A Delta Diary

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This short, independently-published 2008 book has nothing of the 13th Regiment in it but is nevertheless a fine explication of what was going on at home in Mississippi during the war.

Diarist Amanda Worthington was much younger than the high society South Carolina matron Mary Chesnut, the most prominent Southern writer of the war. Mary’s famous diaries captured the chaos of a slave-owning society at war, exploring the making, marking and breaking of the Confederacy from its Richmond seat of power.

The teenage Confederate belle Amanda, though less educated or worldly, nevertheless had Mary’s eye for detail and ear for social nuance in her smaller and less influential Delta planter society. Amanda is as forthright, as critical of people she doesn’t like as Mary is, and as frank about herself: “…anybody I can’t freeze must be tolerably hard to take a hint…to anyone I don’t like I can be icily cold.”

“Mr. Rodin…sang several songs for us which were torturing to our auditory nerves, as he hasn’t a particle of voice.”

“Miss Pettit…is so ugly, uninteresting, talks through her nose & I know she is common. There now, I feel relieved!”

I love her details of what they ate and wore, and their illnesses and remedies (turpentine for a sore throat, ouch!). They had to be (and were) fearful of what a headache, a fever or a sore throat might lead to–with few reliable remedies available.

It’s a wonder to me that Amanda and her sister, Mary, were always expected to dress and come to the parlor to entertain guests, including by playing the piano and singing. Even men and women they didn’t know seemed to wander in at all hours expecting to be fed and sung to.

Pity editor Troy Woods doesn’t give us at least a summary of what happened to her the rest of her life. Fortunately, there’s Google, and more material to be found, of her marriage and mothering and death. Wood’s editing also is confusing in spots. He doesn’t use brackets and so it’s hard to tell if the parentheses are his or hers. But that’s a minor matter in such a good book.

Read it, if you care to know more about part of the region that produced the 13th Mississippi’s ranks. You won’t be sorry.

About Dick Stanley

Retired Texas daily newspaperman
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