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Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut
(1823 - 1886)

Mary Chesnut was born in Statesburg, South Carolina on March 31, 1823. She was the first of Stephen Decatur and Mary Boykin Miller’s four children. Her father was Stephen Decatur Miller, a distinguished southern lawyer, governor and congressman. Mary’s mother was the daughter of Burwell Boykin, a prominent planter in the Camden, South Carolina area. Mary and James were engaged in the spring of 1839 and married on 23 April 1840. 

After the surrender in 1865, Mary and James went home to Mulberry. This is the same place that she and James began their married life. Mulberry is located 3 miles south of Camden, SC

The Chesnut Cottage is one of  the locations that Mrs. Chesnut lived in as she wrote of the events that transpired during the Civil War. This is also the location where President Jefferson Davis stayed with the Chesnuts when  he visited Columbia in October 1864. This is the house that Jefferson Davis gave his speech from to the citizens of Columbia.

In 1873 construction began on the Sarsfield Estate. To save on construction costs, the two story kitchen from the Mulberry Plantation was torn down and the bricks used at Sarsfield. It was at Sarsfield that Mary Chesnut died on 22 November 1886. 
Sarsfield Estate

Kamchatka was built in 1854 for James and Mary Chesnut. It was named after a Siberian peninsula since it seemed so remote from downtown Camden, SC. In 1858 they sold the home to pay for their move to Washington D.C.

     The perfect southern hostess describes in her own words how Robert E. Lee charmed her and her companions on page 94 of the book A Diary From Dixie.

Her chagrin can only be imagined since she admits that she did not know who was teasingly asking for an invitation for a dinner of fried chicken...

Mary Chesnut's first meeting with Robert E. Lee: 

July 1861, Richmond 

This is how I saw Robert E. Lee for the first time.... 

     Mrs. Stanard came for Mrs. Preston and me to drive to the camp in an open carriage. A man riding a beautiful horse joined us. He wore a hat with something of a military look to it, sat his horse gracefully, and was so distinguished at all points that I very much regretted not catching his name as Mrs. Stanard gave it to us. He, however, heard ours, and bowed as gracefully as he rode, and the few remarks he made to each of us showed he knew all about us.

    But Mrs. Stanard was in ecstasies of pleasurable excitement. I felt that she had bagged a big fish, for just then they abounded in Richmond. Mrs. Stanard accused him of being ambitious, etc. He remonstrated and said his tastes were "of the simplest." He only wanted "a Virginia farm, no end of cream and fresh butter and fried chicken - not one fried chicken, or two, but unlimited fried chicken."

  To all this light chat did we seriously incline, because the man and horse and everything about him were so fine-looking; perfection, in fact; no fault to be found if you hunted for it. As he left us, I said eagerly, "Who is he?" "You did not know! Why, it was Robert E. Lee, son of Light Horse Harry Lee, the first man in Virginia," raising her voice as she enumerated his glories.



Pictures of some women mentioned
in Mary Chesnut's diary.

Click here for a larger image.

To read more about Mary Chesnut click below.
Web Site 1
Web Site 2



1718 Hampton Street • Columbia, South Carolina 29201 • 803-256-1718
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