Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Two Civil Wars: The Curious Shared Journal of a Baton Rouge Schoolgirl and a Union Sailor on the USS Essex

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Two Civil Wars: The Curious Shared Journal of a Baton Rouge Schoolgirl and a Union Sailor on the USS Essex

Article excerpt

Two Civil Wars: The Curious Shared Journal of a Baton Rouge Schoolgirl and a Union Sailor on the USS Essex. Edited by Katherine Bentley Jeffrey. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2016. Pp. xxii, 274. $38.00, ISBN 978-0-8071-6224-8.)

There is the fog of war, and then there are the coincidences. Take the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis were both born in Kentucky. The war began on Wilmer McLean's doorstep and ended in his parlor. Katherine Bentley Jeffrey has uncovered another coincidence in the form of a journal shared by a Louisiana Catholic schoolgirl and a Scottish-born Canadian serving in the Union navy. Jeffrey faithfully reproduces both journals along with a copious introduction and extensive appendixes documenting the lives of the principals and their loved ones after the Civil War.

The child. Celeste Repp, attended St. Mary's Academy in Baton Rouge. Her "journal" was in fact a French composition book into which she dutifully recorded a series of exercises relating the small pleasures of life (gardening); gems of moral instruction (do not lie; be grateful to your teachers); and affectionate salutations to her headmistress, Matilda Victor, and her priest. Father Darius Hubert. The entries are uniformly charming but in no way remarkable for a nineteenth-century white southern schoolgirl.

In 1862 Baton Rouge was overrun by Union forces, and the school was seized and converted into a makeshift hospital. Here begins the story of William L. Park, who had enlisted for three years in the ironclad fleet engaging the enemy along the Mississippi River. Most of his service occurred on the USS Essex. While being treated in the improvised hospital for typhoid fever. …

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