about the author?
- How does LeConte characterize her mother?
- How do words like "horrid," "endless," "cross," and "affair" affect the style of the passage?
- Is journal keeping still popular today?