Josie Underwood's Civil War Diary
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A well-educated, outspoken member of a politically prominent family in Bowling Green, Kentucky, Josie Underwood (1840–1923) left behind one of the few intimate accounts of the Civil War written by a southern woman sympathetic to the Union. This vivid portrayal of the early years of the war begins several months before the first shots were fired on Fort Sumter in April 1861. "The Philistines are upon us," twenty-year-old Josie writes in her diary, leaving no question about the alarm she feels when Confederate soldiers occupy her once-peaceful town. Offering a unique perspective on the tensions between the Union and the Confederacy, Josie reveals that Kentucky was a hotbed of political and military action, particularly in her hometown of Bowling Green, known as the Gibraltar of the Confederacy. Located along important rail and water routes that were vital for shipping supplies in and out of the Confederacy, the city linked the upper South's trade and population centers and was strategically critical to both armies. Capturing the fright and frustration she and her family experienced when Bowling Green served as the Confederate army's headquarters in the fall of 1861, Josie tells of soldiers who trampled fields, pilfered crops, burned fences, cut down trees, stole food, and invaded homes and businesses. In early 1862, Josie's outspoken Unionist father, Warner Underwood, was ordered to evacuate the family's Mount Air estate, which was later destroyed by occupying forces. Wartime hardships also strained relationships among Josie's family, neighbors, and friends, whose passionate beliefs about Lincoln, slavery, and Kentucky's secession divided them. Published for the first time, Josie Underwood's Civil War Diary interweaves firsthand descriptions of the political unrest of the day with detailed accounts of an active social life filled with travel, parties, and suitors. Bringing to life a Unionist, slave-owning young woman who opposed both Lincoln's policies and Kentucky's secession, the diary dramatically chronicles the physical and emotional traumas visited on Josie's family, community, and state during wartime.
argument—like the simpleton I am—quoted the speech of Ellen Douglas. “Rather would Ellen Douglas dwell, A prioress in Moravanian’s [sic] cell, Than in realms beyond the sea Courting the world’s cold charity— An outcast pilgrim would she rove Than wed the man she can not love.”3 Then was so mad at myself for doing it—and felt like a fool. When Mr. Grafton said in the cold quiet way he has, “You are sentimental—aren’t you Miss Underwood”— Mr. Crew came to my rescue answering—“No, not a bit
me back again. We had a grand time when we left Memphis. Mr. Western and sister Jupe went to the train with us and there we found Jack—Mr. Witherspoon, Mr. Crew, Mr. Coward, Mr. Roland and Mr. Carrington waiting to see us off—some with flowers and Mr. Crew with a big box of candy for us. They made a big to-do about our having no escort—said “it would never do to let young ladies leave Memphis without a gentleman to look after their comfort—such a reflection on the gallantry of the City would
distresses me and so visiting together isn’t so pleasant. Mollie Hobson and her family are all Union and her brother Will is in the Union Army but Mattie Cook, her cousin, who lives with them is a rabid secessionist—very pretty and has a great many rebel officers visiting her—in spite of her Uncle’s opposition. Hugh Gwyn has always been very fond of her and I have sometimes thought they were engaged—though it looks now as if she were more pleased with the gentlemen in gray uniforms. When I called
climate. Family ties linked the commonwealth’s residents with those of Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri as well as Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Kentucky’s economic well-being depended on southern and western markets to purchase its agricultural products (horses, mules, hogs, tobacco, hemp, and corn) as well as on northern markets to supply the manufactured items its people needed. Furthermore, Kentucky’s slave labor system created a strong tie to the South. In 1860, the state’s
Memphis attorney and the partner of Josie’s brother-in-law William Western. Torian and his wife, Casiah, were strong Unionists. Todd, John, son of Warner’s sister Malvina (Aunt Mal), graduated from West Point and was stationed at the Baton Rouge Arsenal when it fell to Louisiana state troops. Todd later resigned his commission and joined the Confederate Army. Turchin, John Basil (1822–1901), Ivan Vasilovitch Turchinoff, trained at Russia’s Imperial Military School in St. Petersburg, immigrated