While we were on our trip out West, I mentioned that I was reading Sarah Morgan: The Civil War Diary of a Southern Woman. While I didn't manage to finish it on our trip, I did read most of it (let's just say we had a long wait for our flight out of Las Vegas!) and completed it shortly after we returned.
Sarah Morgan's life sometimes reads more like a novel than like real life. I felt like I knew Sarah by the end of the diary, as if I would recognize her if I saw her on the street. Sometimes I felt a twinge of guilt as I realized that I was reading a girl's innermost thoughts!
Sarah's diary is also an invaluable resource for understanding the customs and costumes of the South during the Civil War. She makes frequent allusions to her dresses (just as any young woman today might!), and describes their delicate frills with an enthusiasm that warms the cockles of any historic costumer's heart!
I particularly enjoyed this lament:
"I was so mortified this evening! in going there, just as I got to Dr. Enders' corner, a gust of wind exposed my feet fully to the gaze of a party of officers who were contemplating me from Heroman's balcony. I hardly know which I hated most; the men for seeing, or myself for exposing my feet." ~ July 21st, 1862 (pg. 169)
How many young women today, I wonder, would be horrified that their feet were exposed to view!
I also appreciated Sarah's strong faith, which permeates her diary. Throughout the struggles she encountered during those horrible years -- losing her dearest brother in a duel and losing her father to illness shortly after; fleeing from her home; being thrown from a carriage and in danger of losing her life; spending a year as an invalid in constant pain; and worst of all, losing two other brothers within a week of each other, just before the end of the war -- Sarah relies on her heavenly Father and trust in Him no matter what the circumstances. I found her story inspiring, as she faced difficulty after difficulty without losing her faith in her Savior.
Sarah's diary is a mixture of pain and pleasure; horrific fears for her home, family, and country are mingled with parties and excursions that seem out of place in the war-torn South. After reading the introduction, I was horribly afraid that I would find the diary simply a string of feminist rants -- I don't think I have ever read such a misleading introduction!
I highly recommend Sarah's diary -- it is fascinating on many levels, and is a valuable resource for any interested in the Civil War. Sarah herself sums up the feelings of many in her era, as she begins a new volume in the middle of the war years:
"A fresh volume! Where shall I be at the end of it? Will I be once more seated at my old desk in my dear little room, comfortably settled at home? Or will I have no home then, and be what to me is worse than death--a wanderer who has no spot that may be called "home"? Will the blank pages record the burning of Baton Rouge, and the loss of our all? Will the close of it find me still running, or at last settled in what is to be our future dwelling in New Orleans? Will they leave us at Peace, or in war? Who knows? Leave it to Destiny. Write page after page, day after day, and mark the final event. It takes many days to bring about such a result; make them fly past, and thank Heaven that is one day nearer the end. Wait patiently, I say. This war cannot last for ever; and then comes blessed Peace! Will I be able to appreciate it?" ~ August 4th, 1862 (pg. 189)