“I do not pretend to sleep. How can I? If Anderson does not accept terms at four, the orders are, he shall be fired upon,” Chesnut wrote on April 12, 1861, from her home in Charleston. “I count four, St. Michael’s bells chime out and I begin to hope. At half-past four the heavy booming of a cannon. I sprang out of bed, and on my knees prostrate began to pray as I never prayed before.”
Her account, which she edited for years in an attempt to get it published, was not published until after her death in 1886. It was given the name “Diary from Dixie” when it was serialized in the Saturday Evening Post in the early 1900s. Chesnut’s original diary is kept at the University of South Carolina’s South Caroliniana Library, the oldest freestanding college library in the US, along with photos and other papers from the family.
Born Mary Boykin Miller in 1823, she spent much of her life near Camden. Her father was a US congressman and governor of South Carolina.
Miller was just 17 years old when she married James Chesnut Jr., who was elected to the US Senate in 1858. The couple spent fewer than two years in Washington, leaving upon Lincoln’s election in November 1860. That December, South Carolina voted to secede from the United States, and her husband became a brigadier general in the Confederate army. He was an aide to Davis, who gave his last speech in Columbia from the steps of the Chesnuts’ home, which is now a bed-and-breakfast in downtown Columbia.
Many sites in South Carolina have a connection to the Chesnuts, who lived in various locations around the state before settling near Camden after the war.Two of those sites are now B&Bs. The