Mary Boykin Chesnut Essay

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In every regard, Mary Boykin Chesnut was a remarkable woman. She penned the best known diary that detailed the Civil War from a southerner’s point of view. Despite her being a staunch defender of the Confederate cause, Mary also spoke openly about her opposition to slavery. She was raised in a family that depended on slavery for their very existence, but she still felt deeply that somehow it was morally wrong. Mary Boykin Miller was born on March 31, 1823. She was born on her grandparents’ plantation near Statesburg, South Carolina. She was the eldest child of Mary Boykin and Stephen Decatur Miller. (Chesnut - #4, pg xviii) Her father was elected governor of South Carolina when Mary was only five
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She had wondered also about the fate of slave women whom she had seen at auctions. Chesnut was strongly affected by these auctions, as shown in her later writing: "South Carolina slave holder as I am, my very soul sickens — it is too dreadful" Seeing separate church services for blacks and whites made her question why all "Christians" did not talk to one another. Other things strengthened Chesnut's hatred of slavery. A friend, Mary Whitherspoon, had returned home unexpectedly to find her slaves having a party and using the plantation silver. Threatened with floggings, the slaves had smothered Whitherspoon to death. At another household a mistreated maid had attempted to poison her master, a respected colonel. In yet another incident, Chesnut noted a slave woman so driven by her master that she took her own baby and waded into a raging river to end their lives and escape her woes. In her diary, Chesnut wondered if it was a sin for a white southern woman to be opposed to slavery. Part of her dislike for slavery came from her belief that caring for the blacks was unprofitable. She wished the northerners "had the Negroes — we the cotton" She also disliked slavery because she thought of slaves as "dirty Africans" and because she was disgusted with the treatment many slaves received Chesnut stayed at the plantation for
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