Diary of a Southern Refugee during the War

Diary of a Southern Refugee during the War

Diary of a Southern Refugee during the War

Diary of a Southern Refugee during the War

Excerpt

Some of the most revealing chronicles of life during the Civil War came from the busiest people. Moreover, those who recorded lengthy observations tended to be well educated and farsighted. Judith Brockenbrough McGuire was in that relatively small class.

Her Diary of a Southern Refugee during the War is among the first such works published after the Civil War. The book initially appeared in 1867 and has been reprinted four times. It is one of the most quoted of memoirs written by a Confederate woman. Yet no historian has heretofore assumed the tasks of identifying scores of individuals mentioned by initials only, giving references for poems and quotations sprinkled throughout the text, or even providing an adequate summary of the Mrs. McGuire’s extraordinary life.

She came from solid Virginia stock. Brockenbroughs were principal settlers of Essex County, where the Rappahannock River widens toward its confluence with the Chesapeake Bay. Her father, William Brockenbrough (1778–1838), was a native of Tappahannock and graduate of the College of William and Mary. In 1802 he won election to the Virginia General Assembly. That began a long career as a Richmond attorney and judge. Eventually Brockenbrough became a member of the Virginia Court of Appeals. An acquaintance described the jurist as “a gentleman distinguished for the soundness of his legal knowledge and honored for the purity of his life, during a period when the old Commonwealth could point with becoming pride to the unsullied ermine of her judiciary.”

Brockenbrough married Judith Robinson White, whose King William County antecedents included a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a long line of Episcopal ministers. The family home, Westwood, was near Richmond in Hanover County. There, on March 19, 1813, the youngest daughter of the Brockenbroughs’ six children was born. Named for her mother, young Judith grew up among Richmond’s elite. A cousin, Dr. John Brockenbrough, had built a palatial downtown residence that became “the . . .

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