COLUMBIA — Nearly 200 photographs that famed Civil War diarist Mary Boykin Chestnut collected to illustrate her epic account of that conflict have been reunited with her original journals, 125 years after her death.
Chestnut’s descendants have given the photos to the University of South Carolina, where several dozen will be on public display through Jan. 31 in the school’s South Caroliniana Library. Chestnut’s seven original journals and dozens of later edits have been at the university since the early 1960s.
Chestnut’s daily accounts, which she expanded in later edits to create an autobiographical tone, have long been a historical source as one of the better depictions of the South in the Civil War. The best-known version, published in 1981, is widely considered the finest literary work of the Confederacy.
“The albums are basically the eyes, the faces, the hands of those who figure in the diary,” Henry Fulmer, the library’s curator of manuscripts, said Thursday.
“They absolutely confirm and illustrate her panoramic view of the Civil War as a great epic tragedy,” said her great-great grand-niece Marty Daniels, 67, who is among 12 in her generation responsible for the upkeep of the family’s historic Mulberry Plantation near Camden.